Comfort and security are front of mind for so many people today. Perhaps no more than when they’re online.
We don’t just browse the internet anymore. Today, we use it to buy things for our home, communicate with friends, and enter tons of personal information each step of the way.
In an effort to make things safer for all involved, Google is encouraging websites to switch from an insecure HTTP connection to a secure HTTPS. Not a huge shocker on its face.
What is interesting is that now HTTPS is an SEO ranking factor. Yep, you heard it right!
In 2014, Google made the big announcement via their Webmaster’s Blog, prompting SEO professionals everywhere to go into scramble mode… “we have to migrate our sites pronto!”
Four years later, the internet-wide switch to HTTPS is slower than anticipated, but steady nonetheless.
Have you been considering going SSL, and making the switch to an HTTPS connection for your website? Here are the top benefits of an HTTPS migration on SEO.
Faster Server Response Times
Speed is everything. If a website takes longer 3 seconds to load on a mobile device, more than 50% of users will split.
HTTP connections are notorious for having speed issues thanks to slow server response times and a sequential firing of site elements.
In other words, an HTTP/1.1 page typically takes longer to fully load and render content. Meanwhile, HTTPS pages can spit out all their information at the same time, making the process of loading a web page seem faster for the user.
Of course, you should always test the speed differences on your site while migrating. Generally speaking though, you should notice a nice boost.
You want to invite visitors to your pages with open arms, not scare them away with a dreaded “not secure” emblem.
This is already happening in Chrome browsers, as it’s Google’s way of pressuring sites into making the SSL shift. Maybe it’s time we should listen?
Let’s say you’re an ecommerce site that requires customers to enter their payment details (don’t all ecommerce sites require this?), but when users are confronted with a credit card entry, they notice that your page says “not secure.” What do you think they’ll do?
Competing with large brands like Amazon is hard enough. Why give customers another reason to choose them over you?
Since HTTPS sites get a lock icon next to their URL in search pages, you’ll improve your click through rates over non-secure sites just by appearing more secure.
This doesn’t just apply to ecommerce either. Even if you’re operating a service-based business, customers will feel a sense of comfort when they see you’re using a secure web page. From comfort breeds trust.
Security and trust go hand in hand.
In September 2016, Wells Fargo got caught up in a cross-selling scandal that involved the creation of thousands of fake bank accounts.
Although their public favorability rating has since recovered (slightly), the bank saw their favorability dip down to 29 percent in the period after the scandal broke.
Think about any large, or successful brand; they all have trust in common.
An HTTPS migration is a simple place to start building trust. Plus, once you do it, a bump in rankings may follow.
Bump in Rankings
As we now know, HTTPS is indeed a ranking factor. But how much will it really boost your rankings?
Industry leaders have been running tests on it, and most believe that switching to HTTPS will give sites a marginal boost at best. But hey, that’s still a boost right?
Fili Wiese from SearchBrothers.com claims that it’s less about ranking boosts per se, and more about the other benefits of an improved user experience…
“HTTPS if anything demonstrates to users that a site is trustworthy… In that sense, an HTTPS migration is bound to improve metrics across the board.”
By the way, it’s worth noting that transferring to HTTPS is pointless if the migration goes awry. If something goes wrong during the process, your site could suffer negative SEO effects and lose its current rankings altogether.
Following the Herd
Type in any search query and what do you see ranking on page 1? More than likely, you’ll see secure websites there.
This goes back to the idea that upgrading to HTTPS will give you a slight rankings boost, but it also affirms another idea—when in doubt, copy your competition. Okay maybe don’t copy them, but do emulate them.
Correlation vs. causation is widely argued in the SEO community. But regardless of whether sites are on page 1 exactly because of HTTPS, or it just so happens that they tend to have HTTPS, you should still act as though having a secure site is a necessity.
Not only will your customers be more satisfied, but you’ll be a few steps ahead of any competitors in your niche who haven’t yet migrated.
Where Do You Start?
First things first, you need to purchase an SSL certificate. The good news is that they are inexpensive—some SSLs can be bought for free.
Next, you need to backup your website before starting the migration. Always, always, always backup your site.
Then, either use your hosting service to help you initiate the migration, do it yourself (if you’re brave), or hire a developer to help you.
Once everything’s migrated, it’s a good best practice to create an annotation in Google Analytics indicating the day your site became HTTPS. This allows you to monitor any fluctuations in rankings, and see how HTTPS truly benefits your site.