Is SSL really that important for your website?
As you may already be aware, Google made an announcement back in August 2014 on the topic of HTTPS as a Ranking Signal. Here’s what they said…
over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal.
Soon after the Google announcement, a plethora of blog posts surfaced announcing the need to get your website SSL-enabled in order to “boost your Google rankings”. One service provider saw a 300% increase in orders for SSL certificates the day after Google made the announcement (source).
Beneath all the hype though, what are the facts of the matter? What is SSL? Will SSL make that much of a positive difference? Should you bother upgrading your website to support HTTPS? How expensive will it be? Are there any other factors you need to consider? Read on…
What is SSL?
SSL stands for “Secure Sockets Layer” and is the standard security technology for establishing encrypted communications between a web server and a browser. This secure link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browser remain private.
To use a website over SSL, you need to access it using “https://” instead of “http://” in the address bar of your browser. A website will only work properly in your browser over HTTPS if the website server has a valid SSL certificate installed. If it does not, your web browser will throw an error and likely stop you accessing the site.
How much of a difference will SSL make to your search engine rankings?
Google state the following…
For now it’s only a very lightweight signal — affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content — while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS.
Clearly websites are not going to be dumped out of the search engine rankings just because they don’t have SSL enabled. Does that mean we can just ignore all this then? Google go on to say…
over time, we may decide to strengthen [the ranking signal weight], because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.
This is bigger than just a change in Google’s search engine ranking algorithm. It is highlighting a shift towards better global security on the Internet. There are even plenty of advocates of “HTTPS Everywhere” (video)
Interestly enough, a recent version of the Google Chrome web browser was released with an HTTPS “bug” that was forcing websites to be transmitted over HTTPS instead of plain HTTP. For websites that didn’t have SSL enabled, this caused Google Chrome to throw up a security error for visitors so the websites were either inaccessible or noticeably broken.
I have my own opinion as to whether this was a genuine accident or not. Paranoid? Me?
Should you enable SSL on your website?
Based on all this information then, should you bother getting SSL setup on your website(s)? We would emphatically answer: Yes!
Should you enable SSL on your website to improve your SEO? Well yes, it wouldn’t hurt. It may not make much of a difference now, but long-term it may have more of an impact.
Should you enable SSL on your website to improve your customers’ user experience? Definitely. Here’s why:
- A more secure browsing experience for your customers means reduced opportunities for hackers to exploit and steal personal information
- Most website visitors feel safer using a website with SSL enabled. Your reputation is therefore strengthened, leading to a higher chance of customer retention (i.e. more sales!)
How much does an SSL certificate and installation cost?
Do you have to break the bank to get HTTPS setup on your site? No indeedy. Because there are so many options out there, it can understandably be somewhat confusing at times.
It is important to note that just because an SSL certificate is more expensive, it doesn’t mean it is better or more secure. The underlying premise of all SSL certificates and HTTPS is the same. They exist in order to encrypt and secure traffic. The more expensive certificates simply have more add-ons such as company verification (which means the SSL setup process can take several weeks).
SSL certificate installation will normally come free of charge if you buy your SSL certificate from the same company that host your website. We certainly offer free SSL certificate installation as standard if you purchase an SSL certificate through BeSeen.