The Importance of SSL Certificates for SEO and Website Security

Google is constantly rolling out algorithms to further improve search quality. As of 2014, Google included HTTPS as a ranking signal. The decision to do so was made for the encouragement of a more secure web. In upcoming years, Google may decide to strengthen the weight of HTTPS as a ranking signal to encourage all websites to adopt encryption. This means that websites without HTTPS may have tougher times competing for search engine rankings.

Data can be in the form of personal information such as name, address, phone number, and credit card details. Due to the recent updates to browsers as of October 2017, non-HTTPS websites (with forms) labeled with any text input field will be marked as ‘NOT SECURE’ in the URL bar. This can doubtfully affect the visitor’s perception of your website and/or your brand. So even if your website is a non-eCommerce site, it is more important than ever to have at least a standard SSL certificate. Now the purpose of a standard SSL certificate is to encrypt information entered on the server then decrypt the information at a later time.

The primary audience of the publication are website owners and IT security gurus. Whether the website is communicating sensitive or non-sensitive information, an SSL certificate is crucial for guarding your website visitors’ information. It’s significant to protect visitor data so it doesn’t get into the wrong hands.

What is an SSL certificate?

If the browser accepts the certificate, a secure connection is established. Because the entire protocol is based on a reliable certificate network, a secure connection cannot be established until the certificate information has been verified. If the information cannot be verified, the browser will terminate the connection.

When installed on a web server, an SSL certificate activates the padlock and the HTTPS protocol (over port 443) and allows secure connections from a web server to a browser. An SSL-enabled website will also use a certificate containing the public key and certificates issued by the authority. When a secure connection is made, the web server will present the certificate to the web browser. When the browser makes a connection to the secure website, it will retrieve the site’s SSL certificate and verify that it has not expired, it has been issued by a certificate authority, the certificate authority is trusted, and the certificate is being used by the website for which it has been issued.

An SSL certificate will contain the following information: – The certificate holder’s name – The certificate’s serial number and expiration date – A copy of the certificate holder’s public key – The digital signature of the certificate-issuing authority

An SSL certificate is a bit of code on your web server that provides security for online communications. When a web browser contacts your secured website, the SSL certificate enables an encrypted connection. It’s kind of like sealing a letter in an envelope before sending it through the mail. SSL protects data in transit between your users and your site, making it impossible for hackers to intercept and use your data.

How does an SSL certificate work?

The encrypted session is established with the help of two encryption methods and a shared secret which is established at the beginning of the session. Encryption methods are used to scramble the data so that it cannot be read while being transferred. The two types of encryption are symmetrical and asymmetrical. The symmetrical encryption is much faster because a single key is used to encrypt and decrypt the information. The asymmetrical encryption is used to transmit the symmetrical shared key to the recipient who will use it to decrypt the scrambled information.

At the core of SSL is the digital certificate issued by a certification authority. These digital certificates are used to verify that a server is what it says it is. When a browser connects to a server, the server sends its digital certificate to the browser. Next, the browser will check whether the certificate is to be trusted. If so, it will send a message to the server and the server will respond with a digitally signed acknowledgement to start an encrypted session.

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) 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 browsers remain private and integral. SSL is an industry standard and is used by millions of websites in the protection of their online transactions with their customers. In order to be an SSL link means using https:// rather than http://.

Importance of website security for SEO

In recent years there have been many security breaches, and as a result Google has begun to display warning signs on SERP’s for websites that have been hacked. This is a step in helping to protect users, as it will steer them away from damaged sites and towards sites that are demonstrated as safe. In this case, website security plays a huge role in SEO, as users will be more inclined to visit a website which is rated as secure and safe. This ultimately affects the traffic of a website, and will cause high bounce rates, low CTR’s, and low retention of users for sites that are marked as unsafe. An increase in bounce rate and low CTR has always been known to negatively affect a website’s SEO, and with the addition of warning signs on SERP’s, security will now play an even bigger role in the performance of a website. A website lacking SSL will be a prime target for these warning signs, and will suffer the consequences in comparison to a website which is equipped with SSL and is seen as secure.

In 2014, Google announced that they will be using SSL (https) as a ranking signal in their search engine. This means that websites with SSL will benefit from a slight ranking boost. Although Google has stated that the importance of encryption is not substantial at the moment, they hope to strengthen it to encourage universal encryption of all websites. This means that in the near future it is very likely that SSL will become a heavy weight ranking signal and your website may suffer from not having SSL. Until that time comes, it is important to remember that Google tends to make changes without warning, therefore it is smarter to stay ahead of the game and start using SSL now to avoid a drop in rankings later. With all of the changes that Google has made, and the importance of how they will affect a website’s performance in the search engine, it has never been more crucial to secure your website with SSL. Failure to do so can cause loss of traffic and revenue, and damage your website and brand’s reputation in the long term.

Benefits of SSL Certificates for SEO

There are several documented benefits of website security from an SSL certificate that affect SEO. Google is leading the charge in making the internet a more secure place. In August 2014, Google announced that it was starting use of HTTPS as a ranking signal in its search results. This means that if your site is secured using HTTPS, it will stand a better chance of ranking higher than your competitors who do not have a secure connection. As of the end of 2016, Google (via its browser, Chrome), began to mark websites without SSL as non-secure. This initiative is hoped to be a driver for more websites to move toward being secure and encrypting their data to ensure a safe and private connection. Because of this new policy, it is no longer just eCommerce websites that are at risk of losing SEO ranking points. Now ANY website without SSL is a potential candidate for negative SEO ranking status. This is Google’s first step in a multi-phase plan to mark all HTTP sites non-secure. These changes should ensure that the little SEO value a site might have had without HTTPS will diminish over time. Using HTTPS will now become an absolute must in order to ensure optimal SEO status and maintain site credibility with Google. With the population and the majority that uses the internet worldwide, the impact of these changes on search result rankings will have a resounding effect on SEO. This would mean that implementing an SSL certificate, which triggers a change from HTTP to HTTPS, will be an essential SEO service. As Google continues this initiative, it will be vital to stay up to date with the changes in order to remain competitive in SEO. Now would be the opportune time to implement SSL in order to get ahead of the curve, as the advantages from the bump in search rankings will be of most benefit now during the transitional phase.

Improved search engine rankings

An SSL certificate is a necessity for any modern website; its use in helping to rank higher in search engine results is increasingly being recognized. In August 2014, Google announced that it was going to give a minor ranking boost to websites using HTTPS. Additionally, in the future, they may decide to increase the weight of this signal, potentially making HTTPS a necessary addition to a website in order to rank well in search results. Now HTTP/2 is upon us, and one stipulation of this new protocol is that it can only be used with HTTPS. This means that in order to take advantage of HTTP/2 (which will bring performance improvements to websites), encryption via SSL is going to be required. Making the switch to HTTPS sooner rather than later will be beneficial in regards to maintaining and increasing website rankings in Google. The general consensus among the SEO community is that the ranking boost is minor, but that it will increase as Google puts more emphasis on it. Additionally, it is believed that encrypted sites may be favored more and more in the future as the weight of the ranking signal is increased. With the knowledge that there is a positive effect on rankings, it would be unwise for webmasters to ignore the benefits of converting to HTTPS.

Increased website trust and credibility

If you were more inclined to enter an email address or payment information on a website that has the word ‘Secure’ and a padlock displayed in the address bar, you’re not alone. Case studies have indicated that customers are more likely to complete a purchase when they see these trust indicators, and are also more likely to return to the same website. These visual cues help users feel at ease when browsing the site and give them confidence that their personal information will remain private. By displaying these trust indicators, customers will see that you value their privacy and data security. This can result in increased time spent on your site and lower bounce rates.

Having an SSL certificate for your website provides a visual trust indicator which helps increase your website’s trust and credibility. Once your website is recognized as ‘Not secure’, it’s challenging to undo the damage. It only takes a few seconds for the visitor to form an opinion about your site. Some may quickly leave and not return to your site once they see the ‘Not secure’ warning. Others may not notice the warning but will instead feel uneasy about entering their personal details while browsing your site. This can result in lower conversion rates for your site. An SSL certificate will help you gain the trust of your visitors and customers.

Enhanced user experience

Optimizing for speed is a step forwards to meeting future criteria for page experience. But what does this have to do with SSL? SSL has an impact on page load times and overall performance. HTTPS requires an SSL handshake to start loading the resources from the page. With an optimized SSL handshake, the waiting time can be reduced to less than 50ms. A non-SSL connection could potentially take up to a few seconds. A recent Google research study states that “As [web] page load times go from one second to seven seconds, the probability of a mobile site visitor bouncing increases 113%” (Think With Google). It is also confirmed that the use of HTTPS as a ranking signal makes the site slightly faster. Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen users visit a site more and more when it is faster.

“Think about how performance affects a user’s experience of your page and consider measuring other aspects of user experience. If you give users a fast, high-quality experience, that should be reflected in your website’s performance and in users’ perceptions.”

User experience (UX) is a critical ranking factor both in terms of SEO and in engagement. Google has said that it intends to give priority ranking to rendering and page load times in 2019. It also provides the following advice on how to consider page load time within the context of user experience.

Website Security and SSL Certificates

The main goal of an SSL certificate is to protect e-commerce’s most valuable assets: the customer’s name, address, credit card, or any other sensitive information. (It is important to note that SSL certificates do not make a website secure; they only aid in the prevention of security breaches.) The use of SSL certificates was originally almost entirely exclusive to e-commerce, but in recent years, they have begun to be adopted by a host of different websites to encrypt user sessions. The encryption makes it very difficult for an attacker to decrypt and use this information.

An SSL certificate helps protect a website from “eavesdropping.” Eavesdropping is when someone intercepts information and data as it moves from your server to users’ browser, affecting the data in transit. An attacker would find it difficult to make sense of the intercepted data, as it would appear scrambled and unreadable because of the encryption. This makes an SSL certificate an important tool in the protection of data, for both your own data and your customers’. If a website does not collect any data from its users, an SSL certificate may not be vital. However, changing to a website with a certificate would still be beneficial due to the increased user trust from the visible trust indicators. Data that is encrypted includes login details, sign-up forms, contact forms, any kind of checkout, and in the case of SEO, ranking and traffic data through webmaster tools. All of these are especially at risk during data transit.

Protection against data breaches and cyber attacks

Secondly, with the rise of cyber crime and online data theft, it is important to protect your website from vulnerabilities. According to WhiteHat Security, in a study conducted in 2015, 60% of cyber attacks were performed through the use of an internet web application. With this number only growing, it’s important to take every step to protect your website. Google also recently announced that beginning in 2017, they would mark any website without an SSL certificate that contains a password or credit card field as Not Secure. Google has also revealed that they will use HTTPS as a ranking signal. This means that having an SSL certificate will help to improve your SEO meta tags and your website will enjoy a higher search ranking than without. This serves as an extra incentive to secure your website with an SSL certificate.

First and foremost, an SSL certificate will help to protect your customers’ information. This is important because the information you send on the internet is passed from computer to computer to get to the destination server. Any computer in between you and the server can see your credit card numbers, usernames and passwords, and other sensitive information if it is not encrypted with an SSL certificate. When an SSL certificate is used, the information becomes unreadable to everyone except for the server you are sending the information to. This protects it from cyber criminals stealing and/or copying it along the way. suggests “You should always look for a secure https:// address if you are about to enter sensitive data. As a rule these pages will also have a small padlock that is either locked or unlocked depending on whether you are currently on a secure page.” The presence of a padlock has outright become a trust indicator for consumers online. If they do not see it they will not trust the brand. If a potential customer does not trust the brand, they are less likely to make a purchase. The same goes for a logged in customer who will not trust a site with their credit card information. This confidence is vital for your customers to feel safe when interacting with your site.

Encryption of sensitive information

When SSL is used to secure a website, the information that is sent and received is encrypted. This means that only the intended recipient can access the data, meaning that your user’s information is kept safe. Encryption is especially important if you have an ecommerce website. This may include a customer entering his/her billing information, credit card information, and other sensitive data. If any of this type of information were to be intercepted, it could easily be used to the detriment of the customer, resulting in a loss of faith in the vendor as well as a tarnished reputation. This is also important regarding sensitive login information. Many people use the same login information for multiple sites, including online banking. Easily intercepted login information could give a hacker access to bank accounts and other sensitive information. Even if this doesn’t result in direct theft from a customer’s account, it can create a cumbersome situation in which the customer must prove that they were not at fault for any losses incurred. With identity theft on the rise, the risk of stolen personal information is a very real and very serious threat to many web users. SSL helps to greatly reduce such risks.

Trust indicators for visitors

The data can only be accessed by the intended computer, as the information is bound by a public key and a private key. Accessing the information from the public key would take a hacker an unrealistic and impractical amount of time. The industry standard for a secure SSL encrypted website is 128 bits, which is up to 300-500 trillion times stronger than a 40-bit encryption. Information that is intercepted encrypted data would take a hacker to build an incredibly powerful computer and devote a massive amount of time to even have a slight chance of breaking the code. With codes this unbreakable, most hackers will simply not bother. Finally, the current concerns over the lack of security enforcement by the healthcare industry on patient information make it highly disreputable to not use SSL. In the near future, it is realistic to see a requirement of SSL certificate use for all websites that handle patient information. Failure to comply with the HIPAA standard of patient information protection can result in heavy fines. With an SSL certificate, healthcare providers are well prepared for this future and still well guarded from potential threats to patient information.

When safe and effective healthcare remains our highest priority, SSL certificates protect personal patient information in numerous ways. As we mentioned earlier, patient information is particularly sensitive, and it’s a major component of an EHR. Without SSL, this data is transmitted in clear text. At any point between the patient’s PC and their healthcare provider’s website, an unauthorized person can easily view and use this information. Using packet sniffing software, which is legal and easy to obtain, many hackers could capture all data between a patient and the website in just a few short steps. This makes it easier to gather personal information and use it in a harmful way. However, the moment an SSL certificate is taken into action, this same information becomes incredibly difficult to hack and decrypt.

Compliance with industry standards and regulations

The second reason is the authentication and integrity checking functionality of SSL certificates. When regulated industries are storing and transmitting sensitive information they are often required to know who is sending the information and to verify that the data has not been tampered with. By forcing all information to be submitted securely using https://, an SSL certificate will help to achieve these goals. A legitimate SSL certificate will also show a valid and trusted certificate path in the user’s browser. This allows the user to click on the padlock icon in their browser and view the certificate information, which shows that the connection is secure and displays the identity of the certificate owner. This confirmation that the certificate owner is who they say they are, is crucial in an era of increasing identity theft and phishing scams.

First, it is common in regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Payment Card Industry (PCI) data security standard, to require the encryption of sensitive data transmitted across networks. One of the primary functions of an SSL certificate is to encrypt data. If the data is being transmitted from a web server to a database server to be stored, or from a data entry page to a payment gateway, SSL encryption will scramble the data in such a way that it can only be unscrambled by the authorized server.

Compliance with industry standards and regulations relating to securing data on the internet is a key issue. SSL certificates are a critical component in achieving security for web sites and play a significant role in helping to meet regulatory requirements. There are three reasons why SSL certificates are a crucial part of regulatory compliance.

Choosing the Right SSL Certificate

Finally, consider the compatibility of the various types of certificates with the web browsers and mobile devices that are used by your customers. This information can be found in the certificate specifications. Always remember that the security level provided by an SSL certificate is not relevant to the level of encryption it provides. All of the certificates provide the same high level of encryption.

High assurance (EV) SSL certificates are the most advanced type of SSL certificate. They provide the highest possible level of security and credibility to the web site. The green address bar is shown only by a web site that has completed a thorough validation process, this is a fast and easy way for internet users to determine if the site is safe to deal with. High assurance certificates enable web site seal identity and may also come with additional features such as daily malware scans and vulnerability assessments. High assurance certificates are the most expensive type of certificate. The level of warranty and its terms will vary depending on the type and brand of certificate. Always check the certificate description so that you are aware of what warranty is included. The warranty serves as protection in the event that a customer relies on your certificate and incurs loss.

Domain Validated (DV) SSL Certificates are the most basic and inexpensive type. They offer a low level of security as the Certifying Authority (CA) does not check the validity of the applicant’s details. Organisation Validated (OV) SSL certificates provide a mid level of security. When this certificate is bought, the CA will check the right of the applicant to use a specific domain and will also carry out some vetting of the organisation.

With so many types of SSL certificates available, it is vitally important to choose the most appropriate one for your needs. The different certificates provide differing levels of security and there are several key factors to consider before making your decision.

Types of SSL certificates

Domain Validation (DV) SSL certificates provide the lowest level of validation and are often the cheapest to obtain. This is because the validation process is automated and simply requires the person requesting the certificate to prove that they own the domain in question. This is generally done by the CA sending an email to an address such as [email protected] and requiring the person to click a validation link. DV certificates are fine for encrypting data, but they don’t provide any real indication of who is actually behind the website and are not suitable for e-commerce sites. The vast majority of phishing sites use DV certificates.

Organisation Validation (OV) SSL certificates provide authentication of an organisation and typically are used to secure data transmission. The main differentiator between OV certificates and DV certificates is that the CA will validate that the applicant is, in fact, an organisation and the organisation is in good standing. This is usually done by simple checks that can vary between CAs. The details of the organisation are embedded within the certificate, making it a great option for those who wish to provide an extra layer of transparency to their users.

Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificates are designed to provide a higher level of validation and trust. They require more validation on the business that is requesting the certificate and are displayed in the browser in a much more noticeable way. When an EV certificate is in use, the address bar will turn green. EV certificates are designed to combat phishing attacks and give users more confidence in who they are transacting with. Due to the more rigorous validation process and the browser display, EV certificates tend to be the most expensive type of SSL certificate.

There are several types of SSL certificates available in the market and offered by certificate authorities. The majority of these certificate types will provide encryption and display the padlock sign, but that doesn’t mean they’re all equal in terms of the trust and security they provide. Some of the most common types of SSL are:

Factors to consider when selecting an SSL certificate

When considering which SSL certificate to purchase, the first thing you need to consider is the level of security that you want for your website. Do you have a small personal blog, or do you run a large online retailer? If you run a small personal site, you may be able to get away with using a free SSL certificate. You can use this SSL certificate to encrypt your login information so that it can’t be intercepted by hackers. If you run a website that has thousands of visitors and is collecting user data, you will want a higher level of security. In this case, you will want to consider purchasing an SSL certificate that offers organization or extended validation. These types of SSL certificates provide a higher level of security and often come with a site seal to show visitors that the site is secure and a warranty that will cover the site owner in case the certificate is issued incorrectly and it causes financial loss. Another factor you should consider when choosing an SSL certificate is the level of support that the certificate authority can provide. If you have no previous experience with SSL certificates, you may need some assistance in the installation and configuration of the certificate. If this is the case, you will want to make sure that the certificate authority is able to provide satisfactory customer service to help you through this process. Furthermore, you want to be sure that the certificate authority has a high quality control standard and is reliable. If you purchase an SSL certificate and it doesn’t work properly, you will need to be sure that the certificate authority can provide a replacement certificate in a timely manner. This will depend on the certificate authority’s warranty. All reputable certificate authorities should offer some form of warranty, however it is wise to consider the warranty options, as well as the reliability and quality control of the certificate authority.

Obtaining and installing an SSL certificate

The certificate authority will need to validate your domain and/or your company. You may be required to provide additional information to confirm your physical and/or your domain ownership. For Comodo, GeoTrust, and Symantec certificates, you must complete a telephone call to confirm the order. If you order a Symantec Extended Validation certificate, the order validation process can take several days because Symantec validates the organization, not just the domain. If you order a GeoTrust True BusinessID certificate, you must pass a business authentication process that typically takes 2-5 business days, depending upon your response time. GeoTrust may call your verified telephone number to confirm additional details. GeoTrust and Symantec certificates may require compliance with the Certificate Authority/Browser Forum’s Extended Validation guidelines, including obtaining an organization authentication (OV) or extended validation (EV) certificate. OV and EV certificates trigger additional validation requirements. Finally, you can dynamically assess the validation status of your SSL certificate request via your SSL management menu. After the certificate authority validates your order, you can install the SSL certificate on your web site. To change the SSL certificate for a site, click the Change SSL link from within the SSL Certificates menu for that site. Note that HostGator’s Business and Windows dedicated server customers can request that HostGator install the SSL certificate for an additional fee.

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