Google’s John Mueller deflated the suggestion that an SSL certificate would “boost” a website’s SEO, unambiguously stating that an SSL certificate does not boost your SEO.
Post on Mastodon About SSL and SEO
The encounter happened on Mastodon, where a member called EncryptedFence posted:
“Boost your website’s SEO and reputation with a must-have security measure: SSL Certificate – https://certerassl.com/blog/ssl-a-must-have-security-measure-for-websites-seo
Don’t miss out on the benefits! Get an SSL certificate today and keep your website safe.”
Google Senior Search Analyst/Search Relations Lead, John Mueller, responded:
“@EncryptedFence this does not “Boost your website’s SEO”, sorry.”
SSL Certificate Does Not Boost 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 SSL certificate plays an important role in the secure transfer of data across the Internet.
Google Encourages HTTPS
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 incentivizing adoption of secure standards by making HTTPS a ranking factor in 2014.
Google Hints at Maybe Making HTTPS a Stronger Signal
Google encouraged the SEO community by promising to maybe make HTTPS a stronger ranking factor.
Google wrote in 2014:
“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.
We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it’s only a very lightweight signal—affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content —while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS.
But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.”
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!”
The response was overwhelmingly positive and SSL certificates were flying off the digital shelves like discounted television sets on a Black Friday.
SSL Won’t Boost Your SEO?
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, that’s not the case.
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.
That 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.
“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.”
Once Again with the Nuance of SEO…
There’s been a lot of confusion about HTTPS as a ranking factor.
Some people claimed it’s a tie-breaker for when all else is equal. Although nowadays HTTPS is so commonly used that it’s hard to think of what tie it could possibly break.
It’s probably easier to understand if one considers that if links can be a strong signal then that means other factors, like HTTPS, can be a weak signal, with no actual boost to SEO.
Featured image by Shutterstock/Ollyy