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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.

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