Do SSL Certificates Affect Search Engine Optimisation? As a Liverpool SEO agency we do search engine optimisation for many small to medium sized businesses in Liverpool, the rest of the UK and also abroad, all of whom need a bit more of a hands on approach than a typical agency may offer and the question of whether SSL Certificates Affect SEO has been asked numerous times over the last couple of years.
Whilst many big firms have a marketing manager or a team to liaise with their SEO provider the small to medium business needs someone who can walk and talk them through the digital minefield so to speak and one follow up question that keeps cropping up to our clients SEO in the context of SSL’s and internet security is this;
“If I dont get an SSL certificate will we lose our search rankings?”
In short no you wont. Not yet at least.
Now this would be a very short post if we left it there so lets look at the context of this as the issue keeps cropping up in the news and only today the BBC mentioned (perhaps somewhat tongue in cheek) that the DailyMail website wasn’t secure and didn’t have an SSL certificate.
Furthermore, if you listen to many SEO’s and web hosting companies they would have you believe your website is literally about to disappear overnight if you dont purchase an SSL now and make your site secure.
The reality is however that whilst having an SSL may ever so slightly improve your search engine rankings, it is only one ranking signal amongst what is believed to be in excess of 200 Google ranking signals so all things being equal, an SSL will not boost nor lose you any significant search rankings.
In the short to medium term SSL on its own is no more critical to SEO than one overweight passenger is to a jumbo jet getting off the ground when its carrying 500 other passengers.
SEO, Liverpool Accountants and HTTPS
If we were to believe all the hype around SEO and SSL certificates then doing a Google search for “accountants Liverpool’ for example, it should be the case that a website without an SSL wouldn’t get anywhere near the first page of results, but alas, there are two in the top 10 as can be seen in the image on the left.
If having an SSL was so crucial to your SEO, then it wouldn’t be possible to get a website without an SSL, to rank for any worthwhile keyword according to some, but thats not the reality.
Furthermore, that the other 8 sites in this example have SSL certificates is not a direct endorsement of SSL and doesnt prove anything other than the culmination of the wider work on the other 200+ SEO ranking factors which don’t start or end with SSL, have combined to put those 8 sites with SSL into those rankings irrespective of the SSL certificate they have.
Do SSL Certificates Affect SEO?
What is the case here is that most of sites in the top SEO results are there because they are focusing on all elements of SEO and they are doing all they can to move higher and gain advantage over their peers. In short, they are doing a better job at the other 200+ Google SEO ranking factors than their peers.
What Google Says – HTTPS as a ranking signal
Do SSL Certificates Affect SEO according to Google? Well, on August 6, 2014 Google said the following:
“…so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it’s only a very lightweight signal—affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content—while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS”
And in the 4 years since the above statement was made there has not been a single credible report to verify that SSL as a ranking signal is anything but the “very lightweight signal—affecting fewer than 1% of global queries” it was made out to be, by Google back in 2014.
But my Search Ranking Competitors all have SSL?
Just because they have an SSL is more of a coincidence at this time. As hinted at above, that they have SSL is more reflective of the fact they are focusing on SEO as a whole rather than SSL having any actual SEO benefit and whilst this may change in 4 more years from now, the other ranking signals that your competitors have to get them on Google’s 1st Page are combining to affect their SEO outcome far more than whether they have SSL or not.
In the context of the question ‘Do SSL Certificates Affect SEO‘ now, the key here is to not think that an SSL certificate is a magic bullet as there are 200+ other ranking signals, such as quality content, that can directly impact website rankings and performance far more than the debate over HTTP v HTTPS.
According to recent data just 1.9% of the top 1 million global websites redirect users to a default HTTPS/SSL version and even when you look at the Quantcast top 10,000 websites – a very modest 4.2% have only made the shift to SSL.
Overall, less than 0.1% of the websites on the internet are secure and even sites like the Chinese Search Engine Baidu which is the World’s 4th most influential website, it isn’t secure and as reported in the BBC, the DailyMail, ranked as the Worlds 114th top website doesn’t use SSL either.
If your website isn’t an e-commerce and doesn’t have any user or customer data being communicated, nor provide access to any personal data and like the tens of millions of small business websites that make up the majority of the internet then SSL at the minute is not the huge security risk it is made out to be, even in the wake of GDPR.
Should I not get an SSL certificate then?
Yes, you should.
Whilst the SEO benefit is little to non existent at present there are many benefits over and above SEO that are a good reason to move to HTTPS and in the end even if getting an SSL certificate only boosts your SEO by about one-fifth of a percentage point now, that 0.2% boost can only increase in time, if HTTPS (as predicted) becomes more of a ranking signal than it is now.
The main benefit of HTTPS is that it provides your website with a secure connection to your users on the pages where they share personal data with you. It’s great to have on your entire website but, when a user shares precious info and personal data, like credit card details, or an in-depth enquiry form, HTTPS adds extra layers of protection and gives your users more confidence which may be the difference between getting a call to action or not and in the end isnt that what SEO is about, more calls to action?