15 Ways to Secure Your WordPress Site

As a marketer, SEO or web developer, you know the importance of keeping your WordPress website secure.

From using strong passwords and updating plugins to installing security plugins and monitoring traffic, these tips will help you protect your website from hackers.

Why Security Matters to SEO

Website security is often overlooked. However, site security is critical to SEO and digital marketing.

WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS), powering millions of websites.

However, WordPress sites are also vulnerable to attacks, which can lead to:

  • Website hijacking.
  • Malware injection.
  • Phishing scam.
  • and more.

All of these can damage your reputation, hurt your SEO, and cost you money. That’s why it’s important to take proactive steps to protect your WordPress site.

WordPress is a target for hackers for many reasons.

  • Because CMSs are so popular, there are many more potential targets.
  • Since it’s open source, the code is available for anyone to view and study. This makes it easier for hackers to find vulnerabilities.
  • Due to its ease of use, many people don’t take the time to properly secure their WordPress site.

As a result, hacked WordPress sites are a major source of malware and spam.

Why Security Is Important to WordPress

The huge user base of WordPress makes it a prime target for hackers.

According to Sucuri, malware, backdoors, and SEO spam issues are the main attack types on WordPress.

Most relevant to SEO is how attackers use WordPress sites to steal traffic for their own nefarious purposes. Usually, the method is to redirect traffic to malicious websites or inject spammy links on your website.

Not only does this benefit the attacker, it can also damage your site’s reputation and potentially damage your user base.

How to Secure Your WordPress Site

Let’s dive into the fun parts of how to properly secure your WordPress site.

Most of these strategies are completely free and require minimal technical expertise.

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1. Increase CDN-level firewall

Any website is vulnerable to bots and other malicious actors. A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack can overload a server with requests, crashing the server and making the site inaccessible.

A CDN-level firewall adds an extra layer of security by identifying and filtering suspicious traffic before it reaches your server. This helps protect your website from DDoS and other bot attacks.

Additionally, a CDN-level firewall can also improve your website’s performance by caching static content and delivering it to your visitors faster. Therefore, adding a CDN-level firewall is an effective way to protect your website and improve its performance.

2. Change Your Landing Page URL Regularly

Changing your login URL regularly may seem like a small security measure, but it can actually stop hackers from easily accessing your website.

By constantly changing your login URL, you make it harder for hackers to guess or brute force your site.

There are ways to change the URL manually, but most hosting providers recommend using a plugin to manage it.

3. Add JavaScript challenges to your login page

Adding a JavaScript (JS) challenge to your login page will help ensure that only authorized users (and not bots) can access your site.

When enabled on a page, it acts as a security check to verify that the request is coming from a browser capable of executing JavaScript.

The challenge requires no user interaction, but adds a short delay (less than five seconds) until the browser has finished processing the JavaScript.

4. Limit login attempts

Limiting the number of login attempts allowed is critical to deter hackers from using brute force methods and gaining access to accounts. Doing this will make it harder for hackers to guess your password and prevent them from accessing your account, even if they know your username.

Additionally, limiting login attempts helps prevent your account from being locked out if someone else tries to guess your password.

5. Secure all passwords and enable two-factor authentication

Another way to make your WordPress site more secure is to increase the difficulty of your passwords and enable two-factor authentication.

Passwords are often the first line of defense against hackers, so it’s important to choose passwords that are difficult to guess. A good password should be at least eight characters long and include a combination of letters (both uppercase and lowercase), numbers, and symbols. Avoid using words that are easy to guess, such as “password” or your birthday.

Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second form of authentication, such as a code sent to your phone, email address, or authenticator app before you can log in. This makes it harder for hackers to gain access to your website even if they know your password.

6. Delete XML-RPC.php

An easy measure to protect your WordPress site is to delete the XML-RPC.php file. This file allows anyone to remotely access your WordPress site, which can allow hackers to inject malicious code or take over your site completely.

Also, an attacker can use this file to make brute-force login attempts, so even if you secure your login page, an attacker can gain access through it.

Fortunately, deleting XML-RPC files is a relatively simple process. Just connect to your site via FTP and delete the file from your server. Once you’ve done this, be sure to update your .htaccess file to prevent any further access to the file.

7. Delete WP and Plugin Versions

Hackers are always finding new ways to exploit vulnerabilities and break into websites. This includes checking the version of WordPress and plugins you are using.

If you are running an outdated version, it may have known security issues that could be easily exploited. This is why you must keep your WordPress installation and all plugins up to date.

That said, there are zero-day vulnerabilities, and knowing which version of a plugin or WordPress core you’re using can give hackers how to access your site.

The comments section is one of the most vulnerable parts of any website. Because this section is often left unattended, it’s easy for hackers to insert malicious code into seemingly innocent comments.

Therefore, website owners need to be vigilant when moderating comment sections and make sure only safe content is allowed.

9. Reduce plugins

Having too many plugins — or worse, unused and duplicate plugins — can actually compromise the security of your WordPress site. That’s because every plugin represents a potential entry point for hackers.

By reducing the number of plugins on a WordPress site, owners can help reduce security risks. It can also help improve site performance by reducing the number of requests the server has to handle.

10. Set the plug-in to update automatically

Using WordPress’ native auto-update feature is a straightforward way to ensure that all installed plugins and themes are up to date.

This is especially important for plugins and themes that handle sensitive data, such as credit card information or personal records. In addition to the security benefits, automatic updates also ensure that all installed software is compatible with the latest version of WordPress – increasing the stability of your website.

11. Check the open ports of the server

While open ports on web servers may offer some advantages, they also create security holes that can be exploited by hackers.

To determine if there are any vulnerable ports on your server, run an Nmap scan. If you find any open ports, work with your web hosting provider to close or filter them.

A safer option is to work with a reputable WP managed hosting provider who locks their ports.

12. Make sure SSL settings are correct

SSL certificates are an important part of website security. They encrypt communications between a website and its visitors, making it difficult for hackers to intercept data.

However, SSL certificates themselves can be vulnerable if not configured properly. Outdated or unpatched SSL certificates can be exploited by hackers, giving them access to sensitive information. Renewing SSL certificates regularly ensures that they are current and less likely to be exploited.

Also, setting up the SSL certificate correctly in the first place can prevent potential vulnerabilities. For example, making sure you only use strong cipher suites can make it harder for hackers to crack encryption.

Security headers prevent malicious code injection and reduce the risk of cross-site scripting attacks. Adding them also helps thwart payload-based attacks and reduces the chances of your site being compromised by malware.

Some types of security headers I recommend adding to your website include:

  • Referrer Policy.
  • HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS).
  • Content Security Policy.
  • X frame options.
  • X content type options.
  • Cross-site scripting (XSS) protection.

14. Set up daily backups

As any website owner knows, there is always a risk of data loss due to hacking, power outages, or other unexpected events. This is where daily backups come in handy. If your site does get compromised, you will have a backup option to restore your site.

There are many ways to create backups, but one popular method is to use a WordPress plugin. However, I recommend working with a web host that makes automatic daily backups part of their core service.

15. Run the final security test

Before you can relax and enjoy your new secure WordPress site, you need to take one last step: run a final security scan to check for any vulnerabilities you might have missed.

There are many different security scans available, both free and paid. Which one you choose is up to you, but it’s crucial to make sure the scan you choose is comprehensive.

After the scan is complete, take a closer look at the results. If you find any vulnerabilities, take immediate steps to fix them.

Secure Your WordPress Site for Better Search Performance

By following these 15 steps, you can help secure your WordPress site and protect your data. While no system is 100% secure, these steps will make it harder for hackers to gain access to your website.

Also, make sure all software is kept up to date, as security patches are released regularly.

Finally, perform regular security testing on your website to ensure no new vulnerabilities have been introduced. By taking these precautions, you can help protect your website from attack.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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about the author

John McAlpineJohn McAlpine

John McAlpin leads the SEO strategy for Cardinal Digital Marketing, an Atlanta-based SEO agency focused on serving corporate healthcare companies in the US. Currently based in Colorado Springs, McAlpin is deeply involved in the local and national SEO community, with a strong background in technical SEO, web development, and digital marketing strategy. McAlpin also offers freelance web development services for WordPress hosted websites.

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