The Benefits of SSLs


Every organization has a duty of care to its customers.  Whilst that may never be written in the small print of the terms and conditions, it exists in something called “implied terms”.  When we open a bottle of beer, we expect to taste beer.  When we buy a car, we expect that it will start when we turn the key.  And when we go onto a website to buy something we expect our details to be kept safe and secure.

One of the pillars of trust for any organization is to secure their websites.  Consumers expect that any details they enter onto a website are kept safe and sound.  As technology has moved on at an incredible pace, offering opportunities the like we have never seen before, so have the risks.  The Internet can be a very dark place which is why the Google also has a duty of care to try and ensure that we are all kept safe online.

Google’s mantra, their sole purpose, is to deliver the most relevant results for every search that we do. For most of the searches we perform we rarely venture onto page two to find a match.  So the competition to try and second guess the secret sauce behind the algorithm has spawned a whole new industry.  Once in a while they drop a few clues about changes they are making which will impact the way they rank a website.  The smallest compatibility change to a website can have a massive impact on search results, which in turn can have a direct result in increasing revenues.  There is no secret sauce in the fact that the higher the ranking, the more website traffic.  The more website traffic, the more visitors will spend money.

Last August Google made one such change that would see organizations receive slightly better search ranking in return for keeping their customers safe which they called “HTTPS Everywhere”.  In such a competitive environment any marginal advantage is important.  For many organisations, the announcement that websites using the secure HTTPS protocol was nothing new.  In fact, many would consider using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) on their website de rigor, providing high levels of security and encryption for a very small investment.  However, if keeping customers safe was not on their agenda before, it should be now. 

“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”, Google posted on their Webmaster blog.  “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.”

The most telling comment was their final sentence. ”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.” We all know how Google works.  When they commit to changing something, they follow through.  So expect SSL to become fashionable once again.

SSLs in their most basic form protect information traveling between two computers as well as allowing users to identify you are who you say you are.  Not all SSLs are the same, which is why they differ wildly in price.  They offer varying levels of protection and indemnity, like an insurance policy.  For organizations who have an online store or shop then they should look at an Extended-Validation (EV) certificate, which offers the highest level of protection, but costs the most.  However, in terms of a return on investment, the cost is marginal for a business. 

The announcement from Google hasn’t yet resulted in a massive migration from HTTP to HTTPS.  With a number of other changes made recently about mobile compliance organizations are yet to look at the options and benefits that SSL can give them, and more importantly, their customers.