The Pure SEO Guide to Server Security

Server security is crucial to ensuring your website—and, by extension, your brand—can be trusted by users and search engines alike. An SSL Certificate benefits not only your security but also your SEO. Google now considers HTTPS one of the ranking signals presented in the new Page Experience Algorithm, which also gauges Core Web Vitals, mobile friendliness and other meaningful UX factors.

Understanding how to secure your website, SSL Certificates, SEO and how it can benefit your digital marketing strategy sounds complicated, but broken down, it’s simple and can be done in a few easy steps.

Understanding Server Security: What is HTTPS?

You may notice a small padlock symbol in your browser’s address bar. This symbol corresponds to the HTTPS—or Hypertext Transfer Protocol System Secure—in the domain’s URL, which signifies that data gathered on this site is encrypted and safe from potential data pirates.

HTTPS ensures that the data transfer between website and server passes through encoded site maps. HTTPS sites can speak to one another, transferring traffic with recognisable sources instead of defaulting to ‘direct’ origins. These encryption protocols are issued through Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates. SSL certificates are usually available from website hosting providers for a fee.

SSL Certificates

Another important acronym in server security is SSL. A Secure Sockets Layer or SSL is the name for the technology ensuring the security of data passing between a web browser and server. As a measure of assurance, businesses can purchase SSL certificates to show their diligence in securing their website and its user’s information.

Types of SSL Certificates

Many companies are now providing SSL certificates, and there are several types of certifications, each giving a different level of server security.

  • Domain Validated – Domain validated certificates verify the applicant’s right to use a domain name. No company identification is needed. They protect the domain’s security but there is no knowing who is using this information.
  • Extended Validation – The benefits of these SSL Certificates include a full vetting of the organisation and its domain-name rights. It’s the highest level of SSL and necessary if sites are gathering sensitive personal information such as banking or identification.
  • Organisation Validated – the domain name and company are verified for increased user assurance.
  • Single Domain – Single domain certificates protect only one domain and cannot be used to protect subdomains.

You can test your SSL server to have confidence in your certification. Ensuring you have the right SSL certificate will boost your server security. If you’re unsure, get in touch with digital experts to ensure you’re getting the SSL certificate benefitting your business. According to John Mueller, Google does not currently care what kind of SSL certificate you use for your website.

How Server Security Affects Your SEO

SSL Certificates offer plenty of benefits, especially for SEO. Google considers an SSL certificate a positive ranking signal, meaning your site is more likely to rank if you have a valid SSL Certificate for your site. Since 2017, sites with ‘FORMS’ but no SSL certificate are marked ‘not secure’ by Google Chrome.

User Experience

Recently, HubSpot research found 82% of users would leave a site if they thought it was unsecure. Google considers user experience (UX) as a ranking signal. If large numbers navigate off your site due to an impression of poor security, your search ranking will plummet.

An up-to-date SSL Certificate benefits your SEO by benefitting your users and readers. This is especially important for sites that process purchases or identity verification, as it assures customers their data is safe. This increase in brand trust can only be good for your company, and better UX is most definitely better for your SEO goals.

Gather Accurate Referrer Data

Referrer data communicates where your website traffic originates from. As we mentioned above, HTTPS sites communicate data, but not with sites that are not also HTTPS. When migration to an unsecured HTTP site occurs, data is stripped, showing your traffic as ‘direct’ even if it has come from another source. This can be a problem for digital marketing and SEO strategies.

SEO Best Practices for Switching to HTTPS

Switch Everything

CSS files, images, javascript, and widgets should all use HTTPS. Your content delivery network should as well. Double-check your Google Analytics track code as well, if necessary.

Redirect Your Old Pages

Once you’ve switched to HTTPS, your old HTTP URLs will be obsolete. However, they may still be indexed in search engines and bookmarked by some users, so you’ll need to direct everything to the new URLs. Use 301 redirects to point each HTTP page to the HTTPS version and make sure all canonical tags point to the latest version.

Also, take the time to register your HTTPS version with Google’s and Bing’s Webmaster Tools.

Update Sitemaps and robots.txt

Submit updated sitemaps that reflect the new HTTPS URLs to Webmaster Tools. Leave your old HTTP sitemaps in place long enough for search engines to crawl those pages. This will allow them to process the 301 redirects.

Include new sitemaps in your updated robots.txt file and ensure that your latest robots.txt does not block any important pages.

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