When it comes to SEO, you can’t buy your way to the top. But, you can at least buy yourself a boost. Last week, Google announced that it is giving higher priority in search results to websites that use 2048-bit SSL-encrypted connections.
For the uninitiated, put in simplest terms, SSL encryption is the “s” in an “https” website address. When you’re using a website and notice the mini padlock in the address bar, you’re on an SSL encrypted website. The encryption adds an extra layer of security to the data passed between a user’s computer and the website’s server. It has been standard practice for years that any website that features an e-commerce component include SSL encryption, but Google’s recent move will encourage more website owners to encrypt connections to their website, resulting in greater security around passwords used on the site, as well as contact form submissions, and any other data passed between the user and website.
Given Google’s algorithm change, even if your website doesn’t collect sensitive personal information, or even any user information, you now can still benefit from the ranking boost that SSL encryption gives.
So, once you’re ready to add SSL to your website, there’s a few tips that Google offers to consider, to make sure you’re taking advantage of the SEO boost:
- Decide the kind of certificate you need: single, multi-domain, or wildcard certificate
- Use 2048-bit key certificates
- Use relative URLs for resources that reside on the same secure domain
- Use protocol relative URLs for all other domains
- Check out Google’s site move article for more guidelines on how to change your website’s address
- Don’t block your HTTPS site from crawling using robots.txt
- Allow indexing of your pages by search engines where possible. Avoid the noindex robots meta tag
The added level of security is a benefit for web users, and if your site is using a content management system (CMS), the added security that SSL provides also helps give you a little more peace of mind about your website.
The benefits of adding SSL encryption to your site seem clear, but are there drawbacks? As I see it, there are three main drawbacks to adding SSL:
- there’s the cost of the SSL certificate, itself (which can range in price from $10 – $100 or more, per year)
- the time involved in preparing your website to transition to SSL, as outlined in Google’s site move article
- much like your domain name registration, your SSL certificate expires, and must be renewed periodically
Google is indicating right now that SSL encryption on a site is a lightweight signal in their overall algorithm, but they have also said that they may decide to strengthen the signal to encourage more sites to move to SSL.