As much as we’d love to make this blog post fun and festive, security is serious business. Website security and encryption has been covered extensively in the media in recent months, with story after story of large corporations and government departments being hacked and mined for personal information. Safety protocols are not only good for business, they can improve your website search engine rankings.

SSL Decoded

Security Socket Layers (SSL) is a standard security technology for establishing the encrypted link between a server and a client. They are the “s” in the “https” you see before a URL address and they provide an extra layer of security for both website visitors and the websites themselves. They have been around since the mid-1990s, when Netscape created them. They are very common for websites that collect and hold sensitive information such as credit card forms, medical information or personal identifying information such as date of birth or social security numbers.

HTTPS Impacts SEO Signals and the User Experience

On August 6, 2014, Google announced that having a SSL URL is a positive SEO signal, stating in part:

“over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it’s only a very lightweight signal — affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content — while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.”

It’s unusual for Google to announce a particular update is a positive ranking signal. At present, HTTPS is a minor ranking signal. However Google hints strongly that SSL URLs will carry more weight in the future, and a website with a SSL URL is being emphasized by SERPs. In the two years since Google made the announcement, it is probable that Google has increased the weight of this particular ranking signal.

In addition, Google also announced that beginning in January 2017, the Chrome Version 56 browser will show a “not secure” notification next to any non-SSL pages that collect a password or credit card information, and Google could expand the “not secure” warning to encompass other web pages in the years to come. While the message does not impact most web pages  currently, it will be a strong message of warning to consumers about the need for secure transactions.

What does this mean for your business?

According to a Verizon data breach report, “The forecast average loss for a breach of 1,000 records is between $52,000 and $87,000.” A security breach not only hurts businesses in their pockets, but is damaging to the brand’s reputation. Many multi-location businesses have already been left scrambling to repair their brand reputation after a security breach. SSL technology will improve your SEO and SERP and signal to potential customers that you are serious about conducting business securely. Having a HTTPS shows a degree of professionalism that reflects well on a major brand.

Rio SEO recommends that enterprise brands take SSL implementation seriously. While it may require an investment of time and web development leg work, the future benefits will outweigh the costs.