Did you know that an SSL certificate can help you move up the Google search rankings?

Wonder why you’re struggling to rank higher on Google? It might be nothing to do with keywords, snippets and alt tags. One simple fix could give you a huge SEO boost.

That fix is to install an SSL certificate. CyberAlpha is currently offering a free SSL certificate for each of your domains when you sign up for one of our monthly web security packages.

In today’s article, we’ll talk you through the basics of SSL & HTTPS:

  1. SSL certificates & Google rankings
  2. What is an SSL certificate?
  3. How does SSL affect search engine rankings
  4. How do I install an SSL certificate?

1. SSL Certificates & Google Rankings

Google uses over 200 search engine ranking factors.

Unfortunately, SEO experts rarely know how the algorithms actually operate. Google very carefully safeguards this information to avoid SEO manipulation (which would negate the value of their search product). What it mostly offers, at best, are vague and generic statements:

  • “Create high-quality content”
  • “Get relevant and powerful links”
  • “Demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness & trustworthiness”

However, on August 6, 2014, Google addressed the issue of HTTPS as a ranking signal:

Over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal.

To be exact, Google said that if there are two websites, with everything else equal, the website with an SSL certificate will have a slight advantage over the one that doesn’t.

Four years later, Google once again addressed the importance of HTTPS in its blog:

Chrome’s new interface will help users understand that all HTTP sites are not secure, and continue to move the web towards a secure HTTPS web by default. HTTPS is easier and cheaper than ever before, and it unlocks both performance improvements and powerful new features that are too sensitive for HTTP.

This chart shows how secure, SSL-encrypted websites are over-represented in the top two spots on search engine results pages (SERPs):

Clearly, having an SSL certificate is a must for SEO (not to mention for performance, security and reputation). Now we’ll explain exactly what an SSL certificate is and how it works.

2. What Is An SSL Certificate?

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. As the name suggests, it creates an additional layer of safety that protects the information visitors share with a website. CyberAlpha defines SSL as:

The standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browser remains private.

When a visitor visits an https:// website, the SSL certificate ensures that whatever information is shared, it will not be leaked to anyone. The encrypted connection protects the information.

Without the certificate, the website is considered not secure and results in an ugly warning from the browser:

SSL certificate

As you can imagine, this reflects very poorly on your website. It makes your whole business looks untrustworthy, and most visitors will simple navigate away from the page.

3. How Does SSL Affect Search Engine Rankings?

1. A direct boost in search engine rankings

As we mentioned at the start of this post, Google has confirmed that a secure website with an SSL certificate will have an advantage over an unsecured site (with all other SEO factors equal).

Calculating the precise impact of the SSL certificate on a site’s SEO rankings is difficult. Website owners should understand that having an SSL certificate won’t just magically propel your site to the top of the search engine results page.

However, as long as you take care of the other search engine ranking factors, having an SSL certificate will give you a much-needed boost to overtake other websites in a tough and competitive niche.

2. Indirect boost via improved user experience

There is no doubt that an SSL certificate (indicating a safe and secure website) significantly improves the user experience.

As we saw earlier, whenever you land on an unsafe website, you are confronted with a warning. By explicitly shaming unencrypted websites, Google Chrome has created much-needed awareness about internet security among general internet users. They are now much more aware and hesitant when it comes to visiting unencrypted websites.

This has meant that acquiring personal information on http:// websites (sites without SSL certificates) has become almost impossible. If your business model relies on information capture, a visibly secure website is essential.

Google has made no secret of the fact that it tracks user behaviour. If users clearly enjoy visiting your site (low bounce rates, long dwell times…) Google will reward you with better rankings.

On the other hand, if Google notices a large number of visitors leaving your website almost immediately (as they will often do when they see a security warning), the algorithm will penalise you. Google is determined to enhance user experience, so insecure sites don’t stand a chance.

This is how an insecure website will have a negative indirect effect on your search engine ranking. The domino effect further pushes the ranking down. In business terms, less traffic means fewer opportunities for creating backlinks, viral traffic and a higher engagement rate.

4. How Do I Install a SSL Certificate?

As we’ve seen, if you want to be successful in today’s digital landscape, you need to have an encrypted website. By installing an SSL certificate, visitors (and Google) will know it is 100% encrypted and safe.

The easiest way to do this is as part of a managed website security package. CyberAlpha has partnered with the Let’s Encrypt initiative to offer its clients a free SSL certificate for each of their domains.

As soon as you activate CyberAlpha’s comprehensive managed website security and monitoring platform on your website, we’ll issue you an SSL certificate and renew it automatically every 90 days, free of charge.

The CyberAlpha platform combines a free SSL certificate with a cloud web application firewall and comprehensive monitoring. We block cyber attacks and immediately alert you to any problems with your website, such as a Google blacklisted or your website going down.

If you have any questions about CyberAlpha, feel free to reach out to us: contact@cyberalpha.io or +44 (0)20 8144 3288.