SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is used by websites to establish secure connections between the host server and the visitor’s device. Website’s with an SSL certificate installed can be accessed through the HTTPS protocol, and you will often see a padlock sign beside the URL. What this means is that all the data being transferred between you and the website you’re visiting is encrypted and private, meaning hackers can’t snoop on the network traffic. Having an SSL certificate is advisable for every website, however, it’s crucial for websites handling sensitive data or eCommerce websites with online shops.
As SSL certificates have become more popular, people are wondering what having an SSL certificate will do for your online SEO. In this article we break down how having an SSL certificate will affect your SEO in 2019.
Improvements to search rankings
Google themselves have confirmed that having a secure website with an SSL certificate will have an advantage over unsecured websites without an SSL certificate. However, it can be difficult to determine the exact impact of an SSL certificate to a website’s search rankings, as there are simply so many other factors which determine a website’s rank (over 200!).
It should be noted that having an SSL certificate will not magically boost your website to the top of the SERPs (search engine results pages). You need to consider all the other SEO factors as well as SSL. If you’re ticking off all the boxes then having an SSL certificate will certainly help your rankings though. It stands to reason then, that you definitely shouldn’t ignore an SSL certificate!
Several case studies have been carried out to study the possible impact of HTTPS on a site’s SEO rankings, with the common conclusion being that having “HTTPS is moderately correlated with higher search engine rankings on Google’s first page”.
This visual representation created by Brian Dean from Backlinko should help give you some perspective:
Improvements to user experience
It can be said without a doubt that having an SSL certificate on your website will significantly improve the user experience. As well as the obvious benefits from a security standpoint, there’s also a range of other improvements to the user experience which has an SSL certificate brings.
Many internet browsers (including Google Chrome) now include obvious visual warnings when visiting unsecured websites without an SSL certificate, which will heavily deter users from staying on that website. Google also notices this behaviour, as the user is spending less time on the website and therefore leaves the websites quicker — which will further negatively impact your SEO rankings.
eCommerce websites which sell products online are the most heavily impacted by the lack of an SSL certificate. As websites of this nature need to collect sensitive data, such as credit card information, the chances of someone entering this information is very low when on an unsecured website. What this can often translate to is a drop in sales and a loss of income. It should come as no surprise then, that having an SSL certificate is absolutely vital to running an eCommerce website.
Ultimately Google’s algorithm has learned over the past few years that unsecured websites don’t provide a good user experience — and as such, Google will undoubtedly demote your website in the SERPs if you don’t have an SSL certificate. People leaving the website after seeing an unsecured message would show to Google that this website is not worthy of being ranked high for that keyword.