GOOGLE RANKINGS, SSL AND THE WEB
Google Search and Secure Web Pages
For some time now, Google has been placing a greater value on websites who secure their site with SSL certificates. This has the potential to improve a websites ranking on Google searches. For websites that sell online or have login access for members, the need for SSL has been common place. However now in this very competitive world of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and the growing online marketplace, the need to ensure you rank as high as possible on Google is a major factor in operating a successful website. So, it seems inevitable that websites will eventually use secure certificates by default. SSL is no longer reserved for online shopping but a necessity for all websites. There are many factors that can benefit a websites position in Google rankings, but if you own a business website and aren’t using an SSL certificate, this may help give you an extra boost.
So What is SSL?
SSL stands for “Secure Sockets Layer” but now has been superseded by TLS (Transport Layer Security), however it is still referred to by SSL or SSL/TLS. Simply put, SSL certificates are small cryptographic key files that are installed on a web server that hosts a website. When your web browser connects to the website it checks the validity of the certificate and negotiates an encrypted secure connection between your web browser and the server. All communication at this point is secure and safe from prying eyes, not even your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can see the content you are viewing or typing in.
It’s easy to tell if a website is secure by either looking for https: at the start of the address line (where the “s” stands for secure), or a closed padlock symbol alongside the address.
There are different levels and types of SSL certificates and the cost varies widely, from under $100 a year to many hundreds. Interestingly though, the level of encryption and security doesn’t change, only the steps taken to verify the purchaser of the certificate, or how much trust can be assigned to it. Although only web browsers are discussed here, SSL can also be used for secure email and file transfers.
Web Browsing and SSL
Another reason to be using SSL certificates on websites is more recently web browsers have started to warn visitors that a website is not safe if it doesn’t use SSL. That’s certainly not reassuring to visitors, as well as the potential for the website to be penalised on search rankings.
Why the need to encrypt information you enter on a website? Typically, someone sitting at home is at a low risk of being compromised due to a website they visit not using SSL. It certainly doesn’t secure your information once a website or business has it. However, in this ever-growing age of open Wi-Fi hotspots, shared office networks, new laws on data retention and the ability for people to illegally intercept mobile phone data, the risks are growing. Without SSL someone may be able to see your bank login, credit card details, email address and password or personal and private information. In fact, any information you enter in or view can potentially be viewed by an intruder. Identity theft and credit fraud are real online risks. Only when a website uses SSL can you be sure that what you type into a website is only seen by them.
Fortunately, malicious websites don’t commonly use SSL as the cost is prohibitive, particularly as they register hundreds or thousands of domains and use them only for a short time each. As SSL is domain specific, it wouldn’t be time or cost effective for them to purchase certificates for each of these domains, hence the potential for improved Google search rankings for SSL enabled websites. So, visiting a website that uses SSL is one more factor for visitors (and Google) to consider when questioning the security and legitimacy of any website.
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Disclaimer: This is general information and not meant to be a complete and comprehensive look at Google, SSL Encryption or SEO. Although only Google is referenced, all search websites can be considered the same for this article.
It seems inevitable that all websites will eventually use Secure Certificates.