BrightHaus Digital Marketing Agency

Heartbleed and the future of SEO

May 11, 2015

With the recent Heartbleed epidemic fresh on everyone’s mind, security seems to be the latest topic to worry about when it comes to your site. Am I safe? Am I putting my customers at risk? Will this have an effect on my traffic? What about my SEO? While security is and always should be a concern, it now seems like it is one more item to put on the ever growing list of priorities you need to be concerned with when it comes to your site.

So first let’s discuss what Heartbleed is and who might be affected. Heartbleed is first a foremost a bug, not a virus, in the functionality of the OpenSSL library. This library is widely used with security vendors for secure web browsing and not an uncommon practice on sites on the web today. The bug, or the chink in the armor if you will, allows an attacker to retrieve systems remotely and access secure information such as usernames, passwords and keys in which they can use to then go on to make larger attacks. Having a security system that seems anything less than secure is not ideal and one that can easily cause panic for webmasters and consumers alike.

Heartbleed should be taken seriously and there are steps to ensure that you have not been affected. If you have not done so already, you can check your site here: to see if you are vulnerable and it would be in your best interest to have your webmaster regenerate a new private key as well as update the version of OpenSSL if applicable. Once you know everything is again secure, you could turn a headache into an opportunity to shine in customer service. While it may seem like a touchy subject to call attention to, at this point be forthcoming with your customers and let them know what you have done to ensure their safety as well as the actions they can take gives you a chance to be positive and proactive. Pinterest sent out such an email this weekend and it was a great example of how to be helpful without causing alarm:

Hi Elisa,
You may have heard of a recently discovered security issue—called Heartbleed—that impacted lots of sites on the internet, including Pinterest. Heartbleed affected OpenSSL, a type of technology websites use to keep information secure as it travels through the web.
We were quick to fix the issue on Pinterest, and we didn’t find any evidence of mischief on Pinner accounts as a result. But to be extra careful, we’re asking you to reset your password.

Ok, ok so secure sites are obviously important, but what does this have to do with SEO? Well possibly quite a bit in the near future. There have recently been reports stating Matt Cutts would like to begin rewarding secure sites with better rankings. While these comments made during “private conversations” definitely stem from the rumor mill at this point, it is something to take note of, particularly if you are an ecommerce site or one that requires info from your visitors. While this new ranking factor may be a ways out, it all comes down to the common thread of having a quality site. Whether you have a one page site or have a site that offers thousands of products, your goal should always be to ensure you are providing the highest quality possible.  From content to security, quality is the name of the game and it’s time to step it up if you want any chance of playing.

Elisa Houghtelin is one of the Account Managers at SEOhaus. If you would like to stay up-to-date on all of the latest SEO industry news and tips, you can subscribe to our blog here. Thanks for reading the SEOhaus blog!