SSL is a web encryption technology that provides visitors of your website with a secure and encrypted connection. SSL stands for secure socket layer. It’s an encryption standard that operates between the web server and the user’s web browser. SSL safeguards any exchanged data and provides an added layer of protection – reducing data compromises caused by intrusion from hackers, criminals or data-miners. SSL was common in its early days among e-commerce businesses and websites where identifying data was exchanged. This included sites that asked for social security numbers or personal addresses.
Today, SSL is much more widely used and this is partly because of its impact on SEO – search engine optimization.
Google and other search engines remained quiet for years about whether HTTPS was a significant factor in their search engine ranking algorithm. While all the indicators suggested that it did indeed help, it was never publicly verified.
Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam at the time was excited when the company announced a new option to exclusively search over SSL in early 2010. However, there was still no indication that SSL had managed to creep into their primary ranking algorithm.
It wasn’t until late 2014 when Matt Tweeted that finally, Google was recognizing SSL as a subtle factor in SEO with potential to carry a heavier signal later on.
Matt stated, “HTTPS (HTTP with SSL/TLS) is now a very lightweight signal – carrying less weight than other signals such as high quality content. Over time, we may decide to strength the signal.”
The Tweet came just a day after “HTTPS as a ranking signal” was published on the Google blog.
As I write this, we’re now approaching 3 years since their post went live so there’s no telling whether the signal has already been enhanced. It’s likely that it has.
A shift toward HTTPS would undoubtedly be good for users as it means safer and better protected connections across the web. Security is essential in a world where breaches and intrusion is a likely possibility. SSL provides a strong standard in protecting the data of your users and preventing compromises.
SSL’s most obvious benefits outside of SEO:
- Faster page load times – A better user experience and another search engine signal that has been publicly verified as rank factor.
- Encryption – The data of your customers is safe and protected.
- Authenticity – SSL indicates your business is trustworthy and concerned about data compromises.
- Lower bounce rate/Higher conversions – Your customers care about SSL. A smart shopper will avoid sites without HTTPS.
If you’re accepting payments online, even through Paypal, Stripe or another payment processor, it’s essential that you have an SSL certificate. SSL is not just for SEO but for your customers to feel safe shopping with you.
Some things to remember about SSL:
- Don’t block HTTPS from being crawled by spiders in your robots.txt. Allow search engine spiders to freely crawl your website and update your URLs.
- Use 2048-bit SSL key certificates.
- Decide whether you’ll need a single, multi or wildcard certificate.
- When linking to an internal resource (a page on your own website) use relative URLs that do not include http or https.
Most domain name registrars and shared web hosts provide SSL certificates that you can purchase and install on your website. Keep in mind, pricing is typically higher when you buy through your host and is sometimes higher through domain registrars as well.
To get the best deal, consider one of these SSL distributors:
Once purchased, you will have to install the certificate on your domain. Most shared web hosts provide cPanel which is the preferred control panel today. Installation is easy and takes only a few minutes.
If you are hosted on a VPS or dedicated server that runs Linux and CentOS as the operating system, you can use the free CentOS Web Panel.
For under $35/year in most cases, SSL is a reasonably inexpensive purchase that offers far more than just SEO value. I highly recommend you consider a PositiveSSL or EssentialSSL certificate as it can not only improve search engine rankings but it helps in transitioning to an SSL standard which collectively makes the web a safer place for everyone.