Google’s new SSL changes and what it means for your website

September 16, 2016

You may or may not have heard that Google are tightening up their security in the upcoming months. Google have announced that they are making changes to how websites without an SSL certificate will be ranked, encouraging web developers to add that extra layer of security to their website, and penalising those who don’t.

So what is an SSL certificate, what does this change mean and how can you ensure your site doesn’t suffer?

What is SSL?

Secure Socket Layer (SSL) is a layer of protection that can be added to a website. It effectively creates a padlock for the site, which enables secure connections. These are commonly used to ensure that data is sent to a website securely, for example when entering your card details for an online purchase.

SSL’s have been around for a while now, since 1996 to be precise. So what’s new you ask?! Well, keep reading to find out how your site can benefit from installing an SSL certificate.

So how does this make your site secure?

An SSL certificate adds security in a number of ways:

  1. Firstly, the HTTPS protocol (which an SSL enables) verifies that the website you’re on is the one you’ve requested. This is indicated by the https:// at the start of the web address you are viewing.
  2. Secondly, it prevents what are known as Man-in-the-middle attacks. These attacks involve a “middleman” eavesdropping on communication on the website, and have resulted in many security breaches and fraudulent activity. An SSL prevents against these attacks as HTTPS does not allow third parties to tamper with your site.
  3. Thirdly, HTTPS encrypts all communication, including URLs, which protects things like browsing history and any stored credit card information.

Will this make a difference to my users?

As a result of having an SSL certificate, your site benefits from the green padlock in the url bar, and the added protection of https:// at the start of your web address. There are two different types of SSL certificate: standard and extended. The standard certificate (what we use) adds a little green padlock. The extended SSL adds a green bar as well. The extended SSL offers the user more trust, as it has an organisational stamp of approval, however, both certificates have equal SEO gains.

How does this impact my SEO

So, we know that SSL certificates are good for websites. They help to generate trust, but are primarily used for websites that store user data or sensitive information. Maybe your website does these things – in which case, it likely has an SSL certificate already. However, your site may be a sales website, or information based and may not require the security or trust benefits.

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Having an SSL certificate on your site can also have SEO benefits.

Perhaps the most important factor is that Google will start to penalise sites that do not use an SSL certificate. Similar to what they did with sites that weren’t mobile responsive. Whilst the direct SEO benefit gained from having an SSL is hard to gauge, the affects of not having one certainly won’t be as Google starts to add more weight to this requirement.

The added benefit to your analytics

One other benefit of having an SSL certificate is that, unlike with standard (non-secure) websites, you’ll be able to track users who have come from secure HTTPS websites. An example of this would be if you post a link to your website on Facebook or Twitter, you will be able to track these through your analytics.

If you don’t have an SSL certificate, you won’t be able to track the source of users who have gone from a secure HTTPS website to a standard (non-secure) HTTP website, as referral data will be lost, and these will show as “Direct traffic”.

At GearedApp, we (like Google) believe in a safer web. So if you’re looking to benefit from adding an SSL certificate then just get in touch and we can work with you to ensure that your site is secure.

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