SSL Certificates and Search Engine Optimization

Yesterday’s post was a roundup of the past 13 articles we’ve done on search engine optimizatoin. I thought I’d leave that topic for a bit, but then though about one more that I should have talked about. Instead of leaving it for later I thought it best to take care of it now.

You’ve probably heard or been told that for a top ranking site it’s necessary to have an SSL certificate. It’s not true: you can have a top-10 ranked site in Google without one. That being said, even though it’s only a secondary ranking factor, it can still make a difference in a competitive market. There are also other advantages that make it important for your SEO efforts.

What is an SSL Certificate?

SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer, which is the standard protocol used to encrypt data between a website and a user’s device. An SSL certificate also helps verify the identity of the company that owns the website you’re surfing on. This in turn creates confidence in your site visitors that they’re really dealing with your business. Sites secured with an SSL certificate will have their URL start with HTTPS instead of HTTP.

Why Use SSL?

Having a SSL certificate is a default for new sites. Plenty of formerly non-SSL sites have converted to SSL over the years. The reasons to use SSL are several and they mostly have to do with enhancing the visitor’s experience.

Sites Can Load Faster over HTTPS

If you read our article “The Need for Speed”, you’ll recall that faster sites are favoured by Google. The HTTP protocol has gone from HTTP/1.1 to HTTP/2. Sites using HTTPS almost always use the HTTP/2 protocol which is faster than HTTP/1.1, so even with the additional computing required to navigate the SSL certificate a HTTPS site can load faster than a site using only HTTP.

Browsers Label Non-Secure Sites

If you owned a store, would you like to have a big sign in your front window saying your store wasn’t secure? That’s what happens in Google’s Chrome browser when you visit a site that doesn’t use HTTPS. Firefox shows a padlock icon with a red slash through it when accessing a non-HTTPS site. Microsoft Edge doesn’t show anything when visiting a non-HTTPS site but shows a padlock for HTTPS sites. If you want to inspire visitor confidence, it’s probably better to have a padlock showing than not.

Increased Trust Leads to Better Stats

Google tracks statistics like your site’s clickthrough rate from the SERPS, the bounce rate of your site once people arrive etc. These statistics can be affected by not having an HTTPS site. If you get a top-10 ranking and your site is the only non-HTTPS one, you might have fewer clickthroughs because potential visitors shy away from your non-secure site. Or, your bounce rate might increase when visitors come to your site and see it labelled as not secure by their browser. Having higher clickthrough rates from the SERPs and having a lower bounce rate can improve your site’s ranking. Even though the SSL certificate didn’t have a major impact on your site rankings by itself, the effect of having one can lead to improved statistics that go on to affect your rank.

It takes some time to plan and implement a changeover to HTTPS from HTTP. However, there can be benefits to your SEO when you do so. Depending on how focused you are on your SEO efforts, you’ll probably want to make the change if you haven’t done so already. If you need some help with this, please contact us and we’ll be glad to help.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article. Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below. Thanks for reading, and I hope we can be of service to you soon!