HTTPS / SSL – what it is and how it affects Google positioning

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For years, information has been circulating on the web that the inclusion of the HTTPS standard (based on SSL) has a positive effect on SEO, i.e. website positioning on Google. Now, new studies have emerged that prove this thesis. What is HTTPS and how does it make our website better positioned?

What is HTTPS / SSL?

HTTPS stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure and is, quite simply put, the standard of communication between the user (our web browser to be exact) and the website (server). There are currently two such standards in the network – HTTP and HTTPS. You probably know the former from a huge number of pages – when you look at the addresses of most websites, they usually start with „http: //”.

The plain HTTP standard has one downside – it’s quite open. This means that you can intercept data that is transmitted between our browser and the website (e.g. form data, payment details, etc.). HTTPS is different in that it is more secure, because our connection with the website is encrypted. All the data that we enter is encrypted using the SSL protocol (an additional security layer that is responsible for the data encryption process), which makes it unreadable by third parties. HTTPS is usually recognized by the fact that the website address begins with „https: //” and the green lock icon appears in the address bar of the browser. This means that the website has a verified SSL certificate that enables encryption and decryption of data transferred between the browser and the website.

Most often, the HTTPS standard is used on banking websites or websites where we enter our private data (e.g. when registering or filling out forms). The truth is that there is absolutely nothing to prevent HTTPS from being used much more widely, especially in online stores. For this reason, Google encourages all web developers to implement such a solution on their websites, as it simply increases the user’s security and privacy. What’s more, as it turns out, HTTPS also affects our position in Google search results.

How can HTTPS / SSL help me promote my website?

Due to its nature, HTTPS does not have a direct impact on whether the website will be highly positioned or not. However, it should be remembered that Google created its search algorithm in such a way that not only good keywords, a catchy name and matching the content with what users enter in the search engine count. The Google algorithm, which is responsible for displaying search results, also rewards individual pages for the speed of loading the site and for the level of security. All this to ensure that the websites that are well suited to the keywords as well as of high quality are in the first places.

Put simply, Google simply wants its pages on the Internet to be well secured, so it „rewards” those sites that use encrypted connections. SSL security is one of 200 factors that influence a page’s position in Google search results. The company from Mountain View decided so and informs about it in its document, which presents several hundred different elements that affect the position of the site in the search results.

It is true that the implementation of the HTTPS standard will not make our website suddenly shoot to the top of the search results. Nevertheless, when the search results start to get „tight” and we want to overtake the competition, having an SSL certificate may decide whether we will still appear on the first page of search results, or we will drop to the beginning of the second . As evidence, it is worth citing the research of the Backlinko website who analyzed over 1 million search results from Google. The results are simple – there is a huge correlation between having an SSL certificate and being ranked on the first page in search results. The situation is best illustrated by the summary by the author of this report, namely the words that „this is not a surprise, as Google has confirmed that HTTPS affects the position in the rankings”.

When and why is it worth equipping yourself with an SSL certificate and an encrypted connection on the website?

It is especially useful when we run an online store or other form of online sales. In such situations, we often process personal data and handle online payments. Therefore, we will not only increase the position of our online store in Google, but also ensure greater trust in our customers. Our store will also look much more professional.

All these elements influence the success of our store, as well as its position in Google search results. It would seem that nowadays most websites are already equipped with such a certificate, especially when we take into account the influence of SSL on website positioning, as well as the level of security. As it turns out, it is not so. Ahrefs has done research on 10,000 of the most popular domains and almost 70% of websites do not have a working HTTPS standard.

What does this mean for you? First of all, that by introducing the optimal HTTPS configuration, we are currently able to increase the position of our website in Google compared to the competition. What’s more, it is important because soon more and more websites will operate based on this standard, so ignoring this element will cost us more and more over time – our position in Google may start to decline. Therefore, if we are setting up a new website or store, investing in the HTTPS standard and an SSL certificate should be a mandatory step today.

What does the introduction of the HTTPS standard involve?

We need to obtain an SSL certificate, i.e. a virtual certificate, confirmed by one of the companies that issue such things. The certificate can be obtained e.g. as part of our hosting or purchased on a separate page. Some companies have to pay for an SSL certificate.

However, many hosting providers offer attractive prices, thanks to which we will pay several dozen zlotys a year for an SSL certificate. Once we have obtained a certificate for our domain, all that remains is to contact the hosting provider and ask for its installation on the server.

Often, free permanent Let’s Encrypt certificates are also available on the servers, which can be launched with a few clicks in the server management panel.