HTTP or HTTPS? The SEO Impact of Using SSL Certificates
DashClicks Team
Nov 14th, 2021 at 12:00 PM

HTTP or HTTPS? The SEO Impact of Using SSL Certificates

Your web browser utilizes a protocol to send and receive information from the website you are accessing. It’s now automatically assumed that you are using a protocol known as HTTP. The alternative protocol is known as HTTPS and may be used by website owners for a different purpose.

What is the difference between HTTP and HTTPS and why should you care? In this article, we’ll explain why websites use protocols, the purpose of each, and the SEO impact of using SSL certificates for your websites. After reading, you’ll be able to make an informed decision on whether or not you need this certificate, what type you should use, and how Google uses this to calculate your search ranking.

What is HTTP?

HTTP, which stands for Hypertext transfer protocol, is the default method for transmitting data through the web. A user utilizes their web browser of choice and enters your domain. This sends an HTTP request to the website server. The server responds to the request by sending the requested data to your computer, which then causes it to appear on-screen within your browser.

The benefit of using the HTTP protocol is that it is generally faster than other data transmission methods. This is because HTTP does not remember anything from previous browsing sessions and sends fewer requests to the server. As a result, the user can load everything on your website for the user to experience sooner.

However, that speed comes at the cost of user security. HTTP lacks any form of encryption, meaning that any data that the user sends to your site is unprotected and vulnerable to phishing attempts or attacks. For this reason, Google Chrome flags any sites that use the HTTP protocol as unsecured.

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HTTP can situationally work well for any HTML-only sites that do not require the user to transmit any sensitive data.

What is HTTPS?

HTTPS stands for Hypertext transfer protocol secure. This is an extension of the HTTP protocol that utilizes security encryption to protect transmitted data from both parties. To switch to the HTTPS protocol, you will need to purchase what is known as an SSL Certificate for your website.

SSL stands for “Secure Sockets Layer” and was previously the most widely used encryption protocol on the web. SSL is still used in some circumstances, but the protocol known as TLS (Transport Layer Security) is largely used in its place. However, many will still use SSL colloquially regardless of which is actually being used.

Therefore, HTTPS is effectively the combination of the HTTP protocol with SSL/TLS encryption. This provides the website owner and its users with protection against phishing scams, digital attackers, and other threats that prey upon insecure connections.

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Should I Choose HTTP or HTTPS?

If you are interested in boosting your site’s SEO value, you unquestionably need to utilize HTTPS. The primary purpose for this is because Google promises ranking boosts and additional SEO value for sites that protect their users with HTTPS.

The reason that Google requests users to use security encryption is part of an effort to make the internet safe and secure for its users no matter where they are. Google itself utilizes sophisticated HTTPS encryption across all of its platforms including both Chrome and Gmail. Websites that do not use security encryptions on their site compromise the level of protection and security that Google offers to its users.

It’s difficult to argue with this as it should be in every business’s interest to protect the confidentiality of its customers. If your site asks users to transmit any type of data, you should upgrade your site and purchase an SSL certificate. The level of security encryption you should use depends largely on the sensitivity of the data shared. If you utilize submission forms that ask for basic details like a name and email, basic SSL encryption should suffice. If you run an eCommerce store, you need the best security available to protect both parties involved in financial transactions.

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The SEO Impact of SSL Certificates

As stated, Google declared that by simply purchasing an SSL certificate, you are taking advantage of an element that Google factors into search rankings. As an SEO, your goal is to boost rankings and drive conversions, so you must take advantage of every factor possible.

In addition to this, users also understand that secured websites are the standard. Google Chrome makes up nearly 60% of worldwide surveyed users and will automatically flag unsecured websites to its users. This alone increases the bounce rate and deter visitors from spending time on sites without an SSL certificate. Securing your website will eliminate this warning and help to improve clickthrough rates while decreasing bounce rates.

Other browsers are following suit including Microsoft Edge and Apple’s Safari, which provides users with the option to avoid unsecured websites.

With all the positives listed, you should note that there are some small potential downsides to installing an SSL certificate. The first is that your SSL certificate is not free. It will require the initial payment as well as the cost to maintain it monthly. You can look here to find a thorough list of certificate providers to help you choose the best one for your needs.

The second thing to note is that switching to the HTTPS protocol may cause longer load times on your website. The security encryption requires a browser to make additional requests, which can delay how quickly data is transmitted to the end-user. For this reason, you should focus on the quality of the provider and select the correct certificate type for your needs.

How to Choose the Right SSL Certificate?

There are several types of SSL certificates available for purchase, which can potentially make this process more confusing than it needs to be.

The first and most common is a Domain-Validated SSL certificate. This verifies the registry and ownership of a domain and validates that authority through email, DNS, or an HTTP request. These are highly affordable, can be implemented quickly, and provide basic protection for sites that do not handle financial transactions or the exchange of highly sensitive data.

The second type is an Organization-Validated SSL certificate. This not only verifies ownership of the domain but also ownership of an entire organization within a set location. In addition to the above process, you will also need to go through a slightly more extensive ownership-verification process that can take several days. This provides a heightened level of security for users making it more viable for sensitive data transmission.

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A third type is an Extended-Validation SSL certificate that requires proof of domain ownership, proof of organization ownership, and proof of business registry. This certificate is signified by showing the organization next to the URL in the green text along with a green lock icon. This is the most secure level of encryption available, but it is also the most costly.

There are additional certificates for purchase when using subdomains known as Single-domain SSL certificates, Multi-domain SSL certificates, and Wildcard SSL certificates. You can learn more about those here.

The main factors you’ll need to focus on here include the initial and monthly costs, the size of your business and the number of domains, and the level of security needed to protect your personal and customer data. Be aware that the more secure your website appears, the more trustworthy your domain, which could potentially lead to a higher level of conversions.

SSL Certificates Positively Impact Your SEO

In conclusion, Google definitively emphasizes the importance of SSL certificates for SEO. This is all part of an effort to make the internet safer and more secure for every user.

In addition to this, most web browsers including the most popular one, Google Chrome, will flag a website as unsecured and tell users that they are unsafe and vulnerable to attacks. This will more than likely direct traffic away from your domain and make your brand seem less trustworthy. This will likely harm your SEO metrics like clickthrough rate, bounce rate, and conversion rate. Securing your domain will eliminate these issues and make your site feel safer and more viable to users.

However, also remember that cost should not be the only factor when choosing an SSL. Simply going with the lowest cost could earn you a certificate that is not well-optimized and can increase your loading times, negative the SEO value otherwise gained. There are also different SSL certificates with varying security encryptions that should be employed depending on the scale of your business and the sensitivity of the data exchanged.

HTTPS is the industry standard and you should upgrade your website with an SSL certificate to positively impact your SEO. Failure to do so will cause your online presence to lag further behind in an already competitive digital world. Work with your provider to correctly install your certificate and perform a test through Google Search Console to ensure that your new certificate is working in your best interests.

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