Hackernoon logoMigrating to HTTPS: How Does an SSL Certificate Impact Search Engine Rankings? by@jitendra-dabhi

Migrating to HTTPS: How Does an SSL Certificate Impact Search Engine Rankings?

Jitendra Dabhi Hacker Noon profile picture

@jitendra-dabhiJitendra Dabhi

SEO Executive and Part Time Blogger

Are you aware that most internet users don’t feel secure about the protection provided by the current laws?

In fact, according to a survey, only 18 percent say they are “very confident” when it comes to trusting retails sites with their personal information.

Hence, Google announced HTTPS as a ranking signal on August 6, 2014, to implement an advanced secure connection for users. It means if you use 2048-bit SSL encryption on your website, Google will give you an extra boost in search engine rankings. The initiative of Google is known as HTTPS everywhere or “Always-On” SSL/HTTPS.

Understanding SSL/HTTPS

HTTPS (Hypertext Transport Protocol Security) or sites that include the SSL 2048-bit key can safeguard a site connection by providing authentication and encryption.

The process of encryption replaces plain text information (like usernames and passwords) with random numbers and letters so that they are no longer readable by humans. The encrypted information is also more difficult to make sense of if someone intercepts them.

If you install an SSL certificate on your web server, it will activate the padlock and the https protocol. You can have a secure connection from a web server to a browser.

Image Source

In the above image, the first URL with a green lock and tick mark is secure while the other one is not secure.

Also, recently, the world's biggest browser, Chrome has started to now label HTTP Sites as 'Not Secure.'

Image Source, OwlTree.co

Web owners that own sites with sensitive data, especially eCommerce websites, mainly use SSL Certificates.

SSL Certificate can protect users’ connection by securing information in three layers:

  1. Encryption: It will safeguard a user’s activity so that it cannot be tracked and secure their information.
  2. Data integrity: It ensures that the files are not altered as they’re transferred.
  3. Authentication: It defends against attacks and builds user trust.

How SSL Impact Search Engine Rankings?

Though multiple studies found only a slight correlation between HTTPS and higher search rankings, Google has announced that it will increase its influence on rankings after sites have had enough time to switch their sites to HTTPS.

Moreover, if you have a site that runs on HTTP and receives many referrals from sites running on HTTPS, your web analytics might not show them correctly. Hence, you won’t be able to know from which platforms you are getting a lot of traffic.

Today only less than 1% of all websites are secure, but those companies that are using SSL certificates are seeing great results.

Cloudtec company saw almost double the number of top 10 search engine rankings, after migrating to HTTPS.

Also, their overall page visibility improved.

The more people look at your site, the more visitors you’ll get. Also, users will choose your website over another non-secure site. If they notice your site is secure, there are chances of improving your site’s click-through-rate.

Also, it can improve conversion rates. As per the GlobalSign survey, 84% of users will abandon a purchase if data was sent over an insecure connection. People are very concerned about their data being intercepted or misused online.

As you can see, ‘Always On’ SSL isn’t only about improving your site rankings. For example TechUntouch. It is also about providing security to your users and gaining their trust.

Choosing the Right SSL Certificate

All the SSL certificates provide the best level of encryption, but you will have to choose one to depend on your website needs.

Here is a breakdown of the basic certificate types and where to use them:

  1. Single-Name SSL Certificate: Do you run a website for a small business with a single domain? You can opt for this certificate to gain protection for a single subdomain. E.g., www.mydomain.com
  2. EV Single-Name SSL Certificate: Looking for more than just encryption? You can get the green address bar and lock icon with this Extended Validation certificate. It is great for companies looking to increase conversion rates, boost user-engagement, and improve brand reputation.
  3. Wildcard Certificate: The biggest companies use the Wildcard SSL Certificates to protect multiple subdomains. You can add sub-domains with a single certificate. For instance, you can use the certificate for the domain name mydomain.com, and it will work for my.mydomain.com, my1.mydomain.com, and any other first level subdomain.
  4. Multi-Domain/SAN Certificate: Service providers often use this certificate to safeguard multiple domains. Using this, you can add multiple primary domains as well as multiple sub-domains. For instance, you can protect www.example.com, www.example.net, www.examples1.com, www.examples2.com, and www.AllInOne.com.
  5. EV Multi-Domain/SAN Certificate: This is a high-assurance certificate offering the maximum level of validation and security using one certificate for multiple domains and subdomains. Hence, a higher level of validation is required. You will notice a green address bar with a company name and green padlock in your browser.

Migrating to HTTPS

Assuming that you know which SSL Certificate is best for your site, the next step is to buy an SSL Certificate from a trusted Certificate Authority. ClickSSL, GoDaddy, and DigiCert are some trusted website authenticators. Once you choose the SSL certificate, you need to create CSR and private key and provide them to SSL provider. After configure SSL certificate, you will have a zip file in which primary certificate, root certificate and intermediate certificate included.

Next, install the certificate on your server and migrate your site to HTTPS. Migrating to HTTPS is an easy process.

Below is a brief guide on how to move HTTP to HTTPS on WordPress and secure your website while ranking high on search engines.

Back up a website: In case of HTTPS migration, you need to back up your website. If there is any unwanted scenario then you can restore your site easily.

Install SSL certificate: After backing up your site, you need to install SSL received from SSL provider on your server. If you find it technically or difficult, you can use WordPress ‘Really Simple SSL’ plug-in also.

Add HTTPS to Admin: After installation of SSL, you need to add below code by following path wp-config.php >>Root folder

define('FORCE_SSL_ADMIN', true);

Once you enable above code, access login page with HTTPS like https://mysite.com/wp-admin.

Update Site Address: Browse to Settings>>General and change website and WordPress address from HTTP to HTTPS and save it.

Bring Change to content and Template: To do so, you can use velvet Blues plug-in to change links to HTTPS in database and content. You need to alter image, video and hosted video, web fonts, iframes, JavaScript, CSS files as well internal links.

Implement 301 redirects: The last step is to automatic 301 redirection that lands visitors directly to secure website. To do this, you need to take help of .htaccess that is generally hidden by default. You need to allow FTP client to unhide this file. After that, upload .htaccess to WordPress root directory and add below codes in it.

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [L,R=301]

After implementing above code, visitors will land automatically to secure version of your website.

HTTPS Troubleshooting Tips

Mixed Content Warnings

It is the most common problem that arises after you migrate your website to HTTPS. It occurs when your browser identifies non-secure (HTTP) links on an otherwise secure page. Normally, updating links to jQuery libraries, custom fonts, or like their HTTPS version will solve the issue. whynopadlock is an ideal tool to find out the non-secure URLs in your website. You can then redirect them permanently to HTTPS.

Winding Up

Many renowned companies, including Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Twitter, are using Always-On SSL to reduce online risks. And though HTTPS may have a minor effect on search rankings presently, the future looks bright. You should think about migrating to the protocol if your business has the budget for it and enjoy the rewards provided by Google. Moreover, it is not a complicated process. Once you decide to invest in it, it will bring you a measure of comfort while also gaining users’ trust, improving your brand reputation, and enhancing the user experience.


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