Since August of 2014, Google has made a push to reward sites that add a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) in order to increase security for users. They announced that they would reward sites that adopted this security measure by giving a boost in search rankings.
In mid-December of 2015, SEO experts began reporting that Google will begin to prefer HTTPS by default. In a crowded digital space where you need any edge you can get, is an SSL certificate something your business needs? We can say with total, 100 percent certainty: ….it depends.
In order to determine if you need to make this step, first thing’s first:What is the Difference Between HTTP and HTTPS?
The most notable difference between HTTP and HTTPS is the way information and data is transferred between user and the server. HTTP data is unencrypted while HTTPS data is encrypted.
“The SSL certificate creates, what is essentially, a secret handshake between the user’s browser and the site’s server that confirms the connection is secure,” said Clay Campbell, Technology Lead at The Idea People. “When the SSL certificate is working properly, the handshake will be different for each user session.”What Type of Data is Protected by SSL?
If a hacker monitors a site that is unprotected, they can learn all of the information about the user that they submit to that site. Common data divulged to sites include:
The list above contains some extremely sensitive material. If this data got into the wrong hands, the user could be a victim of fraud and even identity theft. Google want their users to feel that they are being provided with the best and safest results possible. If Google users feel confident that the sites in Google results keep their data secure, they’re more likely to use that search engine.
Think of Google’s search results process like a job interview; they’ve read your resume and what you have written matches what they need, but they want a reference to be sure you’re trustworthy. The SSL certificate acts like an unbiased reference that indicates that your site is secure.Do you NEED an SSL Certificate?
It depends on your business and the purpose of the site. If your business has a site that is purely informational and no user information is used, it is not necessary at this time to secure your site. In regard to using it to boost SEO value, it doesn’t provide a big enough boost to warrant action right now. In fact, there are several other factors that boost your SEO far more significantly than an SSL certificate.
If your company does require user information, you should absolutely take advantage of an SSL certificate. Companies in healthcare, e-commerce, insurance, etc. must take action sooner rather than later. Forget the SEO value, it is critical to protect your user’s data. As we saw with Carefirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, data breaches can damage trust with customers and can reshape public opinion of your company.
“In regard to how an SSL certificate can impact SEO, we have a theory,” said Wesley Farnham, Chief Digital Strategist for The Idea People. “For sites that don’t collect user information, Google doesn’t put too much weight in their algorithm, but sites that do are more heavily impacted.”