Considering installing SSL certificate on your website? In this particular case, own-mistakes-based learning is definitely not recommended. Instead, learn from others’. Let’s see the common mistakes made by your competitors and learn how to avoid them.
Running your own e-business has never been and still isn’t a piece of cake. Getting the users to trust your website is crucial for your success. Only users who trust you are willing to spend their time and/or make purchases, if you are in e-commerce. Issues of online security gain more attention every day, too. Due to the cases of cyber attacks and private data breaches, implementation of sophisticated safeguards follows. SSL certificate is one of these. Here we’ll argue that installing SSL is absolutely crucial for your traffic security, and show the most common SSL implementation mistakes.
Website without SSL – what are the consequences?
Less effective SEO and fewer page views
SSL (Secure Socket Layer) is an internet cryptographic protocol, securing data on websites by encrypting the entire connection. How does it work? Every time user visits a website, a connection is established between their browser and the website server. The SSL certificate encrypts the connection, thus making it 100% private. Any user activity on the website – including transmission of data via forms or during making purchases are thus inaccessible to any unauthorized person or third party.
SSL certificate, or lack of it, has a significant impact on the number of users visiting your website, as well as the conversion rate. As we mentioned earlier – for a contemporary user, network security is paramount. Google often takes users’ side and cares for whatever is important for its, after all, customers. Therefore, whether the site shown in SERPs has the state-of-the-art security measures, matters, since that very fact affects customer satisfaction very much. And so the type of security protocol used has an impact on website’s SEO. Pages without SSL certificate installed will be therefore “punished” with lower ranking positions than the competing sites that have the certificate. This will directly impact your business site and/or e-commerce organic traffic volume.
Even if there’s no SSL certificate on your website, and, consequently, its SERP visibility drops, the users still have a chance to land on your pages. Unfortunately, even then, without having the SSL certificate installed, your bounce rate will be much higher. This effect is due to security risk notifications that your visitors will get from their browser – be it Chrome or Firefox. Users visiting sites with no sufficient security check and balances will see a clear warning – a message claiming your site to be “DANGEROUS”. This is likely to effectively deter potential buyers of your goods or services and cause your company risk losing credibility.
Users’ private data exposure
Let’s say that at this point you still wonder, whence all the fuss about installing SSL certificate came from and isn’t it only on a Google’s and other browsers’ whim. However, there is a bigger picture there. Cyber attacks are daily news – with e-commerce customers as targets, the hackers attempt to hijack private and personal data, for instance by intercepting the data transmission occurring during the purchase made online. Not having a SSL certificate means yielding a risky data transmission – hackers can bypass your basic security systems and cause a breach – and you’ll be likely to be held responsible for not preventing that from happening. Implemented in May 2018 EU law General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is of significance in this context – the regulation increases the accountability of personal data administrators, who are now obliged to provide maximum possible private data safeguarding. Installing SSL certificate is one of the essential means to this end.
Implementing the SSL certificate, as widespread it is, has already become a necessity. However, few typical errors of SSL installation can already be pointed out and discussed. It is worth getting to know them in advance and avoid making those mistakes. We’d like to discuss a few of them here.
Most common SSL installation errors
#1 No HTTP to HTTPS redirects
One of the most common mistakes when installing SSL certificate is forgetting about redirects. After the SSL certificate is installed, two versions of your site are live. The one has HTTPS certificate and the one without it – HTTP. Both versions are accessible not only to users but also Google robots. While the users may not notice the doppelgänger situation, Google robots certainly will and render one of the versions duplicate content. For Google, HTTPS and HTTP aren’t two versions of one site, but a two separate websites.
Implementing 301 redirects following the SSL certificate installation makes Google interpret the content from no-SSL certificate domain as available on the HTTPS domain version only. This allows avoiding being “charged” with duplicate content and helps users get to the appropriate version of the site.
#2 Incorrect page indexation – will the search engine see you?
Another common SSL certificate installation mistake is an incorrect page indexation. It is therefore necessary to determine if the HTTPS website is available for Google. Not only the main page, but also particular pages can be missing from the index, which needs to be investigated carefully. Missing page in Google index means, in short, that Google’s robots will never get onto those pages. Indexation errors may cost you a loss of customers, since a page not indexed will never appear in search results, thus killing your organic traffic. Therefore, immediately after SSL certificate installation, you should manually index the main page and the most important category and product pages.
#3 Outdated Sitemap file
After installing HTTPS, remember to generate a new Sitemap file with HTTPS URLs. This will make indexation smooth for Google crawlers. A good practice is remembering about already in the very process of SSL certificate installation. Uploading an updated sitemap file with HTTPS URLs to the Search Console tool will speed up the indexation, improving crawling the new version of our site. This way we’ll benefit from SSL sooner!
#4 No HTTPS Google Search Console and Google Analytics monitoring
If you’re running a website yourself, you certainly do realize the importance of web analytics. Keeping track of the website visitor profile, early detection of traffic increases and drops, as well as monitoring which individual pages are most often visited allows you to deeply understand the users’ expectations and respond to them effectively.
Accessing the above-mentioned web analytics is therefore paramount. So, after SSL certificate installation, make sure that this data is not lost. A common mistake here is not monitoring the updated website version in Search Console. To keep monitoring active, you need to add a new service to the tool – domain address with the HTTPS protocol. Failure to do this will engender no data mining. This is – again – because HTTP and HTTPS URLs for Google are two separate domains.
With Google Analytics the situation’s pretty much the same. No URL change will prevent Google Analytics from gathering the correct data. Should those changes are not implemented immediately after the SSL installation, all analytics data from this period will be irretrievably lost. Never allow this to happen, as data-driven e-business management guarantees effectiveness.
#5 Erros in canonical URLs, image files, hyperlinks and backlinks
According to the well-known saying, “the devil is in the details.” It illustrates the discussion of SSL certificate installation errors perfectly. The errors mentioned above may be the most common and the most serious ones. However, there are also the smaller ones, which also have a direct impact on the functionality of your website.
Overlooked, outdated canonical URLs, incorrect HTTP addresses placed in image files or on-site inbound hyperlinks prevent users and Google crawls from navigating the site smoothly. Backlinks with errors and AdWords containing bad HTTP URLs reduce your website usability a lot – despite 301 redirects in place. Outdated backlinks lose their link juice, too, which has a direct impact on your SEO efficiency. Page loading time matters for SEO, too – however, it is likely to increase following the SSL certificate installation.
#6 No SSL certificate installation verification
Once we’ve installed the SSL certificate, a thorough verification of the changes implemented is a must. There are a lot of tools available that will allow a robust verification. One of them is SSL Checker. Failure to perform the HTTPS protocol check yields a situation in which grave errors will go unnoticed for a long time, with no obvious symptoms, and yet…
To wrap and summarize things up, here’s a smart checklist of all the things mentioned above – kudos to Sprawny Marketing!
As you can see, installation of the SSL certificate necessitates implementation of a whole series of major on-site optimizations. Mistakes happen, especially that the process is complex, but they have a direct impact on the website usability. However, a planned, informed process of SSL implementation will give you an upper hand on the competitors not yet SSL-ed or unaware of their own HTTPS installation errors.