In 2017, Google announced that its search results were going to flag websites that do not have a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate. Web browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Opera have followed suit.
HTTPS - Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is the means by which files are transferred from a web server to the visitor’s computer. The additional “S” means “Secure”, and indicates that the website has a valid SSL certificate.
Initially, this flagging of non-secure websites applied to those that received sensitive data, such as credit card information or passwords. This was extended to sites that use a form to collect any sort of data. Now, it has been extended to all websites in order to prevent intruders attempting to inject advertisements or create security vulnerabilities into web pages.
It would appear that not having an SSL certificate may harm a website’s search ranking, as this now forms part of Google’s ranking algorithm. At the time of writing, Google uses HTTPS as a “tiebreaker”.
Further effects of not having HTTPS are click-through rates and time-on-website. As a non-HTTPS website is flagged as such, it may not achieve its fair share of click-throughs. And even where the search result is clicked, the user may click-off the page when they notice that the browser is also warning them of the site not being secure. In other words, having a secure website helps potential clients see your company as a trustworthy brand.
It is possible to obtain an SSL certificate without cost. However, at the time of writing these require manual installation and manual authentication renewal every quarter. Therefore the time involved in using a free certificate will cost as much or more than using the website host’s automated offering. We use Heart Internet for hosting, and their offering is supplied by Starfield Technologies.
If we host your website on our Heart Internet package and you are ready to move to HTTPS, please contact us.
If we provide your website but you host it somewhere else, you will need to contact your hosting company to provide the certificate. But please let us know you are doing this, as we will have to make some minor alterations to ensure that your website moves from HTTP to HTTPS. We will not make a charge for these changes.
Note: the SSL certificate secures the connection between the user and the website. However, it does not protect the website from hackers that attempt to gain access to the web server. We rely on Heart Internet for that protection.
Article by Chris Addams of Swift Image Web Design, written 15 June 2018. Last edited & updated 31 October 2018.
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