Why SSL should matter to me if I want to be ranked on the first page of Google?
As with many things related to website search engine optimization (SEO), the answer comes back to Google. There are many search engines out there to choose from, but Google is the top choice and has been for the last decade. What that means for your website and your SEO practices is that if you’re wanting to boost your rankings in web searches, you have to follow Google’s lead.
In 2014, Google announced that they would have an increased focus on websites that use SSL and HTTPS encryption as part of their dedication to provide safe, secure websites to users in their searches (SSL and HTTPS work hand in hand to provide top notch security for websites).
Google stated that having a website with SSL would have little to no effect on SEO practices, as it would only use it as a tie-breaker between two websites that ranked the same in listings. However, in the last few years, there has been a small, almost imperceptible shift in rankings towards websites that use SSL encryption, as well as hints dropped by Google executives that that shift will only continue to grow in the upcoming months and years. In plain language, it is now very important that your website has an SSL, and it will only continue to increase as time goes on.
Today, 60% of all first-page Google results are SSL-encrypted websites. Internet browsers now show a glaring red X next to the website name in the address bar if a website is not SSL-encrypted. Chrome and Safari take it one step further by giving you an error message whenever you click to follow an un-encrypted link, warning you that the website is not SSL-encrypted and your data is vulnerable. In some cases, based on your security settings, it will prevent you from even accessing or seeing the page itself.
That fact alone has changed how website design and SEO are viewed today. A few years ago, you’d often only see SSL-secure seals on websites that offered products or had an online store. Today, you’ll notice more and more of those seals on non-commerce websites. In the last month, I’ve come across them on blogs, news websites, and even Wikipedia. Even if you aren’t selling anything and provide only information on your website, Google no longer views a distinction between informational websites and commercial websites. Their sole focus is on the visitor’s security, and in order to have a chance at good rankings and keep them, you’ll need to as well.
In the month since this blog post was written, we have seen another push by Google towards an SSL-only future: websites without an SSL have started dropping from Google search results. This is a huge change, as it is no longer a tie-breaker, but rather a mandatory requirement if you want to stay in the race.