There are well over 200 factors that Google takes into account before determining how any website will rank in the SERPs (search engine results pages). Unfortunately, there is no set formula or handbook to which SEO (search engine optimization) specialists can refer in order to optimize a webpage’s ranking.
Google has been careful to keep this information under lock and key to prevent SEO manipulation and domination over search engine page rankings through unfair methods. Google’s role with SEO is, at the end of the day, to provide their users with the optimal search engine efficiency and relevance to what is searched, rather than create a contest for which different websites can garner points for milestones reached. Search engine optimization is not a game after all.
Essentially, Google will rarely specify “If you change this, you will improve your site’s rankings.” What Google sometimes suggests is with vague “big picture” statements, like “get relevant and powerful links” and “create high-quality content.”
One of the rare times Google did specify was in August 2014, when they confirmed that an SSL certificate (https://) would provide a definitive advantage in Google page ranking. They said that with all things being equal on 2 identical websites, the website with an SSL certificate would rank higher than the one without an SSL certificate in SERPs.
While how much an SSL certificate positively affects page ranking is still unclear, here is some more information on what exactly it is, what it does, and how it is an important factor in search engine optimization.
WHAT IS AN SSL CERTIFICATE?
According to SSL.com, SSL is defined as:
SSL is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browser remain private.
SSL is short for Secure Sockets Layer. It provides an additional safety layer that protects what information visitors to the page choose to share with the website.
When a user visits a website that begins with “https://” they know that page has an SSL certificate. The SSL certificate ensures that the information the user shares with the website will not be leaked to others. The connection is encrypted and protects the user’s information.
HOW DOES SSL AFFECT GOOGLE PAGE RANKING?
We have just explained what SSL and what it does, but how does that affect a webpage’s Google page ranking?
There are 2 main effects that SSL has on SEO:
1. An SSL certificate boosts Google page rankings
As was discussed earlier in this blog post, Google has confirmed that a webpage with an SSL certificate will be placed higher than a similar webpage — given that all other factors that affect their search engine optimization are equal.
The exact impact of an SSL certificate on a website’s SEO rankings cannot be calculated.
Let’s consider an example. If there are two different websites with similar niche content, it would be difficult to judge the impact of an SSL certificate on one site’s search engine rankings against another site without an SSL certificate, but with thousands of powerful backlinks, which is also another important aspect of SEO which we will explore in another XCEL blog post.
In this particular instance, maybe having thousands of powerful backlinks is much more important to a page’s Google rank than the downfall of not having an encrypted secure connection (an SSL certificate).
Thus, owners of websites need to comprehend that simply having an SSL certificate will not automatically jump your webpage to the top of Google search results frontpage. However, if many other search engine ranking factors are being properly taken care of, adding an SSL certificate will definitely give them a nice boost to beat other websites in a competitive niche.
2. An SSL Certificate improves the user experience
If we think back to what an SSL certificate does, we can see that it would easily improve the user browsing experience on a site.
If a user lands on a website without an SSL certificate, there would be several obvious visible indicators that the site is not secure, and sometimes even stopgaps to ask the user if they would like to proceed “at their own risk.” Google Chrome (one of the most commonly used web browsers) has made it a point to inform their users as such.
By explicitly pointing out websites without an SSL certificate, Google Chrome is creating an ever increasing awareness about internet browsing security and encryption protection on websites. The average user is now much more informed and hesitant about proceeding towards unencrypted websites. Having to be warned about a site’s encryption and security before browsing it just decimates the professionalism of the website in the user’s opinion. They would easily rather proceed to another similar site with ease of access and no redflags making them question the security of their personal information.
Unencrypted websites with no SSL certificates are unable to deliver an amazing user experience from the get-go. And directly resulting from that, websites which offer a poor user experience cannot consistently rank highly in the SERPs. Thus, having an SSL certificate is essential to a high Google page ranking.
Installing an SSL certificate
Now that you know an SSL certificate is paramount to your website’s fight for dominance in the SERPs, you can be rest assured that all websites XCEL Digital builds come automatically with SSL certificates. XCEL doesn’t just build websites, we build competitive websites, and to do that, we make sure to cover all your bases for you.