Does HTTPS Have an Impact on SEO?

Google loves security, which is a good thing because they make user protection a high priority. They even encrypt all Google searches, but that doesn’t mean the sites you land on will be.

Google announced last year that they were using the security of a website as a ranking factor. In other words, that website with the http:// is ranking higher than the site with just the traditional http://.

Yes, you read that right. Google really likes that “s.”

Marketers were a little alarmed since SSL certificates aren’t free, resulting in a lot of research being done on the cost versus the benefit.

So How Do HTTPS and Search Rakings go Hand in Hand?

Google has described this signal as “lightweight.” SEOs know that there are a lot of signals, but this particular one affects few searches. In fact, they said it affects less than 1 percent of global inquiries, making it carry a lot less weight than quality content and a number of other signals.

But…

Google is simply giving webmasters time to make the switch to HTTPS, as they may make the decision later on to give this signal a bit more weight. They may give it more weight in order to increase the amount of security on the web.

So while HTTPS holds little weight now, it could grow into a greater benefit later. There are so many other larger factors right now when it comes to how you rank. Even with HTTPS in place, the following items have to have focus:

  • High quality content with relevant keywords
  • Building high quality back links
  • Optimizing title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, etc.

If you don’t do these things, then you are looking at a problem that is much larger than HTTPS.

For What other Reasons should there be an SSL Certificate?

Security certificates are not relevant to all websites, but they can offer protection for visitors on many other types of websites. For instance an ecommerce website or one that requires visitors to login will need an SSL certificate to keep visitor information secure.

Another option is the trust seal. This is a third-party endorsement of the website. A security certificate logo is a trust seal, but so is a BBB logo, association membership, or an award. These graphics hold weight with visitors when determining whether or not they can trust the website they are visiting. There are many sites with multiple trust seals, so they are placed in a “trust box” to show them off on the website. This keeps them all in one place as they fulfill their function of building confidence in the website.

Are All Security Certificates and Trust Seals Created Equal?

Unfortunately, they are not all created equal, although the encryption levels are usually the same. It’s the amount of confidence a person has in the issuer of that seal. For instance, a Norton Secured seal may instill more confidence than a Comodo seal.

All in all, companies that sell security certificates have seen an increase in sales. There has also been an increase in trust seal demand. Because SSL certificates require the website to have a unique IP address, there has also been an increase in IP address demand.

Some Things to Think About

With this said, there are some things to consider. For instance, SSL security isn’t going to protect your website from DDoS attacks, the website may load a little slower due to the encryption and decryption taking up server resources, and adding HTTPS can actually hurt sales of sites that use the Google Trusted Stores badge.

All in all, you may want to talk to your web designer about the necessity of an SSL certificate for your website and how it will affect your ranking. There are hundreds of factors in SEO and this is just one of them. If you decide you want to spend the money and secure your site, even if it’s not an ecommerce site, then you do achieve the secondary benefit of confidence. Confidence can make money.