The Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is defined as “a commonly-used protocol for managing the security of a message transmission on the Internet… SSL uses a program layer located between the Internet’s Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and Transport Control Protocol (TCP) layers.”

 

Unless you’re an IT professional, that’s a whole lot of jargon and acronyms for just a sentence or two.

 

Basically, SSL uses a cryptographic system to encrypt private documents sent over the Internet through the use of two keys — one that is known to the public, and another that is known only to the recipient. URLs (uniform resource locators, or “web addresses”, if you don’t like to complicate things) that require SSL — such as financial firms and other “secure” sites — start with “https” instead of just “http”.

 

HTTPS Everywhere: Google’s Push for Global Internet Security

 

on August 6, 2014, Google announced that their algorithms would start using a new methodology to determine how websites would be ranked in the ubiquitous search giant’s listed results. From then on out, the company synonymous with global search would consider whether or not web addresses use SSL before ranking them.

 

To give webmasters a chance to catch up, it would start slowly, initially affecting fewer than 1 percent of all websites — but a new era had been ushered in. For months, Google had been calling for “HTTPS everywhere,” but now it was law.

 

SSL was officially a search signal.

 

Why it Matters

 

This is a big deal. Study after study after study shows that a website’s location on Google’s search results determines — above all else — its likelihood of being clicked by the person who performed the search. The first listing commands a full third of all traffic. The second link that’s displayed drops all the way down to 18 percent. The third sinks to just above 11 percent. From there, it plummets to single digits.

 

Basically, most people click the first link they see. Far fewer click the second and third, and after that, you can have the best product, the best service and the best website in the world, but the chances of anyone ever learning about it from a Google search are all but nonexistent.

 

Switch to SSL or Get Left Behind

 

Switching to SSL eventually may boost your rankings in Google. But it will also make your website more secure and give your site’s visitors more confidence when they visit you online.

 

Be sure to make the change to all pages on your website — not just the landing page or homepage. An expert who has already overseen many websites’ migration over to SSL sums up six individual steps you’ll need to take:

 

  1. Figure out what certificates you already have (if any).
  2. Decide what kind of certificate you need.
  3. Create a CSR (Certificate Signing Request).
  4. Purchase the certificate.
  5. Install the certificate.
  6. Migrate your site to HTTPS.

 

It is, of course, more complicated than this, and Google offered more detailed instructions in the same communication they used to announce their new search-engine optimization policy. But one thing is not complicated — the world of web addresses is changing, apparently toward a more uniform, more secure standard. You still have time to plan and prepare, but unless you want to be exiled to the abyss of poor search rankings, it’s time to start thinking about your migration to SSL.