Security is important to us all, especially when we are online. Google knows this better than anyone and they are taking a strict stance to try to ensure that it protects the privacy of its consumers. Security is a “top priority” for them. Google has confirmed that HTTPS/SSL is now a ranking factor in their effort to make the internet a more secure place. This announcement created a lot of buzz and was the source of many debates among SEO’s. The fact of the matter is that most webmasters are still confused whether it’s worth the effort or not.
What exactly is SSL Certificate or HTTPS?
HTTPS makes your site more secure for your users, especially when those users are giving you any sort of information. It is essential on pages where users are giving credit card information or other personal details. When a user submits their data, HTTPS is able to provide multiple layers of protection to that data:
- encryption – only you have the key to decrypt the data, so if anyone manages to intercept that data, it is worthless to them.
- data integrity – data can’t be corrupted.
- authentication – prevents man in the middle attacks, which basically means that it’s not possible for anyone to trick your customers into thinking they’re providing you data when they’re really giving it to a scammer. This is what your SSL certificate (more on that soon) is for.
We know that you want to do what’s best for your readers and if security is important to them, it may seem like switching to HTTPS is the best way to go, especially with Google’s promise of higher ranking power. However, if you have digital ads on your site, there will be drawbacks to making the switch especially when it comes to keeping your advertisers happy.
The simple fact of the matter is, you will not make a lot of money on an SSL page. Switching over to HTTPS might give you a slight increase in your SEO, but you have to look at it from an advertisers point of view. Advertisers hesitate buying HTTPS inventory because to them, it suggests a site that is selling something. Plus, in order to serve ads on your encrypted site, they have to encrypt their creative as well. If an advertiser wants to advertise on an SSL site, they have to get an SSL certificate for each and every creative. This takes time and we all know that time is money. Advertisers just won’t waste their time on it, they just aren’t used to doing this and the industry is slow to adapt to new policies and trends so it will be a while before most advertisers are ready to offer high CPM’s for SSL sites. Plus, there are plenty of other websites out there that don’t require SSL encryption so your inventory suddenly becomes that much less valuable.
So much of SEO varies from site to site and it all depends on your goals. Don’t chase the hearsay of SEO experts who aren’t looking at your specific site and your specific goals. If you are selling something, it is necessary to protect your customers by securing your site, but if you are a content site who is sharing fashion tips, recipes or other free content, you do not need to encrypt that content. You secure your site because you are protecting information and free content is not something that needs to be protected. In fact, your goal should be for that content to be as open as possible.
The bottom line is that HTTPS has a minor effect on search rankings compared to the dip you will see in ad revenue. As technology continues to grow, this could change, but for now keep your site as it is so those advertisers will put the highest absolute value on your traffic.