5 HTTP Security Headers You Need To Know For SEO

Learn more about security headers, how they function, why they are essential to SEO, the top security headers you should know, and more.

Security headers can be missed during audits of websites.

Although some might argue that the security of websites isn’t an SEO issue, it can be SEO-related when a website gets compromised, and the search engine traffic decreases to a minimum.

Security headers must be a primary concern for everyone who posts anything online. Internet.

The good thing is that they’re relatively simple to install and can ensure that your site and its visitors are protected.

In this article in this column, you’ll discover about security headers and how they function along with the top five security headers, the best way to use them, what WordPress plugins are available to set security headers, and much more.

Let’s get started!

What are Security Headers?

Security headers are instructions that browsers have to follow and are sent via the HTTP header response.

The HTTP header refers to a reply from an HTTP server to a web browser that attempts to access an internet page.

The header response communicates things like when the website page is not there (400 reply header).

It’s OK to download the font from Google but don’t rely on any other information that isn’t part of the websites’ domain.

In this case, the section that informs the browser that it’s OK to download Google fonts but not to trust any other source of files outside of the site in itself is a critical security instruction.

A security rule like that will stop the browser from downloading malware files from a website.

Security headers include limitations and directions that help protect against unintentional security incidents.

Why Should You Use Security Headers?

Automated bots are always checking websites and analyzing them to find security holes.

The vulnerabilities can be introduced through the CMS or through the JavaScript library, which is used to enhance functionality, or for security vulnerabilities caused by plugins or themes.

Sites that employ security headers are believed to be protected against security threats.

While a site can go through without using security headers, if it keeps its components current and by using security plugins, it can expose the area and visitors to security threats.

For instance, security software cannot stop ads that deprive a website owner of any ad revenue.

One of the main reasons to utilize security headers is that they are pretty simple to install and help ensure that websites are functioning normally.

Top 5 Headers for Security

1. Content-Security-Policy (CSP)

A Content Security Policy (CSP) can help protect the website and its users against Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks and attacks involving data.

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities occur when hackers use an insecure vulnerability to upload malicious scripts onto the website and then transfer them to the victim’s web browser.

XSS attacks exploit the weaknesses of a Content Management system that allow unintentional inputs to be injected due to insufficient user input the system’s file sanitation.

For instance, an email form must be programmed to anticipate a limited input.

A poorly coded form could permit other inputs that could lead to an infiltration of harmful files.

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An XSS attack could be employed to steal passwords or within a hacking multi-step event.

Injection Attacks

The Open Web Application Security Project explains infiltration attacks as a significant security threat:

“Injection is an attempt by an attacker to communicate information through an application’s interface in a manner that alters the meaning of the commands transmitted through an interpreter.

One common instance can be SQL injection, in which an attacker can send “101 or 1 =1” instead of “101”. If it is included in an SQL request, the information alters the meaning of the query to return ALL records instead of only one.

Frequently, these interpreters have lots of access, and a successful attack could result in significant data breaches or the loss of control over the browser, application, or server. When taken together, injection attacks constitute an overwhelming percentage of significant security risks for applications.”

The content security policy will not completely secure a website from attacks, but it does minimize the chance of a cross-site scripting attack.

CSP headers CSP header tells the browser to download content from several domains and only from these domains.

Anyone who downloads malicious software from servers not belonging to the trusted group will be stopped.

The process of creating a policy for the security of content can be as strict or permissive as the publisher demands.

Warning But the process of setting it up could be a bit difficult because you need to write down all resources and scripts that are being downloaded from sites other than your domain to add them to your allowlist.

2. Strict-Transport-Security Header (HSTS)

The Strict-Transport-Security Header is also called the HTTP Strict Transport Security header (HSTS).

Many websites have only 301 redirections between HTTP redirecting to HTTPS.

However, that’s not enough to make the site safe, as the site is still susceptible to an attack by a man-in-the-middle.

HSTS protects attackers from reducing the HTTPS connection back to an HTTP connection, which allows an attacker to benefit from unsecured redirects.

For example, If a user types in example.com to visit a website and does not enter the HTTPS portion (or they type it because of habit), there is a chance for a man-in-the-middle attack.

This kind of attack could cause a disruption to the visitors’ connection to the website, and all sensitive info exchanged between the user, and the site becomes accessible for the attacker.

For instance, attackers can steal cookies that hold sensitive information, such as login credentials.

The United States government lists three scenarios that HTTPS could be reverted to HTTP and, in turn, let an attacker gain access to security.

There are three methods HTTPS can be lowered:

When a person types “gsa.gov” within the bar for URLs, browsers will default to use HTTP ://.

A user might use an older link that is in error and uses an HTTP URL.

A user’s internet connection could have a hostile network and actively change links from HTTPS:// in HTTP ://.

The HSTS header stops this from happening because it forces the browser never to allow any HTTP connection.

The HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) header informs your browser to use HTTPS for the whole web page should only be accessed through an encrypted HTTPS protocol.

A Side Note on How to Preload HSTS into Chrome

As a parallel note, Google Chrome has an HSTS Preload program that allows publishers to apply for their websites to be identified by Chrome as only accessible through HTTPS. HTTPS protocol.

A lot of Chrome-based browsers then load these websites by using HTTPS and only through HTTPS hard-coding, which is integrated in the browser.

The eligible site must be running their customers with the HSTS security header.

The four requirements necessary to qualify for preloading with Chrome HSTS:

  1. “Serve an authentic certificate.
  2. Redirect to redirect HTTP redirect from HTTP to HTTPS simultaneously, in case you are listening to port 80.
  3. Serve all subdomains using HTTPS. In particular, you should support HTTPS for the subdomain www if an DNS record for that subdomain is in place.
  4. Provide the HSTS header to the domain used to handle HTTPS requests: The maximum age must be at least 31536000 secs (1 year). The includeSubDomains directive has to be defined. The preload directive should be set. If you’re hosting an alternative redirect via your HTTPS site, the redirect must have an HSTS header (rather than the redirecting page).

3. X-Content-Type-Options

This security blocker stops specific types of attacks that can occur by example, such as malicious content created by users.

Browsers are able to “sniff” when a piece of file is one of the following: an image (.jpg) or a movie (.mp4) as well as text HTML, JavaScript, and many other types of content that are downloaded from a site.

The “sniffing” lets the browser download elements of the web page and adequately render them, particularly in cases where the metadata that the browser requires for rendering the component isn’t available.

Sniffing lets the browser determine exactly what element the component is (an image or text.) and render the part.

Hackers will attempt to fool browsers into thinking that a dangerous JavaScript file is an image, which allows your browser to download that file, and later execute that file, causing a myriad of adverse effects for the user, particularly with the so-called Drive-by-Download Attack.

The X-Content-Type-Options header can stop that and other related attacks by disabling browsers’ ability from “sniffing” for the content type.

4. X-Frame-Options

The security header XFrame-Options can help stop clicking-jacking attacks.

Mozilla describes Click-jacking as:

“…the method of tricking users into clicking on a hyperlink or button. Which is not what they think it’s.

This could be used, for instance in order to retrieve login information, or to obtain the user’s unintentional permission to install an item of malware.”

The X-Frame Options header is used to stop a website from being rendered inside an iframe.

It also protects against more than Iframe-based attacks, however.

Microsoft defines frame-sniffing as follows:

“Framesniffing is an attack method that exploits browser capabilities to steal data from websites.

Web applications that permit its content to host within an IFRAME that is cross-domain IFRAME could be susceptible to this type of attack.

The X-Frame-Options header is utilized to determine whether pages can be put within an IFRAME.

Since the Framesniffing method relies on being in a position to put the site that is targeted in an IFRAME web application can defend itself by sending the proper X-Frame Options header.”

The Open Web Application Security Project provides a helpful description of Click-jacking attacks:

“…imagine an intruder who designs a website with the button that reads “click here to get a free iPod”.

The victim attempts to press the “free” or “free iPod” button but instead, they click on the invisibly “delete any messages” button.

In essence, the attacker “hijacked” an individual’s clicking, hence the term “Clickjacking.”

The header of X-Frame Options is essential to protect your visitors and your reputation as a website.

The OWASP website about click-jacking explains how Adobe Flash fell victim to an attack using clickjacking that allowed hackers to gain control of cameras and microphones, which consolidated Flash’s image as a security threat.

The risk of being identified across social media and on the Internet to be a security threat is detrimental to business.

The X-Frame-Options header can be an excellent security measure that can be implemented.

5. Referrer-Policy

The reason for a Referrer-Policy header is to enable an administrator of a website to control the information transmitted to a website visitor when they click an link that takes them to another site.

User visits a website clicks on a specific link only to land on another website, the browser gives information on the web page was visited during the visit.

When you go through your server’s logs, referrer data is recorded that identifies which sites have been visited.

There are circumstances where the URL for the website that refers a user to another site may contain sensitive information that could be released to a third party.

The Referrer-Policy functions by limiting the amount of information communicated after a visitor clicks on a hyperlink.

A website owner can opt not to send any information to the source of their website. They can opt to send only the domain name or provide the entire URL.

The following directives may be transmitted via the Referrer-Policy header:

  • Referrer-Policy: no-referrer.
  • Referrer-Policy: no-referrer-when-downgrade.
  • Referrer-Policy: origin.
  • Referrer-Policy: origin-when-cross-origin.
  • Referrer-Policy: same-origin.
  • Referrer-Policy: strict-origin.
  • Referrer-Policy: strict-origin-when-cross-origin.
  • Referrer-Policy: unsafe-URL.

A familiar referrer-policy setting is Header “no-referrer-when-downgrade,” which means that referrer information will be sent to trustworthy URLs that are on HTTPS but that no referrer information will be sent to untrusted HTTP websites.

It is vital to know that the referrer-policy set does not impact affiliate hyperlinks.

The referrer’s information is encoded inside the landing page URL. The referrer’s details and the earned earnings are kept by the company that receives any referral from an affiliate.

How to Use Security Headers

There are many methods to define security headers. One of the most well-known methods is to use the .htaccess file.

One advantage of using the .htaccess document is that it prevents publishers from downloading another plugin.

Uncoded plugins can be a security threat, and cutting down on the number of installed plugins could be beneficial.

Important: Every security header implementation will be different according to the specifics of each website, especially the Content-Security-Policy (CSP).

WordPress plugins for setting Security Headers

There are several popular plugins used on millions of websites. They offer the possibility of making security headers.

If these are already installed, then the option of installing an application instead of fumbling around with the .htaccess file is for those who prefer the simplicity.

Very Simple SSL Pro

More than five million websites use Very simple SSL installed.

The upgrade to the moderately priced professional version gives you the option of installing up to eight security headers in the simple method.


The utterly free Redirection WordPress plugin has been available for more than ten years and is used on more than 2 million sites.

This plugin lets you select among a variety of pre-set security headers, in addition to the top five security headers listed within this post.

Preset is the term used to describe the ability to select from the common directives.

Based on the redirection WordPress webpage for downloads:


HTTP headers may be added to redirects, or your entire website, which can reduce the effect of redirects or improve security. You may also include personal headers that you have created.”

In addition, the Redirection plugin lets you make custom security headers, if you’re looking for something you cannot discover.

The Redirection plugin makes it simple to install and successfully the most secure five security headers:

  • X-Frame-Options.
  • X-Content-Type-Options.
  • Referrer-Policy.
  • Strict-Transport-Security.
  • Content-Security-Policy.

Create Security Headers with Cloudflare

Cloudflare offers the method of setting security headers by using the Cloudflare workers.

Cloudflare also has a separate support page that provides directions:

“Attaching headers

To include headers in Cloudflare Pages Responses, make the plain text file _headers within the project’s output directory.

It’s typically the directory that houses the ready-to-use HTML files and the assets created by the builder, like the favicons.

The _headers file must not always be placed in your repository’s root directory. The headers file are pushed to your site during the build process Make. You make sure to commit the files and start a new build every time you change headers.

Rules for headers are defined within multi-line block blocks.

The first line in a block is its URL which is the URL pattern that specifies where the rule’s headers must be followed. In the following line, the enclosed list of the header’s names and the header’s values should be written. …”

How to Verify Security Headers

Security headers are simple to look up.

SecurityHeaders.com offers a free security header-checking service.

Software for Web Auditing Screaming Frog also can check headers that are available on the Security Tab.

Use Security Headers a Part of The SEO Audits You Conduct

Security headers are something some editors or SEO experts aren’t aware of.

Security headers are crucial and should be on the top of the list in any site audit, regardless of whether the audit is carried out internally or through an outside SEO website auditing.

Security of websites is an SEO issue since failing to address security concerns can thwart every ranking-related achievement.

A bad reputation could hurt sales and rankings.

Search visibility is reduced, resulting in massive loss.

The implementation of security headers can be reasonably simple and is one of the most important options to be considered when creating any site.