Online data security is important for both users and website owners. For users, a secure website helps them keep their personal data safe and protect against hackers and phishing. For website owners, it improves your compliance and reduces your liability. But does an SSL certificate also increase your SEO?
In short - yes. For most website owners, encrypting website data with a 2048-bit SSL certificate will provide a (small) SEO boost. But why? To understand that, it helps to know a bit more about what SSL certificates are and how they work.
Understanding SSL Certificates
SSL certificates are not a new development. The first SSL (or Secure Sockets Layer) standard was developed back in the early '90s. Today, the term "SSL Certificate" is usually used to refer to certificates for the more recent and advanced TLS (Transport Layer Security) standard.
So what does an SSL certificate do? On its own, not much. SSL certificates must be combined with other technologies in order to encrypt and secure data in transit. The real benefit of an SSL certificate is it verifies that a server is trustworthy. If a website possesses an SSL certificate, it means the site has a proper security system in place to encrypt and protect user data.
There are many types of SSL certificates, though by far the most common in use today are the 2048-bit variety. These certificates verify that the websites holding them use 2048-bit encryption. This type of encryption is virtually impossible to break in a brute force attack. 2048-bit encryption also allows the website to display itself as HTTPS, or HTTP Secure.
In 2014, Google stated it would give a small rankings boost to any site with a proper HTTPS implementation. Since then HTTPS has become more common for websites of all types. But if your website isn't yet one of them, should you make the switch?
Should You Move to HTTPS from HTTP?
The purpose of HTTPS is to protect sensitive information such as personal data, payment information, medical records and passwords in transit. However, not all websites deal with this information. It stands to reason, then, if your website doesn't collect any sensitive data, there isn't much benefit to switching to HTTPS.
If you're not sure whether you need an SSL certificate or an HTTPS website, ask yourself the following:
- Does my website collect any personally identifiable information (such as full names, addresses, or phone numbers) from users? This could include information in a "Contact Us" form or in an email subscription link.
- Does my website take or process any payments?
- Does my website take donations?
- Does my website have any areas which are only accessible to members or logged-in users?
If you answered "no" to all of the above questions, you could potentially hold off on switching to HTTPS. However, making the switch could still give you a small SEO boost - and it will ultimately keep your users safer than if you didn't switch. The choice is up to you.
It's also important to keep in mind that, at least so far, the SEO benefit of moving to HTTPS is small. You won't be moving up two or three results pages just by purchasing an SSL certificate. If SEO is your only goal, you should concentrate on other website improvements such as developing high-quality content and optimizing your title tags.
Finally, if you do switch to HTTPS, make sure you follow Google's guidelines for switching. Here are their main tips, from the Google Webmaster Guidelines:
- Decide the kind of certificate you need: single, multi-domain, or wildcard certificate
- Use 2048-bit key certificates
- Use relative URLs for resources that reside on the same secure domain
- Use protocol relative URLs for all other domains
- Don’t block your HTTPS site from crawling using robots.txt
- Allow indexing of your pages by search engines where possible. Avoid the noindex robots meta tag.
If you want to learn more about optimizing and securing your website, contact us at InVerve Marketing today. We'll discuss your goals for your website and how we can help you achieve them.