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 SERP's 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.

Note: If you don't know where you stand, take advantage of our free tool to scan your pages for SEO analysis. In addition, you'll likely want to download our free SEO checklist to make sure you haven't forgotten anything regarding on-site SEO.

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 (which is also similar to TLS, or Transport Layer Security), 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. 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.

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.

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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.

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 person to find out what you need to do to get this started.

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. Watch this video:

Instead of forgoing the opportunity to capture more organic traffic, reach a larger audience, and generate more leads for your business, I'd recommend reaching out to a professional. Lastly, if you're not sure whether or not you've dotted all i's and crossed all of your t's, then I'd recommend downloading my free SEO checklist. Even small oversights can have a negative impact on the future of your digital marketing campaign.

About 

Will Hanke owns Saint Louis' top independent Internet Marketing firm, Red Canoe Media. In addition to helping some of St Louis' most recognizable brands with their online marketing strategy, Will also is an Amazon bestselling author, speaker and teacher.