Google’s John Mueller has recently contradicted the idea that an SSL certificate would “boost” a website’s SEO, unambiguously stating that an SSL certificate does not boost your SEO.
SSL, which stands for Secure Sockets Layer, is a encrypted communications standard (also referred to as a protocol) for secure Internet connections. An SSL certificate is a digital certificate that certifies (authenticates) a website’s identity, it certifies that a browser is connecting to the correct server. The certificate plays an important role in the secure transfer of data across the Internet.
Google provided a significant nudge to help get the Internet onto serving data securely, for a variety of reasons, mostly for user security and privacy.
A stumbling block for adopting HTTPS was the process for obtaining an SSL certificate was that the process was somewhat technical and confusing. Many publishers preferred to wait on adopting the standard because it seemed unnecessary for websites that weren’t involved in conducting financial transactions. Google responded by incentivising adoption of secure standards by making HTTPS a ranking factor in 2014.
Google encouraged the SEO community by promising to maybe make HTTPS a stronger ranking factor.
“At Google I/O a few months ago, we called for “HTTPS everywhere” on the web. We’ve also seen more and more webmasters adopting HTTPS (also known as HTTP over TLS, or Transport Layer Security), on their website, which is encouraging. For these reasons, 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.”
Google said that they may decide to strengthen the HTTPS signal. The immediate and widespread adoption of HTTPs essentially amounted to the SEO community responding, “I’m going to hold you to that!” and the response was overwhelmingly positive and SSL certificates were flying off the digital shelves like discounted television sets on a Black Friday.
If HTTPS is a ranking factor then why did John Mueller assert that SSL certificates don’t boost SEO? A ranking factor, after all, is a criteria that Google uses for deciding whether or not a website ranks for a search query. So it follows that anything that’s a ranking factor will boost SEO, right?
Well, not really… as recently reported in the Search Engine Journal, Some ranking factors, like HTTPS, are extremely lightweight.
Everyone agrees that links from other sites are an important ranking factor. So it’s not a mental stretch to accept the fact that other ranking factors are so lightweight as to play a minimal role in determining how high a website will rank.
Another consideration about HTTPS as a weak SEO boost is that virtually every site today uses HTTPS. This creates the situation where any ranking bonus derived from the use of HTTPS is essentially cancelled out. Google’s John Mueller has been consistent on this point about the relative weakness of the HTTPS ranking signal.
For example, in 2019 he answered a question about SSL certificates where a company claimed that the lack of a certificate would cause Google to drop a site in Google’s search results: The claim was:
“Without an SSL Certificate Google is likely to drop your website in search results”
“Yeah, that’s wrong. HTTPS is not a factor in deciding whether or not to index a page, at all. We do use HTTPS as a light-weight ranking factor, and having HTTPS is great for users. A free certificate from Let’s Encrypt works just as well.” There’s been a lot of confusion about HTTPS as a ranking factor.
At Direct Submit we would always say you need an SSL certiificate in place. In short, get an SSL certificate today and keep your website safe.”