Website security is being flagged up by the three most popular browsers. Non-SSL websites are still able to be visited, but will come with a warning about entering personal information. But is not being an HTTPS website affecting your SEO too? Here’s what you need to know.

Have you noticed a change in your browsing since the start of 2017? Do you see anything different about the way websites appear? Is your browser telling you if the web page you’re viewing is secure or not?

Since January 2017, Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer have been notifying users if a website is not secured with SSL. That is, that the connection is via HTTP, rather than HTTPS. Seeing as 93.9 per cent of desktop browser usage is via these three search engines, this will be affecting a pretty big slice of your target audience.

Notifying users alone could cause your business some problems with click through rates and conversions, but is it affecting your SEO too? The short answer is ‘probably’, but maybe not in the ways you were expecting. Here’s what you should know.

What does the S in HTTPS stand for?

Quite simply, the ‘S’ means ‘security’. HTTP is Hypertext Transfer Protocol and HTTPS is Secure Hypertext Transfer Protocol. However, or you, as a website owner, business and someone who wants to continue to trade online, it might as well mean ‘success’, ‘super’ or even ‘SEO’.

HTTP uses an unencrypted and open connection, meaning the user could have their connection intercepted by anyone who is monitoring this feed. It’s a risk for the user to share any information across this type of connection, leaving them open to receiving viruses, being redirected to false pages and more. Google is keep for everyone to ditch HTTP as quickly as possible to mitigate the potential for cybercrimes to take place.

The implications of being insecure

So, what are the implications of being insecure? Will you stand in the kitchen at parties, lurk at the back at the concert and shrink into your seat at the request for a volunteer? Probably. But that’s not the worst news yet.

If your website is insecure, you will almost certainly end up being penalised by Google, one way or another. Google has identified three major issues with HTTP, which are:

  1. Lack of encryption: With no encryption, it is impossible to secure website data from eavesdroppers. With HTTPS, the data is secured so that users can enter personal information, perform financial transactions and browse multiple pages without fear of having their details stolen.
  2. Poor integrity of data: HTTP offers hackers the ability to modify or corrupt the information being sent to your user, leaving them at risk of having personal details stolen or of accidentally downloading malicious software to their computers. HTTPS protects the information you transmit to your users and makes it impossible to intercept, corrupt or modify without detection.
  3. No authentication: With HTTP, there is no guarantee to the user of who you are or what you are doing. HTTPS requires that your site becomes certified, letting your users know that you are who you say you are, building trust and translating into other business benefits.

Having identified these issues, all of which are solved simply by switching to an SSL website, what did Google do next? They could have forced the hand of businesses far and wide by slapping penalties on non-SSL website, but thankfully they didn’t. Matt Cutts personally expressed a desire to give a ranking boost to SSL sites back in 2014, but as yet, this hasn’t happened. So, what are the consequences for SEO of not adopting the HTTPS standard?

SEO consequences for non-SSL sites

While it’s true that Google is not majorly penalising non-SSL websites, there are plenty of reasons to consider what an HTTP website will be doing to your SEO.

  1. There is a small ranking penalty: Yes, Google is penalising your website just a little bit. As far back as 2014, Google warned us that going SSL would give our sites a ranking boost, albeit a small one. Other factors will be more important to the algorithm than the security aspect, but this may change in the future. For now, if your site ranks equally with a competitors site, SSL will be used as a tie breaker.
  2. Your users may lose trust in your site: Since the start of 2017, Chrome and Firefox both started giving users warnings when they were visiting sites that were not https://. While this in itself is not a big deal for you or your customers, you have to remember that most of the population are not all that tech-savvy, and may interpret the ‘not secure’ warning as meaning your website has been compromised. This will inevitably lead to a lower ‘click through rate’ (CTR) and less visitors.
  3. Your users are open to compromise: Even if the user is not scared off by the ‘not secure’ label on your website, they will still be left open to attack or theft if they are sharing any information with you. In the unfortunate event that such an attack does occur, your reputation as a trustworthy company could end up damaged indefinitely.
  4. Lower conversion rate: What is the main reason for SEO? To get visitors, right? And what do you want from those visitors? Sales, of course. A survey suggested that 84 per cent of users would be likely to abandon their shopping cart if data was going to be sent over an insecure connection. With this in mind, why wouldn’t you install SSL?

Many of the advantages of going secure involve trust between your brand and the customer, and isn’t that want we’re all trying to build when we invest in SEO? Adopting SSL is an easy way to present as a more trustworthy business than a competitor who is still on HTTP, so it’s an easy win that we shouldn’t overlook.

Are you ready to move to HTTPS?

Migrating from HTTP to HTTPS shouldn’t be a big deal. If you manage your site yourself, you’ll find plenty of tutorials online as well as apps and tools to assist you with making the move. Google also issued a set of handy tips to help you move to a more secure website easily.

Changes like these are for good reason, and promise a better internet future for all of us. But there are bound to be some teething troubles as we migrate to a more secure future, so don’t be afraid to reach out for assistance as things move forward to make sure you are staying compliant.