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Guest opinion: Stay close to your website to keep hackers at bay

Anthony Critchley, MD of Breeze Digital

Increasingly, car dealer websites are becoming the first point of contact for customers. Whether browsing the marketplace, looking for highly-rated dealers, to buy online, or to make contact with the sales team, a car dealer’s website is an integral part of the business.

We know that all websites are vulnerable to being hacked. In particular websites that run on content management systems (CMS), such as WordPress or Joomla!

Most people understand that a website needs regular, fresh content to help with search results, but don’t realise that it is as essential, if not more so, that the CMS is regularly updated for security reasons.

Your customers may invest in a new or used car but be reluctant to continue to spend on the car to maintain and service it. This approach can lead to problems with the car in the future and a higher cost, in the long run, from the lack of maintenance.

Similarly, we often find that once businesses have invested in a new website, they are reluctant to invest in ongoing maintenance.

Unfortunately, the cost of fixing the problem after it has occurred can often be costlier than an ongoing security and maintenance package.

What happens if you don’t update your website?

CMS website’s like WordPress are simply a piece of software and after a period of time, if they are not updated, can become vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

A security patch or security release are essential to ensure that your CMS site is maintained and are a core part of the programme, that will work to stop the hackers.

Common problems that can also affect CMS websites are incompatible plugins, bugs, or coding errors. If these issues affect your site, correcting the issues can be a costly and timely exercise

Do you need regular updates if your website is a simple template?

Smaller car dealers may have a template website and the template may have been designed for an older version of WordPress, so any updates will not be compatible and the website could cease to work. 

You can remedy this by contacting the development company who designed the template, as they may have released an updated version of this template to ensure it continues to perform as it should. 

How to update your website

Generally, WordPress, Joomla! or Drupal, all CMS sites, will tell you if there is an update as soon as you log into your website.

At a glance, this can look quite simple as you will be presented with an update button and away you go.

However, if the plugins and the template aren’t compatible to the new update, then you will press the update button and your site will crash.

Once your website has crashed, or if it has been under attack from a hacker, it can take the experts days to fix it and this could have a detrimental effect on your business.

You really need to have the right people in place to manage your website, to ensure that it doesn’t crash and isn’t vulnerable to a cyber attack.

What can car dealerships do to protect their website?

Firstly, you need to ensure that your website is backed up. Make sure that your hosting company can easily get the site back-up and running as soon as possible, so that your business doesn’t suffer from any potential downtime.

Major CMS upgrades are only released every few years, but there are smaller updates in between.

By making regular upgrades to your website you will be improving the functionality of your site, often making your site run faster and it will become more responsive.

There are also search benefits from regular updates to your website.

We know that Google loves new, credible content, so if you can update your website on an ongoing basis with new content you will see the benefits as your website moves higher in the search ranking.

Alternatively, if your site is hacked it can have a serious negative effect on your SEO ranking as Google will deem your website as ‘unsafe’.

Ensure that your car dealership is higher than your competition on Google by accepting updates and updating your content, on a regular basis.

There are also, new cyber insurance packages available from digital businesses, like Breeze Digital, that will put a firewall and an SSL (secure site) certificate in place as part of the insurance agreement.

Following this, if the website is hacked it will be maintained, the malware will be cleaned and the website will be back live in a minimal time.

Author: Anthony Critchley, MD of Breeze Digital

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