This might seem like an overdone topic, but recently there have been some changes to the way Google (and other search engines) will index your site.
Our internet has become flooded with websites that are spam or no longer relevant - which is one reason why Google has adapted the policy to penalize websites that don't use an SSL certificate to encrypt data that's transferred between the website and the client (you).
What's An SSL Certificate?
An SSL certificate is short for Secure Socket Layer Certificate - which is a fancy way of saying that if you purchase one of these and have it properly set up on your website, when someone fills out a form on your site, that information will be hidden from prying eyes.
I know - you're thinking, "none of the information that my visitors send is sensitive" - or maybe you're thinking the opposite...I'm not sure what you think... The point is, that Google likes it when you have this enabled. Not only Google, but Firefox and Google Chrome browsers have begun warning users if websites don't have an SSL installed. If your website comes up as 'insecure' this post is for you.
How Do I Get an SSL Certificate Installed On My Website?
Your hosting provider should be able to provide you with a link (probably within your cPanel) to request an SSL Certificate. When you're selecting the type of certificate you need, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- There are different types of SSL Certificates - free and paid. The free certificates are 'Self-Signed,' which means that the encryption hasn't been verified by a signing authority. That shouldn't be an issue for a regular, non-e-commerce website. If you're running an e-commerce site, it's best to pay for your SSL certificate annually.
- Some hosts don't offer free SSL certificates - if you want one, find one that will automatically re-sign your free SSL Certificate (they have to be re-signed every 30 days or so). I recommend Mecca e-Hosting in Vancouver, BC. They have excellent technical support and competitive prices. (I'm not being paid by them - I'm actually just a satisfied customer)
- Paid SSL Certificates come with insurance, which is to protect the customers of the website from online fraud. Insurance varies between providers, so make sure to choose the right coverage level, if you need that option.
- ANY SSL Certificate will help you retain and even gain ground on Google! Jump on the bandwagon soon and you can benefit from other sites losing their rankings!
Work With a Website Developer - If You Aren't Familiar with Editing Code
There are a few changes that need to be made in your code before you can successfully enable your new SSL Certificate! The SSL will change your URL prefix from 'http://' to 'https://' - and wants to load ALL data through https:// connections. That means going through your pages and making sure that all images, iFrames, scripts and anything else that may be loading up on your page is loading securely. If you aren't sure how to change your site, a developer should be able to help you migrate your site for a nominal fee.
Post-SSL Certificate Installation
So you have a new URL for your website - mine was 'https://megawatts.ca.' That meant changing my website URL in various online services. Make sure you go through your social media, website, business cards, email signature and anything else that you may have written your website address down on - and change it to have the 'https://' before the url. That's important, to reduce the number of errors you receive through searches online.
Google Analytics is another good one to set up again - make sure to submit your xml sitemaps and change your properties to reflect the url change.
If you're using WordPress, like most of the internet, you'll have to change your URLs in your 'General Settings' menu - add the 's' and you're good to go! If there are any questions out there in internet land, post them here and I'll get back asap.