Google’s SSL changes and how it affects your Website

Over the last couple of years, Google has stepped up its efforts to encourage website owners to implement SSL certificates on their websites in order to improve security.

The importance of security aside, there is another major benefit to using SSL on any website – the positive impact on website ranking, as reported on Google’s Webmaster blog way back in 2014.

Google SSLIn October 2017, this initiative takes on added significance, as any website which requires a text input, such as a contact form, search box, payment information, etc., will be considered as “Not Secure” by Google and users of Google Chrome browser will see this message in the address bar when browsing in incognito mode.

As reported on Google’s Chromium blog back in April, this is another step forward in a phased approach to encouraging more websites to use SSL.

Regardless of whether you use Google Chrome for your web browsing or not, the likelihood is that the other website browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari aren’t likely to be far behind implementing similar changes either.

Google has been very proactive in providing warnings to webmasters about the upcoming changes and here is a sample email that we have received for some client sites from Google:

Google Not Secure SSL warning

So to the average website owner, what does this all mean. Well in order to explain this, let us first explain what SSL actually is or means.

What is SSL?
Put simply, SSL (Secure Socket Layer) is a form of protection that is added to a website to enable a secure encrypted connection between the website and the visitor. This secure connection is highlighted on a web browser by a bright green padlock and is most commonly seen on websites when you go to the online checkout to purchase something and input your credit card details online.

Secure SSL Checkout - Amazon

The SSL padlock on the Amazon.co.uk website

The other tell-tale sign that a website has SSL enabled is the use of “HTTPS://” in the address bar as opposed to the more common “HTTP://”.

Here is an example of a standard HTTP website, which as you can see has a red cross through the padlock, thus highlighting that the site doesn’t currently have an SSL certificate.

Website without SSL Certificate

Website without SSL Certificate

The fact of the matter is that HTTP is not secure, and therefore you should never input sensitive information onto such a website. Whereas, HTTPS – which is secure – is fast becoming the web standard.

In order to enable your website to use https, and display the green padlock, you need to purchase an SSL Certificate from a Certificate Authority such as VeriSign, Thawte, GlobalSign or one of the many other leading suppliers.

We can assist you with this process if you feel uncomfortable undertaking the task yourself.

Why is SSL Important?
Quite simply SSL is important because it benefits your website security, search engine ranking and perhaps most importantly of all, assures the visitor to your website that they are visiting and potentially doing business with a “Trusted” website.

Most of the leading and well known websites in the world use HTTPS, including Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, and all Google sites. You can view a list of the current Top 100 worldwide sites that use SSL by looking at the Google Transparency Report.

As we have already said, Google will soon identify sites which are considered as “Not Secure”, so how long do you think it will be before Google starts to penalise sites that fail into this category?

Not very long is the most likely answer, but ultimately, not having an SSL enabled website is going to mean bad news for your business/organisation.

Will Google’s SSL Changes Affect My Website?
Ask yourself two very simple questions:

  • Does your site use registration/booking forms, payment forms, contact forms, search box, mailing list subscription, etc.?
  • Does your website display and use HTTP:// in the address bar?

If you answered yes to both of the questions above, then Google’s upcoming SSL changes WILL AFFECT your website and you’ll need to act to ensure your website isn’t adversely affected.

From our perspective as a digital agency, the increased focus on SSL – brought about by Google’s approach – is a welcome opportunity to remind website owners about the importance of website security.

If you are interested in learning more or would like to make sure your website is enabled for SSL, then please get in touch and we will be happy to assist you.