Search engine optimization. SEO. The art and science of ranking high in search engine results so you can drive more traffic to your website and more dollars to your balance sheet. On the surface, it seems so straightforward, right? How hard can it really be? If you’re a digital marketer, you probably know the answer to that question: really hard.
SEO is hard because there are so many parts to it. There’s the content, the keyword research, the page speed, the mobile rendering, the metadata, the analysis…and more. But there’s also one other piece that’s often overlooked: security. Security is critical to SEO because both Google and consumers value it. Sadly, not enough businesses do.
Security Is Not Yet a Top Business Concern
You might think businesses would make securing data one of their highest priorities, but that is not yet the case as evidenced by continual data breaches that happen due to lax security. However, in some cases, there isn’t any security at all. In June 2018, a security researcher discovered that the marketing firm Exactis stored data on hundreds of millions of Americans and millions of business on a publicly accessible server. Although there’s no indication yet that the data was accessed with malicious intent, it was there for the taking.
This is not Google’s mindset, however, nor the mindset of the average consumer. Google has taken security into their own figurative hands by making security a ranking factor for SEO. And consumers take security into their own literal hands by abandoning those websites that don’t offer it.
Does website security matter to SEO? Oh, yes it does!
What Is Website Security?
Although security can mean different things to different people, to Google website security means information can be safely transmitted to and from a website. It does not mean the website is trustworthy or that the owner of the website has methods in place to protect any data it collects from users. It only refers to the data you send to the website, such as your credit card number, and the data you get back from the website, like a confirmation code.
Google recognizes website security via the S added after the HTTP of a website address, changing it to HTTPS. HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol and HTTPS stands for Secure Hypertext Transfer Protocol. (Yes, it seems like the S should be at the beginning or the word Secure should be at the end, but there you are.) Both allow displaying, sending and receiving information on the Internet, but HTTPS websites use Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL, to security transfer that data.
That HTTPS is very important, as you’re about to see because Google makes connections between SSL and SEO.
Security: The SEO Secret Sauce
When doing SEO, a digital marketer has so many factors to deal with, it’s no surprise that security is a rarely mentioned topic when considering SEO. But it must be.
For one thing, Google cares about security and that should be enough to convince you it matters—since Google and SEO are almost synonymous given Google’s dominance in search. How do we know Google cares about security? Because Google’s actions tell us so:
- Google envisions a web that is “secure by default.”
- HTTPS has been a factor in Google’s ranking algorithm since 2014.
- HTTPS makes pages load faster, and Google has rewarded faster loading web pages by making speed a ranking factor since 2010.
- Google uses the HTTPS factor as a tiebreaker when determining ranking if two sites otherwise are the same SEO wise.
- Starting in October 2017, Google’s browser, Chrome, warns users when a site is not secure.
It’s plain to see that for Google, SSL and SEO go hand in hand.
And then there are the users, who also care about security. Again, we know this because the users tell us so:
- Research shows about up to 85 percent will leave a website if they find out the site is not secure.
- Consumers are aware of data breaches and breakdowns in cyber security, and they are demanding more, resulting in regulations such as the GDPR.
- Secure sites load faster, and users like faster load times: 53 percent of site visitors will abandon a webpage if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.
- Sites that load fast get more traffic and that traffic means higher search rankings.
Those consumers are your potential customers. If they care about website security, so should you.
How to Make Your Website Secure
Google cares about security. Consumers care about security. Now, do you care about website security? You should, because it should be apparent by now that security matters to your SEO efforts. And that probably leaves you wondering how to make your website secure.
It starts with SSL and SEO, so first of all, determine whether or not your website has SSL enabled because if it does, you’re already using HTTPS. To find out, type your URL into the search bar and see if it defaults to HTTPS. If you use Chrome, you’ll see the green padlock in the upper left corner, indicating it is a secure website or you can simply type your URL into the box at Hubspot’s SSL checker and know in an instant.
Do you see a green padlock or an S after the HTTP? Then your website has SSL enabled, and you’ve given your SEO a boost. If not, you’ll need to get certified—and that might not be as easy as you think. You’ll need to determine what type or types of certification you’ll need, and the cost can range from free to let’s just say expensive. You can find advice on getting SSL certifications here for a beginner’s version and here for more technical advice.
In addition to the SSL, you can also take additional steps to improve your website security, although these are unrelated to Google’s emphasis on SSL and SEO and are probably best tackled by your web team, not your digital marketing team.
Taking Your SEO to the Next Level
Now that you know the importance of website security to your SEO efforts, take steps to ensure your other SEO knowledge is current as well. The Simplilearn Advanced Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Certification will ensure you’ve mastered the many facets of SEO, including keyword management and research, on-page and off-page optimization, link building, URL building, analytics and more. In addition to covering these many facets, the course offers extensive project experience so you’re learning by doing, developing new skills you can put to work the very next day.
Yes, website security matters to your SEO and your SEO skills matter to the bottom line. Make sure it’s all topnotch.