It was 2014 when Google first announced that they would be giving a ranking boost to sites with an SSL certificate or https in their URL. While SSL is absolutely essential for banks and other institutions who deal with sensitive information, many businesses don’t see the need for the added expense. However, if you’re looking to improve your organic search results, it can be worthwhile. Plus having an SSL certificate can help your visitors feel safer when visiting your site.


What is HTTPS?

HTTPS stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure. The “S” added to the end means that all information sent and received through the site is encrypted. Even if you’re not collecting credit card or other sensitive information, chances are you’ve got a contact form somewhere on your site. Having an SSL certificate ensures that the emails, phone numbers, and other information you collect on your site remain secure. If you’re using a third-party contact form from a CRM such as MailChimp, having an SSL is essential to avoid a warning that tells your visitors your site is unsecured. 


How Can HTTPS Help My Site Rank?

Google does indeed take HTTPS into account as a ranking factor. When Google first announced that they would take SSLs into account, it was used as a tie-breaker when two sites would necessarily rank the same. Today, however, search results are showing sites with an SSL certificate with a significantly higher ranking than those that don’t. If you’re serious about your Google ranking, an SSL certificate is increasingly becoming a must!


Chrome Will Start Alerting Your Visitors That Your Site is Not Secure

Currently, icons telling users whether or not a site is secure is relatively unnoticeable. This senses when a site asks for sensitive information without an SSL however. In such cases, it displays a red icon warning users that the information they enter is “unsafe.” Google just announced that Chrome will eventually begin displaying this warning on all pages, regardless of whether or not they collect sensitive information. This can definitely hurt trust with your visitors and make customers feel unsafe on your site. 


Converting your site to HTTPS

Converting your site to HTTPS is fairly simple with a call to your web host. However, you will need to make sure your internal links now have the added “S” at the end. If you don’t, your site will display an SSL warning because some elements in your page are not secure. For WordPress users, there are a number of plugins that can do this for you. Otherwise, you’ll need to go in and change them by hand. Fortunately, you can run an SSL test to ensure that your browser is loading a secured version of your site.


With hacking and privacy concerns in the news more and more, an SSL certificate is increasingly becoming standard on the web. The reality is that it’s safer for your visitors. This is especially important over public Wi-Fi networks at coffee shops. Without an SSL, hackers can steal sensitive information. So, it’s understandable why Google would want to encourage websites to implement encryption to encourage a safer web browsing experience. The biggest barrier to encryption for many is cost. However, with the new Let’s Encrypt initiative, sites can now encrypt for free. With that along with Google cracking down further on sites that do not use encryption, there is no longer a good excuse to avoid it.