Do you use Google Chrome? If so, you may have noticed a really important site security change in the search algorithm that began in July 2018. When you look at the URL bar, the beginning of a website always begins with HTTP or HTTPS. What’s the difference, and why does it matter? The “S” in HTTPS stands for secure (here’s a great infographic if you’re a visual learner). If you see a website that begins only with HTTP, then it is not guaranteed to be secure — which turns users away from your site and also hurts SEO.
While HTTPS used to be mandatory only for sites that accepted payment, site security (HTTPS) is now a must for SEO for ALL sites across the internet, whether you accept payment or not! In this blog, we’ll explain why all websites should now be HTTPS.
Sometimes when talking about the technical SEO audit, we’ll talk a lot about how these are checkmarks for the algorithm. We’re checking to make sure you have a robots.txt (telling search engines what to crawl), looking at your sitemap (showing Google how your site is laid out), and various other technical elements. HTTPS is one of those technical elements. While some sites previously passed on this upgrade when we recommended it, we now make this a top priority in terms of technical SEO updates.
As of August 2018, over 90% of top results are HTTPS, meaning if you aren’t HTTPS, there’s only a 10% chance you’ll be on the top result (thanks, search algorithm!).
When Google shows that “not secure” red lockbox, a warning accompanies it, telling users to pretty much leave the page because this site has issues with privacy connection. This is a red flag to users; on top of being bad for SEO, the red lockbox flagging site security hurts the user experience.
The first question we usually receive after making this a top priority is: is this hard to change?
It’s as simple as purchasing and implementing an SSL certificate, which “provides secure, encrypted communications between a website and an internet browser. SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, the protocol which provides the encryption (source).” Don’t worry if you’re not comfortable with these technical tasks — developers know how to correctly implement this. After they’ve implemented you’ll want to complete an audit to make sure everything is running smoothly on the SEO side.
Remember, we love the rule: easy wins with maximum results. This is one of those. When we first start as your SEO management team, we go after the low-hanging fruit like this minor change to site security — making sure your site has that HTTPS checkbox and therefore makes the algorithm happy, in turn becoming more likely to rank on search engines! Don’t worry — we will get more technical as we drive deeper into the SEO strategy and other algorithms, but this is a great starting place since it’s so simple and so important.
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