One of the most common SEO issues we come across is the lack of an SSL certificate on a website or the improper set up of one. It’s one of the easiest fixes you can make that will make a world of difference to your search engine visibility.
What is an SSL Certificate?
Have you ever noticed that some websites begin with HTTP:// and others begin with HTTPS:// - Guess what, that little S is the result of having an SSL certificate.
To over-simplify it, an SSL certificate is a small data file you install on your website that encrypts traffic between your website visitors and your website itself. This certificate protects the data on submitted forms (along with other elements) so that hackers and threat actors cannot intercept the content as plain text. It’s a great way to protect sensitive information like Personally Identifiable Information (PII), credit card information, and passwords.
Keep in mind that having an SSL certificate doesn’t mean your site won’t get hacked. It simply means the data transferred back and forth from users and your website will be encrypted in transit.
Why Do I Need an SSL Certificate for SEO?
Very rarely is Google this blunt when it comes to elements that impact their ranking factors. However, in 2017 Google announced that non-secure websites (HTTP) will begin showing a “Not Secure” warning in visitor’s browsers and that they will be giving preference to secure sites over non-secure sites in the search results.
In addition to rank preference, your user experience and conversion rate will suffer. Visitors will have less faith in your site if it does not have an SSL certificate. In fact, 85% of people stated that they will not continue browsing if a site is not secure.
How Do I Get an SSL Certificate?
If you don’t already have an SSL certificate, the easiest way to get one is to reach out to the company that provides your website hosting. Major hosting providers like GoDaddy, WPEngine, and Bluehost provide SSL certificates with most of their hosting packages. If it’s not part of yours, ask them to add it for you and as a bonus, they’ll usually help you set it up and configure it properly.
How Do I Ensure It’s Set up Properly?
One of the biggest problems we see with SSL certificates is that they are not set up properly. Here’s a simple test, open Google Chrome browser and in your address bar, type in http://yourwebsite.com without the S in HTTP (obviously changing yourwebsite.com to your own domain). When it loads, do you see the “Not Secure” message in the address bar? Or does it show a small lock icon beside your website address? If you have an SSL certificate but you still see the “Not Secure” message that means your website is not automatically redirecting traffic from the non-secure site to the secure version of your site. So, how do we fix this? There are three ways to take care of this:
- Call your hosting provider. Chances are they will help you correct this. Just explain that your website is not automatically redirecting people from the non-secure HTTP version of your site to the secure HTTPS version.
- If you’re using WordPress, the Really Simple SSL plugin (which is free) can help you make this configuration.
- Advanced Option: On your web server, there is a file called .htaccess. You can add a redirect code to this file that will automatically send all traffic to your secure site. You can learn more about this code and generate it custom for your site with this great tool from Aleyda Solis.
If you’re frustrated with the lack of SEO results and leads from your website, take 5min and make sure you’re covering the basics. Get your SSL certificate set up to improve your search engine visibility and improve the user experience.