The Most Important Element of Online Reputation Management That No One Mentions

by Yael K. Miller

photo of businesswoman and man shaking hands

Imagine this scenario: You are at a networking event and you hand out your business card with your website address on it. A person interested in possibly hiring you checks out your website.

On your website the person is shocked to find links to porn sites. You have probably just lost a potential client or customer because your site was hacked.

This is not an imaginary scenario — I have seen it happen.

Or Google notices your site is hacked and bumps you from high ranking to low ranking or maybe removes your site entirely from the search results. All that hard work you put into writing content that is SEO-optimized goes down the drain.

What is the most important element of online reputation management that no one mentions? Securing your website.

Disclaimer: I am not a website security professional, only someone concerned about security. No security plan, setup, system, etc. is 100% bullet proof.

This is not a super technical “all the steps you need to secure your website” post. Instead this post offers some suggestions on your way to a more secure website.

Secure your computer: Make sure your operating system and all the programs on it are the latest version. You need good antivirus/security software for a PC or a Mac (yes, Macs get viruses). If your computer is hacked, then the hackers can access your website (thanks to Dre Armeda of Sucuri Security for this reminder).

Your FTP program: If you use a FTP program such as Filezilla to upload files to your website server, then it is very likely you are transmitting your login credentials “in the clear” — unsecured. I recommend you call your website hosting company and say “I have Filezilla. What is the most secure login to access my server?”

For this post we will consider two types of websites: What I call “hand-coded” and those that are built using a Content Management System such as WordPress or Drupal.

If it is a hand-coded site — unless you have someone constantly updating it for security fixes — then your site is very vulnerable. I recommend you hire Sucuri Security to monitor your website and remove malware if necessary.

At Miller Mosaic, LLC we build websites using WordPress. The advantage — besides being easy to use — is that WordPress developers are always working to update the software in order to fix security issues.

Keep WordPress updated — this includes the theme and plugins. There are many options for helping to keep WordPress secure. You can have your site monitored by Sucuri Security or by VaultPress, which also backs up your site. VaultPress is a product of the company behind WordPress.

Bonus WordPress security tip: It used to be that “admin” was the username automatically created when you set up a WordPress website. Hackers know this and try to access your site with the “admin” username. Change your username — the instructions for how to do so may be found here.

Website hacks are on the rise. Do not let your online reputation suffer because of a hack.

© 2012 Miller Mosaic, LLC

Yael K. Miller, co-founder of Miller Mosaic LLC, spends her time thinking about effective marketing both online and offline and how social media fits into an overall marketing strategy. She also works at building WordPress websites that the site owners can manage themselves. She tweets about marketing, social media, design, code, WordPress, and publishing at @MillerMosaicLLC and about publishing and the books she reads at @YaelKMiller. On her Google+ profile, she also talks about technical issues she encounters and other things.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Tim Arview July 4, 2012 at 4:50 am

Sites that use content management are just as vulnerable as other sites. If a hacker can break in to your server, they don’t need your CMS credentials. The most important thing to check on if you are concerned about site security is your hosting provider. Find out the name and version of web server they are using, then make sure it’s the most secure (not necessarily newest) version available.

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Yael K. Miller July 4, 2012 at 10:29 am

Tim, you are absolutely right.

The point I wanted to make was that for hand-coded sites when javascript vulnerabilities, etc. are discovered — unless you’re paying someone to be on top of those issues — that’s an access point where hackers can inject malware. With WordPress a large number of people work together to fix vulnerabilities and release those fixes.

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