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SSL Certificates - Search Rankings

Do SSL Certificates Affect Search Rankings?

SSL Certificates are data files that activate the https protocol along with the padlock. These are essentially used to improve the security in between the server and browser connections. Generally speaking, the SSL certificate is used to secure credit card transactions; however, quite recently, they are being used to secure the connection of social media platforms.

Google has very strict criteria before it ranks any website on its search engine. As a marketer, you must be aware of the constant changes Google keeps bringing out for its ranking algorithm, even though no one is 100% sure what the algorithm truly is. Marketers usually do a hit and trial method to see what works to help them rank better.

Now, you must be wondering what the connection between SSL certificates and search rankings is and why we are discussing both these topics at the same time. Well, this is what we will be discussing in today's article. 

How Do SSL Certificates Affect Search Engine Rankings?

To make the internet a more secure place for marketing, Google announced in 2014 that one of their ranking signals is HTTPS. When this announcement was made, marketing managers and social media experts went into a state of frenzy. Making your site HTTPS does not only mean secure connections, but it also means a lot of back-end work.

Due to this, marketers ask whether it is even worth it to integrate an SSL certificate. Subsequently, it remains a question for a lot of marketers whether SSL certificates are good for SEO, and if yes, then what are the types of SSL certificates that are specifically useful in improving SEO and enhancing user-experience. 

Since Google has verified that SSL certificates do affect your search rankings to make things clearer for you, we will discuss how exactly they do so. Here are two ways of how SSL certificates will improve your ranking on Google. 

1. SSL Certificates Lead to Higher Ranking On Google

As we mentioned before, websites that have an SSL certificate are more likely to be ranked higher on Google as compared to other websites that don't have this additional layer of security. It should be noted here, though, that this is only true if you are considering the other SEO factors to be the same in between the two sites. It is also not possible to determine exactly how the SSL certificate ranks the website's SEO.

For example, the comparison would be difficult if a website does not have an encrypted certificate, but it has hundreds of backlinks or better web hosting than the one with the SSL certificate. In a case like this, maybe the website with better hosting might be able to fulfill Google's criteria in a better way. Therefore, it is important to remember that there are tons of factors that are playing a role in improving your SEO ranking. An SSL certificate might give your website SEO a boost, but it's not the only thing that you need to do to compete. 

2. SSL Certificates Improve User Experience

Google has been particular about one other aspect that helps users to rank their sites. Yes, we are talking about user experience, and one major way that website owners can improve their site's user experience is through SSL certificates. With each new update, Google is working towards making web surfing safer and more user friendly. There are checks to ensure that the people who visit unsafe websites (those without SSL certificates) receive indicators to close their browsers at once.

By publicizing this information, Google has created a security blanket for users to help make the internet a safer place! While this may have made things better for the users, it has made using SSL certificates for websites almost mandatory. Google is especially keen on noticing how users behave when they are visiting a website. If there are a particular number of people who close a website right after reaching the homepage, then Google detects an issue that ultimately affects your ranking. 

Common Challenges Faced when Switching to HTTPS 

SSL certificates do increase your chances of being ranked higher on SERP, and it makes sense for websites to switch to HTTPS ASAP. But, what exactly prevents them from doing so, or in other words, what are the common challenges faced when switching to HTTPS. Let's discuss it below!

1. The cost!

The biggest issue for website owners is the cost of an SSL certificate. Although you may be able to get them from free if you are getting them from a good provider, then the chances are that your SSL certificate can cost you over US$ 1000 annually! Moreover, if you have a big website, then there is the additional cost of encrypting the data that has been transferred.

2. Duplicate Content Issues

If you get through the entire process of getting an SSL certificate and encrypting your data, there might still be an issue of having duplicate content. This issue can occur with both HTTP and HTTPS as well. Imagine having different versions of the same web page on your site. Wouldn't that be the worst possible thing for your website visitors? Yes, SSL certificates tend to do that. 

3. Losing Link Juice

Since Google indexes the HTTPS version of pages, this leads to loss of precious link juice from your pages as Google does not take into account the HTTP version of the pages. 

Things to Remember

Switching to HTTPS comes with its fair share of challenges, as mentioned above. There are a few things you need to keep in mind before you make the switch.

  1. Bear in mind that the switch shouldn't be only to improve SEO. Although it plays an important role in improving your ranking, many other factors come into play as well. 
  2. If you are starting a website from scratch, then it is a good idea to have HTTPS from the very first day rather than having to make the switch, which is both resource-intensive and prone to errors. 
  3. There are different types of SSL certificates; you need to choose the right one for your website that can provide 100% encryption and security. 

Bottom Line: Your Website Security Comes First!

If you are still not entirely convinced that you need to make the switch, you simply cannot ignore the fact that without upgrading to HTTPS, your website's security is at risk. The riskier your website, the more chances of Google demoting your site or, in the worst-case scenario blacklisting it. At the same time, there is no evidence to support this correlation, but crucial at the same time to stay ahead of the competition.

Survival in the highly competitive digital world is not as simple as it was a couple of years back. There is no said formula or set of rules that are laid down to help you fulfill Google's criteria. A large portion of marketing is based on trial and error, and this is the reason why marketers are using every trick in the box to stay ahead amidst the growing competition. Downloading SSL certificates might be able to tick one item off the list, but there is a lot more than website owners need to practice to be ranked by Google's Search Engine. Good luck!

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Author : Arslan Hassan

Arslan Hassan is an electrical engineer with a passion for writing, designing, and anything tech-related. He occasionally writes blog articles for Dynamologic Solutions, A software development company.

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