A hot topic that we must cover. As the title clearly suggests you, we are going to talk about SSL certificates and Google, because it has been flagging sites as non-secure if they lack it.
However, we will go further than that, because we are going to talk about the interesting relationship between Google and SSL certificates, because you can use it for your own advantages. Worry not, because at SEO Heroes, we are going to cover it all.
Without anything more to add by now, let’s start!
What Does HTTPS Mean and Why Is It Necessary?
HTTPS stands for “Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure”, which is the protocol through which your browse and the website you are visiting exchange data. Therefore, it is a protocol of data transfer; however, the key feature here is that it encrypts all the communications, making them safe.
How does it encrypt communications? It makes use of the Transport Layer Security (TLS), also known as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). This is what makes HTTPS safer than the standard HTTP protocol, because it protects communications, and therefore, it is necessary to ensure privacy and safety.
There are enough reasons why HTTPS is necessary:
- It secures communicates between your website and your customer’s browser, which is essential when buying online (eCommerce)
- It secures email communications sent from and to your network
- It secures communications and interactions in your intranet
- It complies with Google’s latest standards, and therefore, it helps your SEO efforts
- It secures information received and sent via mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.)
However, how does it work? Here you have a full explanation on how this protocol works:
- Your browsers tries to connect to a page on Example.com
- com proceeds to send a certificate to your browser. It includes Example.com’s server public key and evidence that it belongs to the website in question
- Your browser proceeds to verify that it has the right public key for Example.com
- Once verified, your browser creates a random symmetric key Z to use for its connection with Example.com server. It uses Example.com’s public key to encrypt the Z key
- com proceeds to decrypt the Z key using its own private key, allowing exclusively example.com and your browser to know Z
- Now, any time your browser wants to establish a communication with Example.com, it will encrypt the information under the Z key, which will be decrypted upon receipt at Example.com’s server. In the other case, when Example.com wants to send something to your browser, it will encrypt it under the Z key.
Basically, this is how the HTTPS works. Again, the principal difference is that it encrypts communications, where as HTTP does not. We will look into the differences of both protocols in the next section.
The Key Differences Between HTTP and HTTPS
HTTP was the protocol that made it possible to share information in the internet. Network administrators came up with the Hyper Text Transfer Protocol for exchanging information, as the ideal solution for their problem.
However, this solution originated a new problem, because many people learned how to intercept information in the internet, something that could be used for obscure purposes. Therefore, network administrators came up with the ideal solution: encryption. You already know how it works.
It protects communications, because even if they get intercepted, anyone who does it won’t be able to understand them, because they will be encrypted. This is the perfect solution for data interception in the internet and the principal difference between both protocols.
HTTP is present by default in your website’s server, whereas HTTPS needs to be purchased and installed, because you need to buy (or acquire for free) your own SSL certificate, in order to make it work. This is another key difference, but it is absolutely worth it to invest into an SSL certificate, because as we are going to see below, it offers several advantages that will make your online business grow to the next level.
What Are The Real Advantages of HTTPS?
If you need concrete reasons to install HTTPS in your website today, then here you will find exactly what you need, because we are going to talk about the real advantages of it.
It Improves Your Website’s Security:
All you need to know is that HTTPS encrypts communications to understand why it will improve your website’s security.
This is especially important if you have an online shop where people need to introduce their credit/debit card or financial info, because it is very sensitive and they need to be protected against data intersections. Choosing a proper checkout solution is key, but adding HTTPS to your website will help as well.
If you care about your customer’s security, then invest into an SSL certificate and make your website much safer, because it will pay off as we are going to see below.
It Boosts Conversions:
As a result of making your website visibly safer, you will boost your conversions. It does not matter if you sell services, products as an eCommerce shop or have an affiliate website, because switching to HTTPS will help you to make more money.
If you have hit a plateau in your conversion rate and want to try new ways to boost it, then you should give this a try. You can even get it for free at Let’s Encrypt, so you have no excuse to not install it today.
To give you an example, did you know that 84% of customers would abandon a purchase if data were sent over an insecure connection? Are you willing to risk losing so many sales? Of course not, and that is why you need SSL to secure connections and communications, to boost your conversions!
It Makes Your Website More Trustable:
It will give you the power to alter the perception visitors have of your website, because when they see that you have an SSL certificate – that little green lock in the search bar – they will feel much safer to be and complete actions in your website. It is all a matter of perception, and if you want to make your website more trustable, then this simple addition can make a huge difference.
It Brings You More Data:
If you want to make your website grow, then you need to know where your traffic is coming from, amongst other important factors. Chances are you are using Google Analytics, but did you know that it blocks HTTP-to-HTTPS referral data? If you want to get rid of that problem, then it is as simple as switching to HTTPS. It will make a huge difference!
It Helps Your SEO:
We all want to rank higher, and if switching to HTTPS can help you to make a difference, then for sure you need to do it… but is it the case? Of course. It’s been a ranking factor since 2014, and it has become more important than ever before nowadays. There is more than one source claiming the importance of HTTPS from many years ago.
It will help your SEO, and we are going to detail it in the next section.
What is the relationship between HTTPS and better rankings? We need to look into certain stats and facts to understand it:
- Google Chrome is going against websites without HTTPS, labeling then as non-secure and alerting users that the connection is insecure, something that can radically affect your traffic and SEO efforts
- Google has clearly stated that they are working towards a web that is secure by default, which means that they are going to do everything that is in their power to make connections more secure, and that includes “forcing” webmasters to switch to HTTPS
- The faster your website loads, the better UX you will offer to your visitors, and this will have a favorable effect in your rankings. It allows you to take advantage of HTTP/2, which is only possible to implement when you have HTTPS enabled, and according to stats, HTTP/2 performs up to 70% better than HTTP/1.1 websites
- Approximately 40% of Google page one results use HTTPS, which is interesting, because nowadays, less than 1% of all the websites in the internet are secure. This fact alone tells you a lot about the influence of HTTPS in rankings, and therefore, it is definitively worth a try
- More than 50% of desktop page loads are HTTPS connection, which is an all-the-time high according to Google
- Multiple studies have found a correlation between implementing HTTPS and higher search engine rankings, especially the study conducted by MarketMuse, SEMRush, SimilarWeb, Ahrefs and Brian Dean, which found an interesting correlation.
We all want to rank higher, of course, and if adding HTTPS can do the trick, then why don’t you give it a chance? Because, as we have seen, it offers even more benefits than just boosting your rankings, because it will help you to boost your conversions and to inspire more trust in your visitors and customers.
Of course, you should not expect to rank higher just by switching to HTTPS if you don’t’ take care of other more important variables (on-page and off-page work, for example). It is just another factor you can exploit for your own benefit, but it is not definitive.
It is important to understand that, at least for now, it is still not a major ranking factor, because we need to look into the real evidence (collected from 10,000 different domains)
- Approximately 25% were missing a canonical HTTPS version
- Approximately 25% were using a 302 redirect instead of 301
- In approximately 65% of domains, HTTPS was not working properly
- Approximately 90% of the domains had a sub-optimal HTTPS set-up and implementation.
It means that a very tiny portion of websites have a perfect HTTPS implementation, which allows us to see that many websites are still ranking despite of their poor HTTPS set up or the complete absence of it. It is not a determining ranking factor, but when united to the other evidence (for example, Google is pushing for a fully secure web and using Chrome to label non-HTTPS websites as not secure), we can see that it is gaining more relevance.
So, you are determined to switch from HTTP to HTTPs. Let’s look into what you need to keep into account, so you can make the change smoothly and without problems.
What Are The Best SEO Practices for Switching from HTTP to HTTPS?
It is time to migrate from HTTP to HTTPS, but before you do it, make sure to read this short guide properly, to ensure that you do everything correctly.
Here you have the list of things you need to check to ensure a smooth and correct migration:
- Choose the right kind of certificate for your website: wildcard, multi-domain or single
- Make sure to use 2048-bit key certificates
- Ensure to let Google know that you have gone from HTTP to HTTPS as soon as possible, because they have updated Google Webmaster Tools to handle this more efficiently
- Use relative URLs for all the resources stored in the same secured domain
- Make sure to update all the hard-coded links to HTTPS
- Update all of your AJAX and Custom JS libraries to HTTPS
- Apply 301 redirects to your new HTTPS URLs. This is critical, because you want to pass all the link juice and protect your rankings, but sadly, this is a step that many get wrong and instead they apply a 302 redirect, which is detrimental for SEO
- Ensure to update your robots.txt file to comply with your HTTPS configuration
- Update all of your canonical tags to point to the new HTTPS version of your website
- Change your social media links properly
- Create a Google Search Console profile for your own new website configuration
- Fetch and crawl your website to make Google process things faster
- If you have suffered negative SEO attacks in the past, then you need to re-submit your disavow file again, using your new Google Search Console profile
- Make sure to update your Google Analytics profile with your new website configuration.
Here you have it. This is everything you need to know about Google and HTTPS. I hope that you learned a lot today, and if you have any question, feel free to ask it in the comments section!