Last Updated on 2 November 2020 by Lukasz Zelezny
Why Secure Websites with SSL Certificates for SEO?
When it comes to building or browsing through websites, it is a basic understanding that ensuring data security is of utmost importance to both the server and the client. But the question is how to achieve that, what does it mean to be SSL ready and more?
Before we dive into it, let’s take a moment to understand what SEO is. To put it simply, Search Engine Optimization or SEO, as the name suggests, is the process of optimizing websites so as to boost the overall traffic of the corresponding websites, organically from the results page of search engines.
The most popular and effective way of carrying out the SEO process is to use current and relevant keywords. So to say, if a potential client were to search for something related, the search engine will automatically lead them to the respective website. Notably, SEO improves both quality and quantity of website traffic.
What is SSL and what is its purpose in securing websites?
SSL certificates acronym for Secure Sockets Layer certificates is the basis which makes the process of encryption possible. They are essentially cryptographic protocols to ensure secure transmission of data through the internet. They exist in small data files which bind a cryptographic key to transmit data digitally.
Once it is installed on a web server, it enables secure transmission of information between a web server and a browser by activating the https protocol, indicated by the padlock icon that can be viewed at the top of the visiting website or webpage.
The absence of the padlock icon indicates that the referred page does not use https protocol, and hence, data transmission isn’t secure.
On the URL bar, when you move your cursor over the secure HTTPS section, you will see the credentials of security of the website that you are on.
When the browser requests information from a web server, the web server provides a copy of its SSL certificate to the browser, which in turn, checks the authenticity of the corresponding SSL certificate. If the browser trusts the certificate provided, it sends a signal to the web server. The web server responds by sending an official acknowledgement for starting an SSL encrypted session.
In case, a web server doesn’t have an SSL certificate, a secure connection cannot be established between the server and the browser. This implies, digitally transmitted information is vulnerable and much more accessible to malicious third party agents. An SSL certificate contains information about the owner of the website under consideration, which the browser ensures is validated by a genuine certificate authority.
By now, we have established how SSL certificates help secure data. But, is that all there is to it? The answer is NO. SSL certificates are surely a necessity when transmission of personal information is under question. But why should a web server opt for SSL certification even when the transmitted data does not contain sensitive information? What may be the consequences of not having an SSL certificate?
What are SEO rankings and why are they important for your website?
Basically, the position in which a website appears on the results page of a search engine is known as its SEO ranking. There are innumerable websites all over the internet on almost every topic that ever existed. Why should a search engine display your website at the top? And what happens if it doesn’t? We live in an era in which the internet is an important part of our day to day lives. Everyday, we browse for one thing or the other on Google.
The results that Google shows for every search request do not vary randomly. How many times do we really find ourselves even visiting the second page of the Google search results, let alone the rest? The truth is, often for every search result, most of the traffic is obtained by the website that shows up first in the search results page, i.e., the one with the topmost SEO ranking in that particular search. This is why it is very important to focus on improving the SEO rankings of your website.
What are SEO ranking factors?
SEO ranking factors refer to the process or algorithm that search engines use to evaluate the order in which websites appear in the search results page, i.e., compiling the website rankings. Some of the most important ranking factors of a website are security and accessibility, authenticity, loading speed, optimized content, relevant links and user experience.
These ranking factors affect the performance of the website, by improving the overall quality of the website, while also increasing website traffic. With the significance of SEO and SEO rankings established, it is equally important to understand what HTTP and HTTPS are; in what ways they differ from each other and how they affect websites.
How does SSL improve SEO rankings?
A user, who understands the importance of protecting their personal information, would be concerned about how securely their personal information is transmitted over the internet and thereby, would certainly prefer a website that employs SSL certificates, rather than ones that doesn’t.
The World Wide Web is vast and infinite. In this age, when malicious agents are all over the internet, constantly trying to get their hands on confidential clientele information and contributing to what is known as the dark side of the internet, ensuring security has now become a priority more than ever. Hence, it is logical that users would want the websites they are visiting to be secured.
Owing to this, users would be much more comfortable visiting and browsing through sites that employ SSL certificates. But what about the search engine results? Does a search engine prefer HTTPS websites with SSL certificates, over HTTP?
Google, one of the most popular and widely used search engines, advises web developers to switch their HTTP websites to HTTPS.
With the aim to create a secure web environment for its users, Google focuses on filtering search results, based on the authenticity and verification of related websites, while enforcing stricter regulations on general security of the World Wide Web.
This means that preference is given to SSL certified and trusted websites, thereby improving their SEO rankings, in the process.
HTTP vs. HTTPS: Which is better and why?
HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. It is basically a protocol that enables data transfer over the World Wide Web by providing a way of interaction between the servers and the clients. So, what’s the difference between HTTP and HTTPS?
HTTP is an application layer protocol. This means that it focuses on how data is presented to the user rather than how the transmission of information happens. HTTP does not concern itself with information from previous sessions, which is why it is also known as a stateless protocol. Therefore, each request is independent of the other previously executed requests. While HTTP enables the clients to interact with the servers, it lacks encryption.
Encryption of data may not seem as important while simply browsing the internet. However, when it is required to share sensitive information, for instance, credit card details or passwords, it becomes a problem as HTTP transmits data as plaintext. The main difference that separates HTTPS from HTTP is that HTTPS employs SSL in order to encrypt regular HTTP requests and results, which would otherwise, be transmitted as plaintext.
This adds an extra layer of security to the website by connecting digital data to a cryptographic key, which is a string of characters within the encryption algorithm responsible for modifying data to appear random, i.e., converting plaintext to ciphertext, or vice versa, in a decryption algorithm. Hence, even if a potentially malicious third party were to get their hands on the transmitted information, they wouldn’t have the key required to decrypt the ciphertext into the original plaintext.
As mentioned earlier, HTTP operates as an application layer protocol, whereas, HTTPS operates as a transport layer protocol. HTTP does not require an SSL certificate. HTTPS does not only require an SSL certificate that is signed by a certificate authority but also it needs to be renewed on a yearly basis. Furthermore, HTTP uses port 80, in order to send data over the internet, whereas HTTPS uses port 443 to serve that purpose. In spite of being comparatively more expensive than HTTP, the advantages of HTTPS clearly outweigh the advantages of the former.
Does SSL affect SEO?
You may wonder, what connects SSL and SEO to each other. While the most common way to boost the performance of a website with the help of SEO is to use suitable and relevant keywords; it isn’t enough to improve the overall traffic of the website.
Google Chrome, being one of the most widely used web browsers, when a Chrome user visits an HTTP website, the website alerts them with the help of the ‘i’ icon on the top left corner, where the padlock should have been, instead.
Tapping on it, reveals a warning that indicates the website is ‘Not Secure’ and confidential information is not encrypted. This message warns users against entering sensitive information into the website. Owing to this warning, a user understands if their personal information is at a higher risk of being compromised, based on the website they are visiting.
Hence, SSL and SEO are quite closely related, and SSL does affect SEO rankings.
How important is SSL for SEO?
Using SSL certificates for your websites does not drastically improve your websites’ SEO rankings. Even so, they do help boost the rankings of your website. However, this does not mean it is not worth it to get SSL certification for your website.
While there are quite a number of other ranking factors you need to take into consideration if you want to improve the SEO rankings of your website by a wide range; for using SSL for SEO rankings only helps the cause. Furthermore, as aforementioned, it also adds security to your website, thereby, instilling a level of faith on your website in users and improving traffic in the long run.
Therefore, it can be said that SSL does improve SEO rankings to quite an extent, even if it does not show a drastic change in rankings immediately after switching to HTTPS.
Does HTTPS affect Google ranking?
Even though the terms, HTTPS, and SSL are sometimes interchangeably used, they are not the same thing. As already stated, while HTTPS is the transfer protocol used to communicate between websites, SSL certificates are small data files that are used to enable encryption of transmitted data.
HTTPS is concerned with how the data is portrayed to the user, while SSL ensures security of transmitted data. However, since using SSL certificates in itself is a way of boosting the SEO ranking of a website, subsequently, HTTPS which uses SSL certificates, improve the SEO rankings of a website as well.
Moreover, in 2014, Google confirms that HTTPS improves SEO rankings by declaring it as a ranking factor.
TLS vs. SSL: What is the difference and which of them does HTTPS use?
TLS and SSL are technically the same thing. They are both cryptographic protocols responsible for secured data transmission between servers and systems.
While SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, TLS stands for Transport Layer Security. HTTPS may use either TLS or SSL based on the requirements of the website.
Simply speaking, TLS is just a more advanced version of SSL, making it the successor of SSL, even though SSL is still widely used. Many times, the terms SSL and TLS are used interchangeably.
SSL and SEO – Conclusion and FAQ
The World Wide Web is an ever-changing global network. Every day, something new is introduced in order to succeed what was new the day before.
With this exponentially rising rate of change of the internet and its various features, it is often difficult to pinpoint something that is worth investing in. However, what doesn’t change is the need for data security and authenticity over the internet.
With the increasing number of malicious agents, data protection and privacy is one of the topmost priorities of millions of internet users. In such a scenario, HTTPS websites with SSL certificates are a blessing to both web developers and internet users.
What SSL Certificate to choose?
Data files that help in digitally linking cryptographic keys with an organization’s information are known as SSL certificates. When installed on a web server, it arouses the padlock and the https protocol and permits secure connections from a web server to a browser. There are three types of certificates. Choosing the right one will depend on the level of security your website needs.
A domain-validated SSL certificate, also known as a low assurance certificate, is the standard type of certificate issued. Automated validation guarantees that the domain name is registered and that an administrator approves the request. The Processing time takes from a few minutes to a few hours. It is recommended for the use of internal systems only.
An organization-validated certificate, or high assurance certificate, needs real agents to validate the domain ownership, plus organization information such as name, city, state, and country. The processing time of an organization validated certificate ranges from a few hours to a few days. It is recommended to be used for all businesses and companies.
An EV certificate, or extended validation certificate, is rather a new type of certificate that requires the most rigorous validation process. This type of certificate works to ensure that the business is a legal entity and requires business information to be provided as evidence of domain ownership commerce businesses.
To choose a certificate, you need to recognize the property types you wish to protect (domain, sub-domain). You also have to Identify whether you need protection for a single property or multiple properties (wildcard or multiple domains). The next step is to decide what level of protection you need. All these steps will help you choose the right SSL certificate for you.
What is an HTTPS certificate?
HTTPS certificate happens to be a website security certificate, a digital stamp of approval from an industry-trusted third party known as a certificate authority (CA). HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) is an internet communication protocol that safeguards data integrity and privacy between the user’s computer and the site. Some website’s URLs begin with HTTP while others start with https. The “s” represents the secure encryption, which can only be guaranteed with an SSL certificate.
To get your website certificate, first purchase an HTTPS certificate credit of a chosen type from an HTTPS certificate provider. Once the process has been completed, you will need to provide the certificate signing request, which will spend your chosen domain’s purchased credit. You’ll be asked to give (i.e., to paste in a field or to upload) the whole CSR text, including the —–BEGIN CERTIFICATE REQUEST—– and —–END CERTIFICATE REQUEST—– lines.
The process of getting an HTTPS certificate is usually like this,
- Look for an HTTPS certificate vendor.
- Choose the type of certificate (DV, OV, EV, single site, multisite, wildcard), and click “Add to cart.” Select your desired payment method and complete the payment.
- You will need to activate the new HTTPS certificate for your domain. You have the choice to paste or upload the certificate signing request. The system will elicit the certificate details from the CSR.
- You will be asked to choose the method of “Domain Control Validation” — with the help of an email, uploading an HTML file (HTTP-based), or adding a TXT record to your domain zone file (DNS-based). Simply follow the instructions for your DCV method of choice to validate.
- Wait for some minutes until the validation is performed, and the HTTPS certificate is issued. Download the signed HTTPS certificate.
What certificate do I need?
You need to evaluate the reasons behind your purchase of a certificate before you make this decision. Some of the questions you have to ask yourself before buying one are:
- How many domains do I need to secure?
- What type of website do I need to protect?
- How important is my customer’s trust?
After you have decided on the basics, you need to set a budget, which is critical. Don’t compromise and make a well-thought decision when it comes to complete a business security solution.
The reason why you need an SSL certificate is to ensure your site security. Websites are free to operate online without an SSL certificate. Still, you must decide whether you are willing to risk your website’s security by making it easier for hackers out there. I hope you don’t want that to happen.
It was once enough to depend solely on basic antivirus software and firewalls to protect your business and home computer. The modern times have changed that notion. Today’s users are bombarded with malware and many security issues that can’t be fixed easily. Securing customer faith and confidence should be up there with the most critical factors to consider for anyone operating a business online.
The function of an SSL certificate is more than to protect your transactions and your customers’ private information. It will also help build trust between you and your customer base while improving your business’s reputation.
What if only part of my site is on HTTPS?
The main advantage of HTTPS is that it makes your site more secure for your users. More precisely, it’s more secure when a user is giving you any sort of critical information. It’s necessary on pages where users are required to provide their credit card information. The real change takes place when a user submits their data. HTTPS can provide many veneers of protection to that data:
- encryption – the data is useless to anyone who somehow manages to intercept it because they don’t have the key to decrypt it (you do).
- Data integrity –data can’t be corrupted, which is a very good aspect.
- Authentication –it prevents “man in the middle” attacks, which means that no one can track your customers into thinking they’re giving you data when they’re providing it to a scammer. This is the purpose of your SSL certificate.
There are other benefits of having HTTPS as well. Such as a small boost in rankings is possible if your website has it. Since it creates a more secure site for your users, the influx of customers to your website will also increase.
If you just only have a blog and all you need from your users is to enter their email addresses to opt into your email lists, you probably don’t need HTTPS for security reasons. But, if you accept payments or important personal information for any reason, HTTPS is a must-have for you and your website.