SSL Certificates and Search Engine Optimization: Why They BOTH Matter


As a business owner, it’s long been a given that you need an internet presence. As a modern business owner with an internet presence, you need to understand what’s under the hood with your network security.

No longer are engineers the only people who understand acronyms like SERP, HTTPS, SSL, and SEO. If you don’t have a dedicated marketing manager or security specialist, it’s up to you to grasp what’s at stake with your website protection.

We hope to help you do just this, in terms that you will understand. This knowledge will help your website traffic numbers increase and make your business more visible on the internet. By the end of the post, you will understand more about network security, search engine rankings, and browsers.

Acronyms for Everyone

Here are some basic definitions of the acronyms you will see in this article:

SERP – Search Engine Results Page: When 47% of internet users type a query into the Google search field, Google returns pages of results that may match the search. These pages are SERPS, and business marketing managers want their company to be in the first few SERPs.

SEO – Search Engine Optimization: You may have heard this one before. By using keywords and other tools, your website moves closer to the top of the SERPs when those users type their search.

HTTP/HTTPS – Hypertext Transfer Protocol and Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure: If you are wondering why these are included with the search engine acronyms, read on. We’ll explain their relationship further on.

SSL – Secure Sockets Layer: Right, this is getting increasingly technical. Once you grasp it, though, these terms will all make sense.

TLS – Transport Layer Security: This is the most secure and up-to-date version of SSL. Many service providers still refer to it as SSL since that is a more familiar term.

Search Engine Results

More than half of all internet users use Google as a search engine. This usage has made Google the authority on how websites show up on Google to begin with. There are over 200 criteria called ranking signals that help Google decide where your web page belongs in relation to other sites returned in the same search.

The science of using these signals to move your page to the front of the line is called SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. There are people whose sole job is to optimize websites to promote them on Google’s search pages.

If you are going to be your own webmaster, Google has created Quality Guidelines to help your site get ranked and indexed. These guidelines define some basic practices to follow and avoid. Some of these include:

  • Making pages for users, not search engines
  • Being honest with your users
  • Making good decisions about your site as if Google didn’t exist
  • Thinking about what makes your site special or valuable

If you have feedback or comment pages, you should take measures to prevent and remove spam that can populate those pages. Google also suggests that you monitor your site for hacking, and remove that content immediately.

Speaking of Hacking

HTTP/HTTPS are not secure and secure ways your browser commands a server to display a web page for you. When your browser “talks to” an HTTPS site, the communication is encrypted between the browser and the website.

The way HTTPS encryption works is that your browser and the server create a secret key that only they can decipher. This key allows just the server and browser to understand personal information you send like your name and address, or credit card numbers.

Without this encryption, a hacker can break into the network connection and listen to the communication between the browser and the server. Using this information, the hacker can then impersonate either the client or the server and read any personal information shared between the two.

This technique is called a “Man in the Middle” attack and HTTPS is designed to prevent those.

In order to get that coveted “S” in your http web address, a SSL/TLS security certificate must be installed on your server. This certificate is issued by a certificate authority and is trusted by both the browser and the website. Once the two establish trust through authentication, they can then communicate securely.

The Modern Browsing Experience

Currently, browsers will perform an SSL security check upon connection and warn the user that the connection is not private. Chrome will display a box with a red warning sign and the user a button that says “Back to safety”.

Google makes this box scary because of the importance of a secure connection. HTTP connections are exposed to MITM attacks, and currently your browser address bar will display a red warning when visiting them. For HTTPS sites, the address bar will contain a green lock and the word “secure”.

Selling anything on an unsecured site risks turning away more than 80% of your potential customers. If you’d like visitors to enter their email anywhere on your site, chances are they won’t. Chances are they won’t stick around long enough to find where to enter their information.


You might be wondering why we are talking about these two acronyms in the same article. It’s because your website security directly affects your Google search ranking. Remember those 200 ranking signals we mentioned? Some are closely tied to visitor behavior.

Some of these signals are:

  • Bounce rate – how many people visit your site and then decide that it’s not what they were looking for
  • Dwell Time – how long visitors stay on your site
  • Repeat Traffic – how many people come back to your site multiple times

When someone finds your site on Google, visits, and sees the HTTP warning, chances are they will leave immediately. After all, “Back to safety” is a pretty compelling message. That’s a bounce.

When someone finds your site on Google, sees the warning and stays anyway, chances are they won’t be entering information for you, and will probably not stay very long, leading to a short dwell time.

Once a visitor knows that your site isn’t secure, they probably won’t come back. No repeat traffic.

Lastly, HTTPS and SEO rankings are linked because Google prefers secure sites over unsecured sites. Very simple.

Now You Know

Now that you understand the relationship between SSL and SEO, it’s time to make sure that your site is secure and your ranking improves. Check out our hosting solutions and certificate offerings to see how we can help you, your site, and your online presence stay safe and successful.