How to Increase SEO and Add Security to Your Website Using a Free SSL Certificate

It's no secret that adding an SSL certificate to your website makes your site more secure and helps with on-site search engine optimization (SEO). Ranking higher in search engine results pages and keeping your site safe are both good things and being able to improve both with a single action makes this improvement even better. In this post, let's look at how to increase SEO and add a security layer to your website using a free SSL certificate.

Back in 2014, Google announced having an SSL will provide minor SEO boosts to your website's search rankings.

What is an SSL Certificate

Without getting technical, adding an SSL marks your website as “secure” to web browsers. It adds a lock icon near your domain name in a browser's URL address bar. And, it lets you use the https protocol when typing in your domain name (instead of http). Visually, these are instantly noticeable assets to your visitors and signify a higher level of trust between the two of you.

Boost Website SEO

Since July 2018, with the release of Chrome 68, Non-HTTPS sites are now labeled as “Not Secure”. That doesn't mean anything is wrong with your website or that something has changed, but it certainly doesn't look like a good way to advertise yourself to visitors. Imagine standing outside of a storefront and encouraging people to come inside by handing them a flyer that says your store is not secure. It's counter-intuitive, so consider the labeling as a gentle push from Google to do the right thing and add an SSL.

Adding an SSL is low-effort and higher-reward. Even though the SEO boost may not be much, everything helps. If you've exhausted all the other ways to optimize your site then adding an SSL certificate is the next item on your list.

Adding an SSL Certificate

Now that you know what an SSL certificate is and a few reasons it's helpful to install one on your website let's talk about how to add them.

Paid SSL Solutions

Many website hosting companies – like GoDaddy – offer paid versions of SSL certificates. The benefit of paying for an SSL certificate through your hosting provider is that it's usually easier to install and will auto-renew automatically. When you manually install an SSL certificate on your own it doesn't usually auto-renew, so you may experience a period of being unsecure from when you notice the certificate has lapsed until the time you update it.

Free SSL Solutions

Alternatively, you can install a free SSL certificate. I like to use a service called Punch Salad to install my own free SSL certificates.

Free SSL certificates typically expire in 90-days. At that time, you'll need to create and install a new certificate. It's a relatively simple process to create and install a certificate, but as mentioned there is sometimes a lapse between when your certificate expires and when you're able to install the new one – a human error. SSL certificates are a set it and forget it type mechanism, so it's easy to forget about them as three-months pass by. 

When you're doing a manual installation of an SSL certificate there are really only two steps.

  1. Verify ownership of your website by uploading a text file to your site via FTP
  2. Copy/paste the certificate to your hosting setup

At least, that's how it works with Punch Salad and my GoDaddy cPanel hosting account.

SSL Certificates are Worth It

If you don't have a secure website then you should get an SSL certificate. It makes your visitors feel better about visiting you and instantly helps to increase your websites on-page SEO.