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Do SSL Certificates Affect SEO Rankings?

One of the questions website owners frequently ask us is whether SSL certificates affect SEO. Is this a question on your mind? Here’s everything you need to know about SSL certificates and how they affect SEO.

What Is an SSL Certificate?

An SSL certificate provides a layer of security for anyone using your website. The digital certificates signal to users that a secure connection exists between their device and your website. This encryption helps protect them from cybercriminals by securing any private information the users may enter into your website, including login details, payment information, and other personal information (e.g., their email address).

How do users know if you have an SSL certificate installed? They will be able to tell from the URL. Websites with this added layer of security start with “HTTPS” rather than the standard “HTTP” you would see otherwise.

Do SSL Certificates Affect SEO Rankings?

In short, the answer to this question is yes. In 2014, Google updated their algorithms to specify SSL certificates as a ranking factor. In their announcement, they explained how security is a top priority in determining their search engine rankings.

This explanation makes perfect sense when you consider the rationale for the majority of search engine algorithm updates. Google wants to provide only the very best websites in the top search engine results — user experience is their top priority. Think about it. Users want to use secure websites. Nobody would willingly enter their details into a website knowing the data could be compromised. So, if you’re serious about improving your SEO, you should consider installing an SSL certificate if you haven’t already.

SSL Certificates as a Tie-Breaker

If you’re operating in a competitive market, it’s likely competition for space on the first page of Google is fierce.

In this situation, SSL certificates could prove especially valuable. In 2015, Gary Illyes — responsible for creating improved user experience at Google — suggested SSL certificates could act as a tie break following the Panda and Penguin algorithm updates.

In practice, this means an SSL certificate could put you one step ahead of websites that are otherwise equal in terms of quality and performance. This situation might sound far-fetched, but it’s closer than you realise — particularly if your competitors are also investing in their SEO.

Put another way, if you don’t have an SSL certificate installed, it puts you one step behind other websites in your niche. For a relatively simple change, switching to https is an excellent way to minimise the risk of being overtaken by your closest SEO rivals.

How Much Do SSL Certificates Affect SEO in the Real World?

When talking about ranking signals, it’s important to remember that one change alone will not catapult your website up the rankings. Google uses hundreds of ranking factors to determine who appears where in the Google search results pages.

That said, several studies have found that the presence of SLL certificates is moderately correlated with higher search engine rankings.

These results suggest SSL certificates are a vital piece of the puzzle, but it’s important to remember they’re not everything. There’s no magic bullet when it comes to improving your SEO rankings. Instead, it’s essential to look at the bigger picture — make changes consistently to improve your rankings, providing a better experience for your website users as you do.

So, Should You Install SSL Certificates on Your Website?

In summary, it’s a good idea to install SSL certificates on your website. Not only are they an important search engine ranking signal, potentially acting as a tie break with other competing sites, but they provide other benefits too. They build trust with your website users and keep their data secure. In addition, as Google have expressed the importance of security on multiple occasions, it’s likely they could increase in importance in future updates.


Updating WordPress Plugins

While using WordPress is convenient, it can be easy to overlook the importance of updating WordPress plugins. Read on to know why this should not be missed.

The Importance of Updating WordPress Plugins

WordPress is one of the most popular and long-established free open-source content management systems on the planet. It offers a highly accessible, simple platform that enables users to create their own blog or website without the need for any developer experience or background. If you’re a WordPress user, you would already be familiar with plugins and their usefulness, especially if you are using the self-hosted version on WordPress.org. Read on to learn how important updating WordPress plugins is.

What Are WordPress Plugins?

WordPress plugins are pieces of software carrying certain functions that can be added to a WordPress site. By uploading plugins, you can expand the functionality of or add new features to your website.

Businesses and individuals who use the self-hosted version of WordPress have the advantage of being able to upload and use plugins on their website. This version can also display types of content not originally intended for the basic or free WordPress.com site, such as videos (which you can upload for a fee).

Of course, plugins are also available for users of the free version. However, users here are subject to limitations set by the host. For example, they can’t get rid of ads and have no option to monetise their WordPress website or blog. They also can’t install themes or plugins that are not available on WordPress.com by default.

WordPress plugins are written in PHP just like WordPress, so they integrate seamlessly with the CMS once uploaded.

Some examples of popular WordPress plugins include Akismet (a spam-combating plugin), Redirection (enables 301 redirecting of error pages to the right websites), and Ninja Forms (provides contact forms and other types of forms).

With about 55,000+ plugins in the CMS repository, plus around the same number outside the WordPress plugin directory, it’s easy for users to find the perfect plugin for whatever function or feature they have in mind. It also helps that it’s fairly easy to install a WordPress plugin and to update themes and plugins as well.

However, one thing that users find easy to omit is to update plugins from older versions. But is this essential?

Updating WordPress Plugins — A Critical Task

Making sure to update WordPress plugins is critical for the following reasons:

  • Up-to-date plugins improve security: All updates to the WordPress core, themes and plugins are designed to improve security features by patching vulnerabilities and fortifying the platform against cyberattacks. Cybercriminals and other malicious entities are always on the lookout for flaws or weaknesses, so ensure all WordPress updates are done quickly to reduce website exposure to cyberattacks.
  • They fix bugs: Programmers continuously assess the system to check for bugs (flaws or faults) that can trigger errors or unexpected outcomes, so make sure to update once bug fixes are available. This way, your plugins will continue to work properly.
  • They add more features and improve functionality: Plugin creators also work tirelessly to develop and improve plugins, adding more features and improving functionality in the process.

You’ll know when updates are necessary, as you’ll be notified the moment you log into your site. When you receive a notification to update, all you need to do are the following:

  • Review the release notes to know what the updates are for.
  • Test the update if you have a development site.
  • Make a backup (on top of your auto-backup) of your current site for “in case of” scenarios.
  • Install the WordPress plugin updates.
  • Reassess and test your site, taking note of the changes indicated in the release notes.

You can also go to your WordPress dashboard and note which specific plugins are marked as out of date, then click the “update now” button to initiate automatic updates.

Once you are done updating WordPress plugins, you can also use this time to review your WordPress theme and any plugins that are idle. Remember that the less code there is on your website, the less would be the loopholes hackers can get into and exploit.