If you run a business website, you might have come across the term SSL certificate. For those not involved in the world of IT, it might just seem like another buzz term like HTTP or DNS.
However, an SSL certificate is vital for website security and, surprisingly, for Google search engine rankings. We at Crossroad IT are experts in website management, so we’ve put together this guide on how SSL certificates improve your SEO score.
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and is a component of website security. SSL creates a secure link between a website’s server and the web browser currently visiting it. Of course, there’s plenty more technical information about SSL certificates, but this is all you really need to know.
The purpose of an SSL certificate is to prevent cybercriminals from accessing information as it’s exchanged between a web browser and website server. This could include, for example, payment details or personal information.
SSL certificates were originally invented in 1994 by Netscape, an American computer services company. It created SSLs to keep online transactions secure on its Navigator browser.
Since then, we’ve been through several generations of SSL protocols, as each has had security problems. The current system is actually called Transport Security Layer (TLS), but the SSL name stuck to describe the general concept of secure browser connections.
Luckily, web browsers now take internet security very seriously, so there are numerous warnings in place when visiting unsecure websites. Most browsers will display a padlock in the URL bar at the top of your browser. If the padlock is locked, the website has an SSL certificate.
Certain browsers have further warnings in place, but these vary based on which browser you’re using.
Chrome, for example, displays a warning screen like this:
It explicitly states that the connection isn’t secure and suggests you don't visit the website. You can then click on the Advanced button to manually proceed, but you do so at your own risk.
Firefox does a similar thing, as you can see in the following image:
It also states that your connection isn’t secure and suggests you don’t input any personal information, such as payment details or passwords.
While it’s technically not necessary for your site to have an SSL certificate, there are consequences for not having one. These include:
Put yourself in the shoes of a potential site visitor. They see a warning screen on the browser saying your site isn’t secure. Will they proceed? Probably not. It’s understandable if they’ve been told their personal information is at risk if they visit your site.
Not only will this decrease trust in your site, but it’ll cut down on visitors, too. When you’re running a business website, the last thing you want is fewer visitors.
Website security works both ways. Your customers are at a higher risk of having their data stolen, perhaps through phishing scams, but your website data is also at risk.
By this, we mean data stored on your website’s server. For example, a customer might have their data stolen when they input it into your website. But if a hacker can get into your website server, they can steal data you’ve already got. This could be historic payment details, customer address, and more.
As you can probably imagine, Google takes unsecure websites quite seriously. While it doesn’t disclose much information about its ranking algorithm, there are some facts we can pull out of the available details.
When your website is indexed on Google, it crawls through your pages looking at numerous factors. This is largely what the concept of SEO relates to: improving your website’s score during Google’s indexing process.
It includes things like the quality of written content and included keywords, page response times, and, you guessed it, SSL certification. A website with an SSL certificate will score more highly than if it didn’t have one.
In fact, Google offers a 5% boost to your ranking if your site has an SSL certificate. Well, it might be more accurate to say that Google doesn’t give you a 5% penalization, as SSL certificates are an expected standard, not an added extra.
Remember those negative impacts we listed above? They bleed over into Google’s evaluation of your website, too. One way Google decides how relevant your site is to a searched term is through something called a bounce back rate.
In short, it monitors how long a visitor stays on your website, or if they ever make it at all. Websites with short visit times and high bounce back rates are considered less relevant, so are bumped down Google’s ranking for those keywords.
As a result, the last thing you want is a visitor’s web browser to display a big warning screen when they click on your site. It’s only going to lead to a high bounce back rate, as your website appears to be less trustworthy.
So, if you don’t have an SSL certificate for your site, you probably want one. Here’s how you can fix the problem.
Your first option is to get an SSL certification and activate it. This might sound easy, but you must decide whether you need Standard, OV or EV single-domain SSLs or a multi-domain Wildcard SSL. Then you must renew it annually and ensure it’s still the most relevant cover.
An easier option is to use Crossroad IT. We are a managed IT services provider with more than 22 years in the game. As such, we can ensure your site’s SSL certificate is correct, renewed annually, and doing its job. It’s one less thing for you to worry about, after all!
If you currently host your website with Crossroad IT, you can rest assured that your site is protected by an SSL Certificate, as we provide them for free for all our client's websites.
So, if you need an SSL certificate for your site to boost your Google ranking, get in touch to see how we can help.