Google is concerned about your customers. Online security is in the news almost every day as department stores, healthcare providers and governments are attacked by criminal coders. It’s hard to know which websites are genuine and which are counterfeits. It’s even harder to know who’s listening in on the messages customers send you through your site.
To encourage website owners to build more secure websites, Google announced that HTTPS contributes to your search engine ranking.
HTTPS is just the ordinary standard for transferring data over the Internet (HTTP) when combined with a Secure Socket Layer (SSL). It’s the industry standard for securing data transfer between web servers and clients. SSL technology encrypts your website files on their way to customers, decrypts it so customers can see the site and does the same for the files customers send to you. If you don’t have SSL, potentially anyone can see all of that data and use that information for their own purposes. A security layer is the best way to protect your your customers from spammers and hackers.
Get Real About Customer Security
So, why isn’t SSL included with every website? Many websites have no need for it. All of their information is public anyway, so no one could do anything harmful with it. And many websites are simply online brochures not designed to collect or receive customer information. And SSL looks expensive. More expensive than many starter website hosting subscriptions. If your website is just reading material, the risk to customers using it is very low. No need for secret handshakes.
The thing is, we do considerably more with the Internet than read. We manage our finances, buy t-shirts, date, take college exams, confess secrets to our friends, close the garage door and on and on. As an Internet company, Google is on the front line of human life. And since humans pay Google money, they’re interested in our security.
The idea is that SSL is one more sign that a website is trustworthy and worth showing to Google’s own customers (that’s you and me). Having this additional security feature on your site won’t make you number one. Well written, incredibly useful content is the only way to compete. But this announcement is a message to the world. The Internet is inherently dangerous. Exceptional content proves you’re an expert, SSL proves that you’re safe.
Get SSL For Your Website
You probably don’t need SSL yet. Like I said, not every website is designed to collect customer information. And SSL will never make that much of a difference to your Google search ranking. But if your customers fill out forms with personal information about their health, their home or anything you would ordinarily hold tight, get SSL. If customers shop on your website, even if they pay with PayPal’s secure checkout, get it. If you don’t do that stuff, don’t worry about it this year. Build it into your budget for 2015.
SSL makes a difference that customers can see in their web browser’s address bar. That little padlock symbol, glowing green bar or other affirmative visual builds their trust in you. The more useful you want your site to be, the more customers interact with your site. More interaction equals more risk for everyone. SSL is how you mitigate the risk of doing business online and assure your customers you care about their safety.
The first step to getting SSL for your site is collecting all of the domain name and web hosting information about your site. Your hosting company is the best place to start shopping, so you’ll need your account information to complete a purchase. Look at their website or call their sales department to ask about SSL. Buying SSL from your hosting company means they can facilitate the installation of the security keys so you don’t have to. They’ll also take you through a few steps to verify your identity and your business information before issuing a certificate that says you are who you say are and you have SSL.
If you’re feeling thrifty and a little adventurous, you can save money by doing it all yourself. Google for SSL certificates to start shopping. Certificate issuers provide their own instructions for completing the process yourself.
One last, very important note: making the switch to HTTPS requires the same care as changing your domain name. Your content will “move” from using HTTP to HTTPS. There’s a good chance you’ll have broken links. An SEO or website expert should help you manage this move.
By including SSL in their search algorithm, Google’s signaling to website owners that customer experience matters. Trust matters. Not simply trust in your professional expertise, but trust in the way you deliver it.
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