How do SSL certificates affect SEO rankings?
Often, when we think about SEO, we spend all of our time worrying about things like keyword optimization and backlinks.
However, according to the latest findings, there are 200 factors considered by Google (at least) in determining every ranking. One of those factors revolves around the security of your website.
Google is a company committed to giving customers the best possible experience when they’re searching for content online. In part, this means ensuring that browsers can feel safe and secure when skipping from one website to the next.
What is an SSL Certificate?
To fully understand the answer to the question “How do SSL certificates affect SEO rankings?” you need to know what an SSL certificate is.
SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. It’s a kind of data encryption that creates a secure connection between web browsers like Google Chrome and web servers.
When you have an SSL on your website, this tool encrypts and decrypts data so third-parties and hackers can’t access it. At a glance, you can tell if a site is secure or not by noting whether it has HTTP or HTTPS at the beginning of the URL.
You should also see a small padlock at the start of the URL.
Having an SSL certificate means that sensitive data collected through your site, such as credit card information, could be exposed. This means that having an SSL will protect you from possible attacks, and lets your customers rest assured that they’re protected.
In 2018, Google mandated that all sites accessed through Google Chrome needed SSL. The Google search engine began moving towards a zero-tolerance policy for any site without an SSL certificate.
How Important Are SSL Certificates?
You may assume that SSL certificates aren’t that big of a deal. After all, there are hundreds of other factors that can influence your chances of making it to the top of the search engines. Surely, a missing certificate won’t harm your site too much? Think again.
In 2018, Google started marking sites without an HTTPS (SSL certificate) as “Not Secure.” This means that if you fail to secure your website in 2020, you risk immediately damaging your reputation.
Not only that, but Google has been increasing its focus on secure site experiences ever since. The search engine recently announced an update to the Google Chrome browser that will block any insecure website with “mixed content”. The mixed content update starting January 2020 means that not only does your site need an SSL certificate, but you need to sure that every element of your site is secure too.
In a time when Google’s Chrome browser accounts for over 58% of the market share, this update will significantly impact how much users can access your website.
What Does SSL Do to Your Business?
So, aside from the risk that your website may become inaccessible if it doesn’t have an SSL certificate, what are some of the other ways that a lack of security could harm your brand?
1. Reduction of Website Traffic
Look at it this way. If you were looking online for a company to buy some email marketing software from, would you feel more comfortable giving your details to a site that promises to keep your data secure? Of course, you would.
People want to feel safe when they’re browsing online. It doesn’t matter whether they’re looking for basic information about a service or handing over their credit card details. Everyone needs to know that they’re secure.
The “Not Secure” label that Google plasters over your site when it doesn’t have an SSL certificate or the lack of a padlock next to your URL could be enough to convince customers not to click on your website or browse with you at all.
Less traffic tells Google that you’re not as authoritative as your competitors, which means that you fall further down the search rankings
2. Fewer Conversions
Users inevitably trust secure connections more. According to GlobalSign, around 84% of users say that they would immediately abandon a purchase that sent data over an insecure connection.
As you end up with less traffic and fewer conversions on your website, your bottom line will begin to suffer. You might find that it’s much harder to convince people to buy from you at all.
At the same time, as customers continue to visit your website and immediately hit the back button, this sends a message to Google about your trustworthiness. In the E-A-T algorithm, Google prioritizes “trustworthiness” as a sign that a website should be ranking higher.
As your reliability as a website continues to diminish, your chances of making profits from new and repeat customers will disappear.
3. Damaged Reputation
Finally, over time, as customers continue to recognize your site as “insecure” or dangerous, your reputation will begin to falter.
This means that not only will fewer customers want to visit your site, but fewer people will want to recommend your company to others too. You might find that people begin to remove backlinks to your website from theirs, to avoid a reduction in in their search engine rankings.
As your backlink profile suffers, you lose some of the expertise and authority that Google will have been considering when deciding where to rank your business.
Without links and mentions from other reputable companies, as well as social proof from your customers, your ability to grow online will be significantly damaged.
Choosing the Right SSL Certificate
If you don’t have an SSL certificate or your current certificate is about to expire, you should review your options. Let’s see what types of SSL certificates are available and how to choose the right one for your website.
- Domain Validation certificates (DV): This entry-level certificate is perfect for small companies. It offers the minimum level of security required for customer transactions and is issued within minutes.
- Organization Validation certificates (OV): This one is a professional certificate with a comprehensive background check for great visibility, a high level of trust, and powerful encryption. It’s typically issued within one day.
- Extended Validation certificates (EV): This certificate offers a maximum level of authentication and encryption. It’s recommended for high-profile sites vulnerable to phishing attacks. It also activates your website’s green address bar. Like the OV certificate, the EV certificate is issued within one day.
Within these categories, you’ll likely find different options, such as Wildcard SSL and multi-domain SSLs.
Certificate authorities (CAs) sell SSL certificates. You can buy them directly from the CA or through your hosting company.
Most providers offer similar products. So, your decision will come down to budget, desired warranties or guarantees, the number of subdomains, and your development team’s abilities.
If in doubt, contact your internal stakeholders and ask providers what you want to know. This will help you determine the best certificate for your business.
Bottom Line: You Need an SSL Certificate
Ultimately, the answer to “How do SSL certificates affect SEO rankings?” is “significantly.”
Although it’s going to take a while to see the full impact of the SSL update in the Google search results, you’ll be sure to see things moving aggressively in a new direction. Google has already announced that it is focused on delivering a “fully secure” web in the future.
Now that it’s free to access SSL certificates from most hosting providers, there’s no excuse for leaving your website without protection.
A security certificate is one of the easiest ways to attract new customers and delight Google at the same time.