You might ask yourself what is an SSL certificate and why is everyone so crazy about them? Especially if you are a web owner, a digital marketeer, or a web developer. Well the simple version is, SSL (Secure Socket Layer) is part of the standard method for establishing safe and encrypted links between two locations on the internet.
But, before we dive into what is an SSL and why is it important for SEO, let’s briefly recap what SSL is.
What Is an SSL?
If you read our HTTP vs HTTPS article, you’ll know that the SSL protocol will intercept an HTTP connection before it is made and will encrypt it in two ways:
- Encrypting the information so only the server is able to read the plaintext
- Providing authentication which makes sure you’re not communicating with a fake website.
Websites with SSL certificates will often have a ‘padlock’ at the beginning of the web address to show that that the website is secure.
Why Are SSL Certificates So Important, And How Do They Affect SEO?
One of the main benefits of having an SSL certificate is that it secures user data, such as credit card information, personal details, etc. So even if a hacker manages to intercept the data, they won’t have the key to decrypt it. This provides your users with the much-needed peace of mind to continue using your website.
Google Chrome, Firefox, and other browsers will shame you if you don’t have a working SSL. Many internet browsers include glaringly obvious visual warnings. Visitors to your website will get warnings about entering details onto your website, which is not what you want. It gives off a reputation of untrustworthiness. So having an SSL certificate will prevent this from happening.
This is especially important for eCommerce websites, or websites that have any kind of store. If a user is entering private information on your website, you want to ensure that the data is secured – at all costs.
If you don’t have an SSL certificate, the chances of someone entering their highly private and sensitive data is extremely low. This will naturally lead to a drop in sales, and thus a loss of income for you. You’ll want to avoid this at all costs, and so it shouldn’t be a surprise then that having an SSL certificate is necessary for operating an eCommerce website.
Another big benefit of having an SSL certificate is that it will significantly improve the user experience. The lack of an SSL certificate, and the visual warnings, will deter users from staying on your website.
Google and other search engines will take note of this behavior on your website, and realize your website has a high bounce rate – users are spending less time on your website. This will be translated as your website does not provide a good user experience, which will negatively impact your SEO ranking ability.
How Big Of An Impact Does An SSL Certificate Have In SEO
Google’s 2014 announcement that HTTPS will be used as a ranking signal, i.e having a secure website with an SSL certificate will be an advantage on its search engine results, made it clear that SSL does have a direct effect. But, how big of an effect is a different question though.
Developers have gone mad determining how much of a factor it plays, and several case studies have been done on this topic. The general consensus is that having an SSL certificate is “moderately correlated with higher search engine rankings on Google’s first page”.
To give you an example, Google has stated that if all other factors are exactly the same, having an SSL certificate and HTTPS will be the tiebreaker in a search engine result. But this is only in a case where everything else is equal. In reality, this is not the case, so ensure other SEO practices are implemented also.
So, what is an SSL, and is it important?
At the end of the day, it can’t be more clear that having an SSL certificate and the HTTPS label is important for you, your website, and your users. It should be the norm for all of your web pages.
It will also have a direct impact on your website’s SEO since Google factors it in for rankings. But do keep in mind though, that having an SSL certificate won’t magically boost your website to the very top of SERPs. All other SEO factors also need to be considered and taken into account, and in most cases are actually more important in helping your SEO performance.
However, as mentioned in this article, an SSL certificate will indirectly affect your SEO performance via other influences as well, such as user experience. Therefore, ensure that your website is fully covered with an SSL certificate, and ensure you choose the right SSL certificate for you.