Small Business SEO and the Impact of SSL Encryption

Josh Curcio

Some of our clients have had some questions about the recent news of SSL affecting SEO. Keep in mind, for a small business SEO strategy, any impact can help. Given that, it is important that we clarify a few things regarding this topic using the least amount of tech talk that I can. Hopefully this will help some SMBs have a general understanding and get the process rolling if they haven't already.

The first question from most SMBs ask is, "What does this even mean?".

Simply put, sites with an SSL certificate in place can get a slight boost in where you rank in Google vs. sites without an SSL certificate in place. Not sure if you do or not, try going to your site with an https:// instead of http://. If it works appropriately without warnings, you have one in place. If you see something like the screenshots below, you do not have one in place. To test a bit further and see more details, Google recommends using this tool.

SSL-Error2SSL-Error

How much will this affect my Google Rank?

As of right now it does not appear that your change in rank will be earth shattering in either a positive or negative way. Currently it is only a minor ranking signal. However, over time more emphasis is likely to be placed on it. It is a good idea to take a proactive approach and get this in place so you don't have to scramble when it is a more significant rank signal. Additionally, consider that any improvement in Google rank should help you, so this should be given serious consideration now even though it likely won't be significant.

What Do I Need to Do to Get This In Place

This will be more straightforward for some website owners than others. It is likely that most small businesses and organizations will need some technical assistance to get this in place.

You'll start by purchasing an SSL certificate to cover either multiple domains or a single domain, depending on your setup. You'll also want to be sure that the SSL cert uses 2048-bit encryption. This isn't an article all about SSL encryption, so I am not going into detail with that. After it is purchased this is where your technical support will come into play. They'll have to do a few things in regards to your hosting, DNS, and redirection of traffic to the https:// version (again, not getting too technical here).

There will likely be some things on your website that need changed as well. For example, you'll want to be sure that your internal linking doesn't "break" after implementation. Just mention to them that your internal website links should use relative URLs for links to the same domain and protocol relative URLs for other domains. Additionally you have to be sure that any content that is loaded on your site from other domains is also secure. A common place you may see this is from Iframes or external applications.

Finally you must ensure that when it is in place that your website pages aren't blocked and that the pages can actually be indexed.

If you are lost at just that small bit of non-techie info, you'll need some additional support as I mentioned.

For more info check out the official Google blog post regarding this topic.

In Summary

HTTPS encryption will be a ranking factor, starting small but likely growing. You should pay attention and get the process rolling vs waiting until it is too late. Any advantage you as an SMB can have to improve Google rank is important, so we recommend to start now. For some, this will be an easier process than others, but we ensure you, it can be done.

Let us know if you have more questions about SSL and SEO or would like some assistance moving forward.

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