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How SSL Certificates Can Affect SEO and Google Rankings

By Lia / June 12th, 2019

Just over 50% of Alexa's top 1 million websites redirect users to a default HTTPS/SSL version, and the number of sites with SSL certification is growing quickly. In the US, 73% of pages loaded by Chrome for Windows had HTTPS, up from 59% just a year ago.

So why are we seeing this massive uptake? Well, aside from improved security that it offers for website's visitors, there are a number of SEO and ranking factors that are also worth taking into account.
Three Reasons SSL Certification is Vital for SEO
The three top reasons why HTTPS is important for SEO are - first, because it's a ranking factor in Google's algorithm; second, it has a big impact on bounce rates and time on site; and third, it could be just enough to outrank your competition in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPS).

1. Because Google Says So
This is really the only reason you need to go ahead and set up HTTPS on your site.

Google has actually gone on record saying that SSL certification is a ranking factor. In their words: "We'd like to announce that we're adjusting our indexing system to look for more HTTPS pages. Specifically, we'll start crawling HTTPS equivalents of HTTP pages, even when the former are not linked to from any page."

They have made it clear that as a ranking factor, it's given much less weight than high-quality content, but they have also said that they may decide to give it more weight in the future. In their words, they want to "encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web."

To take it a step further, Google also shared the results of their testing that showed the HTTPS signal had positive results both in terms of ranking and relevancy in the Google search, and Backlinko's analysis shows that an SSL certificate is moderately correlated to improved rankings.

2. It Can Have a Big Impact on Your Bounce Rates and Visitor's Time on Site
If you haven't installed an SSL certificate on your site, website visitors will see a warning in the address bar saying 'Not Secure!' overlaid with a red X for all pages that don't have HTTPS set up correctly.

Depending on what type of site you have, this may cause visitors to leave your site. If you request email details or have a shop on your site that takes payment, the lack of SSL certification is likely to mean that visitors won't trust your site and will navigate away. Even if your site is purely informational, non-savvy visitors may think that the site is broken or hacked and quickly click away.

This indirectly affects your SEO as your bounce rates and time on site are likely to be affected. There is a ranking correlation between longer time on site and lower bounce rates. If you have a page that is ranking well for a term and getting a good click-through rate, but the page itself has a high bounce rate, this is a sign to Google that your site isn't giving users the information that they're looking for.

A high bounce rate or low time on site increases the likelihood that Google will serve up different results for users - from competitor sites that have a lower bounce rate. This is especially true for sites that are content-driven or those that offer a product or service. Higher click-through rates are a sign that users are finding the content that they're looking for, but if your pages aren't SSL certified, visitors may lack the confidence to keep going on your site.

3. In a Dead Heat, It May Be Enough to Rank You Ahead of Your Competition
Google's ranking algorithm takes into account over 200 factors, so SSL certification doesn't look like a big deal on the face of it. But consider this, a couple of years ago, SEO tool ahrefs did a study analysing the top 10,000 domains looking at HTTP vs. HTTPS to see how well the sites use HTTPS to improve their SERP results. Fewer than 1 in 10 sites had HTTPS set up perfectly, and more than 60% had no HTTPS set up at all. Now the numbers are over 50%. That's a huge uptake in just a couple of years, and chances are, your competition is starting to take notice.

This is a great opportunity for website owners, devs, and SEO specialists to help get a site ahead of the competition (or to ensure that your competitors don't get an edge on you!).

  • SSL certification is easy, cheap and quick to implement
  • It's definitely a factor in Google's ranking algorithm
  • Most of your competition probably doesn't have SSL certification yet
If your website is tied with another on every other ranking signal, then having HTTPS could be enough to beat them. If you're targeting high competition keywords, it makes sense that you'd want to have SSL certification, even if it only gives you a tiny boost. And if you're ranking on the first page of Google for a term, it's interesting to note that results with HTTPS correlated with higher rankings.

SSL Certificates do more than providing security for websites. If you're not yet selling SSL yet, now is the time to start offering SSL Certificates to your customers to help them keep their website secure and also improve their Google Ranking. WHMCS MarketConnect makes it easy for you to sell market leading brands of SSL like RapidSSL, GeoTrust and Symantec/DigiCert. Learn more here.

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