The Case for HTTPS in SEO

https seo

Today I will be writing about how installing an SSL certificate on your domain will improve your SEO efforts by facilitating more link juice towards your domain, by adding an extra incentive to link to your site allowing you to enjoy traffic that would otherwise leave or not even arrive in the first place.

Here is an example of what happens if you try to visit https://unbounce.com on FireFox:

https1

Here is an example of what happens if you try to visit https://unbounce.com on Chrome:

ssl2

My guess is that when most users bump in to a browser warning like that, they will, no pun intended, bounce. Because I know Unbounce is a company I can trust, I went ahead and allowed a browser exception to be made and proceeded to visit https://unbounce.com. BTW, the Digital Marketing BC Newsletter A/B tested sign-up page is provided by Unbounce and their service is very cool, you should check them out..

OK, so this is what Unbounce looks like on Chrome after the security exception was confirmed:

ssl3

What you see here leads us to part two of the case in favor of the use of HTTPS in your SEO efforts. If you have a look at the image above, you will notice that the green arrow is pointing to a “broken lock” in the browser. This can happen for various reasons, but one of the most common reasons is that a website is trying to serve unsecured content through the website using HTTP links and that causes the browser to either show the site with a broken lock on it, not show the lock at all, or even worse, have those alarming browser warnings show up. Lets have a look at the source code and view what may be responsible for the browser behavior displayed above:

source

By looking at part of the code on the Unbounce website, we can see a couple of links that may be causing that “broken lock” problem. I couldn’t tell you for sure if those are the links that are causing the problem without testing some changes on their website, but I can say that I experienced some of those issues on https://digitalmarketingbc.com (this website) and managed to fix the “broken lock” in the browser issue by simply changing the links to HTTPS because thankfully, the external source had an SSL Certificate.

You may be asking yourself.. “OK I get it, but what does this have to do with SEO?” I’m getting there.. relax.

In the interest of making it clearer, I will go ahead and “break the lock” on the browser of this blog post you are reading, by sourcing the following image from that unsecured connection displayed in the previous image into this post and I will link it to Unbounce. Here is that image:

Unbounce

As you can see on your browser, this blog post is being displayed in your Chrome browser as a regular unencrypted website, and if you visit the Digital Marketing BC home page and every other page on this website you will notice that the browser lock is being displayed. When this happens, many users will start to wonder about the credibility of the website, because it is showing some pages as encrypted and others that are not.

Here is an image to confirm both cases:

locks

So here comes the SEO factor that can apply to thousands of websites on the Internet.. If you are providing banners on your website, be it for an affiliate program or are creating brand awareness by providing an easy way for anyone to link to your website from HTTPS websites, make sure that your own website has an SSL Certificate and that you are not breaking the encryption on websites linking to you because you don’t use HTTPS.

If you don’t use an SSL Certificate and your website is not HTTPS and are trying to get people to link to your website by providing images that are sourced on unsecured connections, it is very unlikely that HTTPS website owners will break their pages to link to yours. Here are some examples to illustrate this issue:

linkexamples

Those examples of code displayed in the image above if used on HTTPS websites will break the “browser locks” or even worse, send the browsers in to “alarm mode” because the code is making a request for images to be sourced from HTTP connections.

Conclusion:

1- If your website has an SSL Certificate and has HTTPS, make sure you are not sourcing content from unsecured connections and making the “browser lock” show warnings, not have the lock show up at all which may raise questions about your sites credibility or even worse, have the browser go in to alarm mode requesting that users make security exceptions to visit your website.

2- If you are providing affiliate banners or any other sourced content from your website and you do not use HTTPS, your chances of getting traffic from HTTPS websites is slim because those websites are not likely to link to your site and use your content if it breaks their own website.

3 – If you have an established brand and are not using HTTPS, you are missing out on potentially hundreds of links pointing to your website because many websites may be linking to your website with an HTTPS link that will lead to an error page if you do not have an SSL Certificate and HTTPS. Many website owners may assume you use HTTPS and not verify it when setting up links to your site.

4 – Last but not least, Google recommends HTTPS and has made it a ranking factor so lets keep Google happy!

EDIT June 22 2016: Unbounce has made modifications to their website and no longer displays the browser warnings mentioned in this post. BTW, check out the CTA Conference by Unbounce, it’s excellent.

Thank you for visiting the Digital Marketing BC website, if you enjoyed this post feel free to share it!