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Our site recently got hacked and after hardening the site we installed a web application firewall.

My question is does a web application firewall negatively impact SEO and rankings? I.e. in terms of rankings, speed and crawl-ability?

  • I assume you are using this to try to prevent cross site scripting attacks and SQL injection attacks? Which firewall did you choose and how did you configure it? Did you do any load testing or speed measurements before and after it was installed? – Stephen Ostermiller Sep 6 '18 at 9:22
  • We chose Cloudbric with out-the-box settings. Unfortunately, we did not do a speed test on the site before it was installed - that would've been ideal. The main question is if a firewall could affect the SEO ranking in anyway? – user2381937 Sep 6 '18 at 10:33
  • I've posted an answer which addresses some issues the accepted answer doesn't. Essentially not having a firewall can affect SEO, whereas having one would have a negligible effect. – Andy Sep 6 '18 at 13:37
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Not having one can affect SEO, and here's why:

If your site were to be hacked or compromised - it's possible that this would affect your search engine position. A site being offline for any period of time (due to a compromise/hacking attempt) will result in search engines lowering the ranking due to it being inaccessible. Google can also detect sites infected with malware and these are heavily penalised in terms of SEO - to the point users are warned not to access them.

Most search engines base their rankings on various factors, which includes the security of a website. For example, sites which are not served over HTTPS** were historically given a lower ranking, especially if they were deemed to be handling customer information - e.g. ecommerce.

Therefore, not having a firewall can negatively affect your SEO.

From a technical perspective there are only 2 things which having one might affect it:

  1. Blocking search engine crawlers. No application firewall (hardware or software) does this by default.

  2. If the incoming http requests were processed less quickly due to the firewall rules, this may incur a penalty since search engines give preferences to sites which load quickly. However, no firewall in a default configuration - or with average rules being applied - would make any significant difference in terms of page load time.

** the HTTP vs HTTPS issue has nothing to do with a firewall but illustrates other aspects of web security that search engines take into account

TL/DR: if your site is infected with malware and/or offline for extended periods, that will definitely have a negative affect on your search engine position. Therefore not using things to prevent that (like a firewall) can have a negative impact.

Further reading: https://medium.com/@oliversild/positive-and-negative-impact-of-security-to-your-seo-ranking-77ef5722a4e0

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Hard to tell without more information. However, the only thing that could impact SEO is if your firewall is messing with the following points:

  • Load time of the site.
  • Prevent searchers bots to access and index the site (rate limit, ip filters, user agent filters, geo lockdown, security rules, etc).
  • Real-time changes of URLs/content.

As long as your source code/rendered page is accessible by searchers you should not have any problems.

  • This is the wrong answer. It doesn't take into account things like a site being hacked or compromised with malware (which a firewall can help prevent). It's only addressing it from the perspective of crawlers requesting content on the site, which isn't adversely affected by a firewall. – Andy Sep 6 '18 at 13:44
  • That being true, it would be an uncompleted answer, but not wrong. Nevertheless, the question is: "does a web application firewall negatively impact SEO and rankings?". He is not asking about what could go wrong without a firewall. – Emirodgar Sep 6 '18 at 14:10
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It most probably won't affect the SEO rating. That is, unless you block Google out.

  • Hi there, this question has already an accepted answer, that means the OP found a solution. You can filter the unanswered questions to help other people :) let me know if you have doubts about this platform. – Emirodgar Sep 6 '18 at 12:33
  • A one line answer is not high quality. Your answer would be better if you supported it with anecdotes from your personal experience or with links to references. Please edit your answer to add to it. – Stephen Ostermiller Sep 6 '18 at 13:27

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