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Why SSL and SEO are essential for your website security and digital marketing

In this guide, we will explore why SSL and SEO are essential considerations when it comes to website security and digital marketing.

For many years, the internet was akin to the Wild West. There was little regulation and even fewer rules. Making use of online services was a matter of personal choice. Users had to weigh up whether they were prepared to accept the risks to personal data involved.

The march of technology has changed this. The UK Government launched the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in 2016 to protect businesses and individuals1. As a result, SSL security began to play a significant role in establishing trust in a domain and therefore SEO.

Is SSL security important to SEO?

It is no secret that Google regularly update algorithms to manage page ranking. One of the most seismic of Google’s algorithm updates in recent years unfolded in 2018 with E-A-T. This stands for:

  • Expertise,
  • Authoritativeness and
  • Trustworthiness2.

It is the latter that matters most in SSL and SEO. For the uninitiated, SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. An SSL certificate is sometimes referred to as simply a digital certificate. Whatever we call it, the purpose remains identical. SSL certificates create an encrypted connection between a user’s computer and the website that it visits.

Ssl and seo essential to retain the trust of users

Cyber-security is hugely important if you wish to retain the trust of users – and Google

This encryption is essential for building trust, both for the user and Google.

Consumers are shopping online more than ever due to the events of 2020 and COVID-19, which naturally means handing over credit card data. Encryption prevents this data from being accessed by malevolent hackers, meaning for eCommerce, SSL and SEO are absolutely essential. Even if a purchase is not made on a visit to a site, data can be harvested.

The absence of an SSL will damage user confidence and harm user experience

If a site lacks an SSL certificate, both your browser and Google will let the user know. This will typically result in a warning that the site is not safe, and provides the option – a recommendation, even – for the user to leave post-haste. 85% of customers will heed this advice and do so3. If you don’t follow this advice, it means that your site is not only missing out on a potential sale, but it will be experiencing a high bounce rate. That will greatly impact your page ranking.

All of this means that you need an SSL certificate installed on your website. While this is only legally mandatory for websites that handle financial data, it is no longer just a “nice to have” for everybody else. Any online presence that lacks this level of encryption will ultimately damage user confidence and your site will suffer from an ever-plummeting page ranking.

How do I know if I already have an SSL certificate?

Firstly, check that you do not already have one. All websites launched from around 2016 should have an SSL certificate as standard.

It is easy enough to check. Copy-and-paste the URL into your address bar. Secure sites that have an SSL certificate will begin with HTTPS://. Those that lack an SSL certificate will simply read HTTP://. As you have probably guessed, the “S” stands for secure.

The site will also often feature a green padlock to denote encryption and security. Your browser will also warn users that attempt to access an insecure site. Google Chrome, for example, displays the words Not Secure in the address bar. Most browsers also warn users of insecure connections though a pop-up before granting access to the site.

No ssl means no security

A lack of SSL certificate is the online equivalent of a, “No Entry” sign – most users will immediately walk away

How can I obtain an SSL certificate for my website?

With this in mind, most hosting sites will include an SSL certificate in their package as standard. If you build a site using a hosted service like Wix or Squarespace or use a service like Shopify, SSL will be included by default at no extra cost. For those of you who have websites using platforms like WordPress and Magento, your hosting provider will allow you to install an SSL certificate.

If you would prefer to acquire an SSL certificate, you can purchase one from a Certificate Authority (CA). This is expensive though, especially as the certificate must be renewed each year, and potentially needless. Services such as Let’s Encrypt offer free SSL certificates4.

Free SSL certificates for your website and SEO

Let’s Encrypt is a free, non-profit service set up by the Internet Security Research Group5. If you’re wondering why Let’s Encrypt would offer a service free that others charge for, it’s simple. This body has a mission statement to make the internet safer for all that use it – whether that’s a business or a user.

A free SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt is identical in protection to one purchased from a CA. The only difference is that a paid SSL certificate provides information about the business that hosts the website – if the user researches this in their browser. Paid certificates can gain that data automatically. A free SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt will not.

Some users may feel more secure in dealing with a company that shares this data. It suggests they have the financial might to pay for an SSL certificate. Again, though, this does not have any impact on the security protocols or level of encryption of the site. It’s purely a matter of personal preference and the image that you wish your business to present.

How will SSL security boost SEO and page ranking?

A website that lacks an SSL certificate will be a red flag to Google’s E-A-T algorithm. This will inevitably be bad news for your SEO and page ranking. Even the greatest and well-thought-out SEO strategy will fall by the wayside if you appear on Google’s radar as an insecure and untrustworthy website.

Ever since 2015, Google has been showing a preference to secure websites over insecure alternatives when it comes to page ranking6. There are more SEO benefits than simply avoiding Google’s wrath, though.

Secure websites build the trust of users. As more and more people use the internet for essential daily tasks, such as banking and paying bills, digital safety is at the forefront of everybody’s mind. What’s more, there is a greater understanding of the data stored by websites. There is no excuse to leave a site unsecured in 2020. This will automatically be viewed with suspicion.

Ssl is essential for ecommerce seo

A user would not leave their wallet unattended – why would they use an insecure website?

Finally, an SSL certificate is essential to qualify for Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). This is a controversial practice that not all webmasters are fond of. Ultimately, AMP strips a site down to make it more accessible on mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. This speeds up loading times, though – another major ranking factor for Google. If you do intend to take advantage of AMP, you will need an SSL certificate.

Conclusion: SSL and SEO are intertwined

Hopefully, by now, you can see how SSL and SEO are intertwined. This guide has explained the importance of an SSL certificate and reassured you that it will not cost the earth to install. In fact, it could cost you nothing. If you are interested, please read here for more information on website security and compliance. If you have any further queries with regards to SEO or your digital marketing, feel free to get in touch. Opace offers expertise in website hosting and security to ensure that your SEO and page ranking is not impacted by security concerns.

Image Credits – https://pixabay.com/photos/ecommerce-selling-online-2140603; https://pixabay.com/photos/do-not-enter-sign-traffic-road-600755; https://pixabay.com/photos/credit-squeeze-taxation-purse-tax-522549

References and further reading –

  1. ncsc.gov.uk
  2. searchmetrics.com/us/google-e-a-t-ranking-factor
  3. johnrodandco.com/why-all-websites-now-need-to-have-an-ssl-certificate
  4. https://letsencrypt.org
  5. abetterinternet.org
  6. https://searchengineland.com/googles-gary-illyes-https-may-break-ties-between-two-equal-search-results-230691
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