Small businesses need to take advantage of every online marketing opportunity available, no matter how small.
It's tough competing with the big dogs, and gaining relevant rankings for your keywords in the Google index is a long term strategy – not an overnight phenomenon. That's why every detail of your SEO strategy needs to ironed out ahead of time.
But one of the problems small businesses often encounter is knowing whether or not all of their SEO bases are covered.
So today I wanted to remind you about one Google ranking factor that is often forgotten – especially by small businesses. HTTPS is a critical ranking signal of the Google algorithm, and you need to update your site accordingly.
What's the Difference Between HTTP and HTTPS?
The difference between HTTP and HTTPS is, in a word, encryption. HTTP connections simply aren't secured, which makes it possible for third parties to hijack sessions and steal information. HTTPS uses a technology called SSL, which stands for Secure Sockets Layer to secure communications.
Because HTTP was so terribly flawed and suffered from many shortcomings, some rather clever Internet engineers and cryptographers got together and invented the idea of an SSL certificate, which contains the public key used to secure an HTTPS session. After the certificate and public key have been downloaded, the connection proceeds to create, share, and send a private key used to further secure the connection.
Why Is HTTPS Important?
Alright, so we clearly already know that upgrading your site to use HTTPS can help you capture more free organic traffic. More importantly, Google has publicly revealed that sites that are full-HTTPS secure are going to rank higher in their index.
But that's not the only reason it's important. Small and medium-sized businesses typically don't have nearly as much brand awareness and clout as the big brands and household names, and as such, they typically don't command as much trust and credibility with their audience.
The good news is that using HTTPS does increase the credibility and legitimacy of your website. Your website will look safer in a web browser, too, owing to the HTTPS padlock and use of a green secured-connection URL bar if you opt for the right certificate package.
How Your Web Host Plays Into This
Your website "lives" on a server somewhere in the wild. To put it in layman's terms, your website is a bundle of files and database tables that have a specific address on the Internet. When someone types in that address (typically your domain name), a system points your browser to find that information on your particular server - and that's your web host.
We started our own hosting company way back in 2004 because we saw the advantages of giving our clients better service, incredible up-times, and a faster system. Since Google "judges" your site on how fast it delivers information to your visitors, this was very important to us.
Conversely, sites like GoDaddy and others are more concerned with shoving as many websites onto a server that they can - and this can cause problems. Imagine if one or two of those sites get popular and they start using a lot of server resources - that means your visitors will have to 'wait in line' before they get your info. The entire server is slowed to a crawl.
Plus, many of these hosts charge for their SSL certificates. We offer ours for free to new accounts because it benefits our users - especially with higher Google rankings (which means more traffic!).
Accommodating Advanced Users
We live in the digital era, and a lot of people are scared of hackers, wiretapping scandals by the government, and a widespread loss of privacy. For these reasons, the average Internet user it getting a lot smarter about how they browse the web, and they are implementing lots of different privacy tools and browser extensions designed to boost their security.
For instance, antivirus and antimalware software may throw a warning after examining your link and discovering that the connection doesn't use HTTPS. This isn't a huge problem, but it's certainly a deterrent for some people.
Remember, most users want to travel the path of least resistance, and may not visit your site if a warning pops up on their screen – regardless of the true legitimacy of your site.
Furthermore, there are plenty of browser extensions designed to help users connect only by using HTTPS. In addition, there are other tools like HTTPS Everywhere (Chrome extension Mozilla extension) that help users connect via HTTPS when available. If a user is screening web server connections based on the use of HTTPS, they may choose to not visit your site.
The Future of the Internet
Google is able to pull a lot of anonymous data and statistics from their web browser, Google Chrome, such as HTTPS usage statistics. And the data they have collected shows a clear trend: the use of HTTPS is becoming more popular as time marches forwards. Ideally, in a perfect world, Google would actually prefer the overwhelming majority of the Internet to implement HTTPS connections.
You see, Google realizes that HTTPS protects users from a lot of different types of attacks. As such, the more HTTPS pages they index and serve up to their users provides a better user experience, which is the primary goal and concern.
According to a recent statement on GoogleBlog, HTTPS accounts for roughly half of the web pages that they have indexed.
As they stated in their blog, “More than half of pages loaded and two-thirds of total time spent by Chrome desktop users occur via HTTPS, and we expect these metrics to continue their strong upward trajectory.” This trend really shouldn't come as much of a surprise, either. In fact, a lot of people have asked the question, “Why doesn't the Internet already use HTTPS for every connection?”
It's clear that HTTPS is only getting bigger, and is undoubtedly the future of the Internet. So naturally, if you haven't already, it's time to add HTTPS to your website – even if you don't process online payments or keep a database of sensitive data for dynamic pages.
Getting Started with HTTPS - This Might Be One for Your Web Guy
If you lack the technical know-how or time it takes to update your site, you're missing out on better SEO rankings and organic traffic.
Furthermore, you could be dissuading users from clicking on links to your site, which is a massive SEO and digital marketing faux pas. Your website needs to be fine-tuned and optimized to stay current, and to take advantage of all the latest and greatest opportunities.
If you are a hosting customer of ours, we can help you set up your HTTPS - simply purchase here and we'll get you set up quickly.
If you are not a hosting customer of ours (and why not?!) we recommend you contact your web host or "web guy" to find out what you need to do to get this started.
Additional Steps & Tips
By the way - once you do get your HTTPS installed, there are a few things you need to do to make sure Google knows that you've made the change.
First, you'll need to update your Google Search Console settings. To do so, watch this video:
Second, you'll need to consider some other important indexing items, like CloudFlare and LiteSpeed. Again, if you're not hosting with us, these may not be available. Check with your web hosting company to find out if you can add these items to your site.