What is HTTPS and Does It Help SEO?

Not long ago, having a HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) website was the norm. However, the passing of time has proven that these type of sites were not as secure as we thought and wanted them to be. So, Google stepped up and announced a new measurement, which aims at protecting both the websites’ owners and their users from hacking attempts. As a result, we see more and more HTTPS sites today. The question most web owners ask at this point is how, and whether, switching from HTTP to HTTPS may affect their SEO efforts. Here are all the details to know.

What is HTTPS?

The difference between HTTP and HTTPS may only be a letter, but that “s” at the end of the “https” part of a URL can play a key role in your website’s performance. That “s” stands for “Security”. HTTPS websites include the SSL 2048-bit key, which is an added layer of security in the communication between your web server and users (a browser), and can protect your website connection through encryption and authentication. Encryption ensures that users’ information cannot be stolen. It also protects files transferred from users from being corrupted (aka data integrity). Finally, encryption also makes sure that their activity cannot be tracked. As for authentication, it helps build user trust as it protects a user’s connection against cyber attacks.

To activate the https protocol, you need an SSL certificate, which will allow that secure connection mentioned above. Here is how that certificate can affect SEO.

How HTTPS Helps SEO

Website security can play a vital role in your website rankings and traffic (even your conversions).

  1. Traffic

Website traffic is the number of visitors a website receives. The more traffic you have, the more you increase the potential of a sale (turning visitors into paying customers). One of the ways to get more traffic is through better rankings (will talk about that right after this section). Having a secure website can make users feel safer to visit your site, when they are looking at the search results, and buy from you. Admittedly, for more and more users, that green padlock sign showcased before a HTTPS website’s name (URL line) is a signal of authority and trust that makes them want to click that website over other non-secure sites. This, in turns, improves the CTR (click-through-rate).

  1. Rankings

This HTTPS thing became the talk of town some 3 years ago, when Google changed/updated their algorithms across the board. Back then, HTTPS websites did not experience significant ranking boosts, but Google left hints that they will soon favour HTTPS sites way more than HTTP ones. This actually started happening in 2015, when HTTPS websites that were performing the same with their HTTP competitors were ranked ahead of their HTTP counterparts.

Today, HTTPS is a ranking signal for Google. See for yourself. If you take a look at Google’s page one organic results (results not including the ads), you will realize that almost half of these results feature an HTTPS website; a percentage that could climb to almost 70% by the end of this year.

Are there correlations between HTTPS and higher search rankings? According to a study that analysed 1 million Google search results, the correlation between HTTPS and higher rankings was reasonably strong. Another study has also found a moderate correlation between those two.

Considering the fact that only a mere 0.3% of websites have switched to HTTPS, you can clearly see the opportunity to get ahead here, right? However, keep in mind that gaining and retaining a page-one real estate requires coordinated work that involves much more than just migrating from HTTP to HTTPS. Nevertheless, going with Google’s suggestion can certainly act as a tie breaker, given that their algorithm clearly supports HTTPS sites.

  1. Conversions

A European survey has shown that almost 2/3 of users are concerned about their information being misused online while another 84% would ditch a purchase if their data was sent over an insecure connection. This means that people need to trust a website before moving forward with making a purchase. They need trusted, secure connections. And, since the success of an online business is about providing users with the best online experience – to eventually rank better in Google search results – it is paramount to be able to address users’ concerns and ensure they get exactly what they need. This is the best way to create a loyal following that will be become your best brand advocates and, of course, buy from you. Long story short, the safer you make your customers feel (and pampered), the more they will keep coming back and spreading the word about your business.

Besides affecting SEO, switching from HTTP to HTTPS has become a more intense need than ever, especially for Chrome users as Chrome now labels websites as secure and not secure, making it pretty obvious when a site is not safe. How can you identify these websites? By checking out their URL bar. HTTPS sites have a non-secure security indicator (red triangle). This means that every time a user is about to enter text into a form on an HTTP website, including HTTP pages in incognito mode, they get a warning that they are not using a secure website. Imagine the damage this can do to, say, an eCommerce site! Who would want to share private information, such as credit card details with a website with that indicator?

Although having a HTTPS website will not make or break your rankings significantly, at the moment, at least, everything shows that things are about to take a turn soon. Secure, HTTPS websites will be hugely favored by Google in the future, according to a  blog post, where they mention that they are working at full speed to be able to provide a fully secure web for users. And, that was a year ago! So, you can understand that migrating to HTTPS will definitely have a profound impact not only on your SEO strategy but also allow you to keep the engines running in this constantly evolving digital world.

How to Find an SEO Company You Can Trust

Finding a trustworthy SEO company has never been easy, especially considering Google’s constantly changing algorithms and rules that regulate SEO. The plain truth, though, is that SEO plays a crucial role in the rankings of a website in search engines and, consequently, its visibility, traffic, and conversion rates. Pulling the needle out of the haystack, where needle in this case is ethical SEO companies that do work with your best interest in mind, will definitely help take your business to an upper level. Let’s find out what you should look for when in search of an SEO company that can deliver really positive results.

What Aggressive SEO Can Do to Your Business

In the past, SEO companies relied heavily on link building. Although there is nothing wrong with it, many of them were implementing black hat SEO, which refers to unethical SEO practices that aim at boosting the website’s ranking in search engines the very wrong way. Google now penalizes websites that build links aggressively. This includes buying links or using other unethical SEO tactics to manipulate the website’s Page Rank (often called black hat SEO). An SEO company that does that will quickly land your business in the reds with Google.

Understand that although such aggressive SEO tactics can deliver some pretty amazing results fast, these results are extremely short lived. The worse news is that even if you do sack the SEO company that has put you into a tough spot against Google, chances are you won’t be able to resolve a manual penalty without a report of every single link building activity that the SEO company carried out. It doesn’t worth risking getting your website penalized from Google for approaches that don’t get you anywhere, right?

Signs of Quality SEO Firms

  1. They Have Evidence of Things They Have Done

Working with an SEO company that has deliverables is key. They should be able to show you what they are doing. This can be achieved through weekly/monthly reports that display the work done and how your website ranks after each week/month’s work, actual websites that have real dofollow backlinks to your website, changes or additions to your content, or an audit of your content, homepage, site, or link profile with some recommendations for action. If the SEO firm you are considering has transparency in the way they are doing things and can show/prove this to you, it is a good sign for sure.

rankings report

  1. They Suggest Improvements

If they recommend some sort of action on your behalf (extra SEO services), it probably means that they want to work with you so that you see the best results the soonest possible. For example, they may suggest you start social media channels, start a blog, launch a content marketing plan, optimize your images by adding alt tags, create a sitemap.xml, optimize the site’s content, allow crawling on the whole of the website by changing your robots.txt, or perform a link profile audit. All that is meant not to trick you into investing more money, rather than using white hat SEO tactics to help get the results you are hoping for. If you follow their recommendations, chances are you will.

  1. Your Website Starts Ranking Higher

Rank improvements is definitely in every web master’s wish list. If you are getting improved ranking, it means that your SEO agency is indeed doing everything right. To determine whether the firm is using white hat (legitimate) SEO, check your site’s ranking. It should be ranking on the 1st page of Google for your target keywords and a variety of long-tail keywords. Be a bit patient and check if your rankings show significant fluctuations. If they stay relatively consistent on a weekly basis, then you are in good hands.

  1. They Give You Realistic Promises

Beware of fancy talk and “top ranking guarantees”. Most of the times, such promises are not realistic. Instead, they are linked to the SEO sales machine. It is important to know that you can’t get guaranteed results for any keyword search, even if you have a best buddy working for Google. SEO is constantly changing. It is not easy to implement either. So, those that promise to dramatically increase your search engine results pages (SERPs) rankings overnight cannot be trusted.

  1. They Do Not Work For The Competition

Seemingly, there might be nothing wrong with hiring an SEO agency that is okay with working for the competition. However, putting two clients that belong in the same market against each other can never be a good thing for neither of them. You want the best work done, which includes driving as many people/prospects from your respective market to your site as possible. Working with an SEO firm that is marketing your competition will give you a portion of their efforts, rather their full attention (they want to make money from both you and your competitor). Trusted SEO companies will find it against their code of ethics. So, make sure you ask them before you shake hands.

What Can YOU Do When You Find a Trustworthy SEO Company?

First of all, be patient. SEO is a tedious and long work that takes time to produce results. Learning all you can about SEO will certainly help you stay on top of any changes within the industry. That way, you will also be able to identify whether an SEO firm is using the safe road of outdated techniques.

That aside, it is critical you work with them and comply with whatever they recommend you do (provided you have found a good firm, of course). SEO is a team effort and a multifaceted field. The only way to achieve the results you are expecting is to view the SEO agency as a partner. This doesn’t mean that you won’t need to monitor them,

checking Google rankings

though. On the contrary, do ask for reports; find out how and what they are doing; ask questions; check in with your account manager.

Finally, know exactly what you expect the SEO agency to do, be it creating backlinks/content/new social channels, auditing content or whatever else.

Unfortunately, as with any business partnerships, there is always a chance you will collaborate with an SEO company that doesn’t use transparent methods and focuses solely on delivering the fastest results, which usually last shortly and could lead to penalties from Google. However, there will certainly be signs to help identify a spam company from a trusted one so keep your antennas up!