How will Google’s new HTTPS and SSL rules affect WordPress websites

Google shook the webmaster world with its HTTPS announcement. Guest blogger John Feeney tells us what WordPress site owners should do to take advantage of Google’s announcement.

Google is constantly changing its algorithm to reflect what it believes to be the best ranking signals for websites in the search results. The search engine understands how important search traffic is to marketers, and in turn Google wants those marketers to use the best techniques available to promote their content.

So when Google told the search engine marketing world that the presence of HTTPS and SSL would now be used for ranking sites, this obviously rankled a few feathers and motivated some website owners to get off their butts to get it done. After all, Google asked nicely.

Google loves secure sites.

What Is HTTPS and SSL?

Before we get into how these new ranking factors affect search results, let’s take a moment to explain the terms.

HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. This strengthens a website’s privacy and adds an extra layer of security to the Web.

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. This encrypts the link between a website server and a client. An SSL certificate secures the site, so your website shows as an https site.

HTTPS: The Good!

Let start off with the best part of this idea. By using HTTPS and SSL, your website is technically safer for users. That’s another good thing to tell people when they come to your site. “Hey! Glad you got here from Google. Due to our new HTTPS protocol, you will not be hacked. Even better, with our SSL certificate you can safely purchase products from our site.” Yeah!

HTTPS: The Bad!

Switching over can cost money. While the prices are not exorbitant, they do add up. GoDaddy pricing on SSL certificates start at $69. HostGator’s SSL certificates start at $39.95. Shop around to make sure you have the best certificate for your website’s needs. Remember if you have more than one site, you will spend more on the certificate.

Furthermore, the site’s speed does decrease slightly. Also some parts of the site can become more difficult to access.

HTTPS: The Ugly

Google immediately implemented this new change. However, they do not have a way to change the address of the website from HTTP to HTTPS. Right now, they are telling webmasters to use 301 redirects. However, why implement something without giving a way for web developers to quickly move their site over to the new standard?

In fact, many sites have seen a slew of SSL errors since Google made the changes to the algorithm.

How To Switch From HTTP To HTTPS

Are you ready to make the switch to a secure website? Then you’ll need to know how, and this part of the article helps you do that if you have a WordPress website. While the process is not as hard as it seems, sometimes snags do come up along the way. If you need some professional help with moving your site, contact a digital marketing agency like us (Shout Web Strategy).

Below we discuss three different ways to change a WordPress website’s security. While some of these strategies might work for other websites, keep in mind that the syntax and the process might vary from this.

First, you will need to get an SSL certificate. Most major hosts have SSL certificates available. While you might not want the cheapest one out there, you can get a good certificate for $20-$50.

Second, you have three options to change the links on your site to the new, secured website.

  1. Change your WordPress settings link
  2. Create an .htaccess redirect
  3. Use WordPress Plugins

WordPress Settings Link

The easiest way to change the links on your website is to go through WordPress General Settings. Go to your settings in the admin area. Then open up the General settings. You will see the default URL for your site. Change both the WordPress address and the Site Address by adding an “S” at the end of http. Reginald Chan has a simple explanation of how to do this on his Smart Internet Lifestyle blog.

.httaccess redirect

If you have the slightest amount of coding chops, you can copy and paste the redirect code for your new https access to your server. Below is the code from StackOverflow.Com. Remember that you need access to your .htaccess files, either through your cPanel or via FTP access (Filezilla, for example).

#redirect all https traffic to http, unless it is pointed at /checkout

RewriteCond %{HTTPS} on

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !^/checkout/?.*$

RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://mydomain.com/$1 [R=301,L]

WordPress Plugins

A few WordPress plugins do exist to help you. Specifically, WordPress HTTPS and Yoast SEO both can help you move your site from HTTP to HTTPS. Note: Yoast, while a stable plugin, is not reliable for moving over your site. Double check that it went through.

The ultimate outcome of the new security standards

The reality is that Google is making it tougher for websites to be listed on the first page of their website. Using an updated security profile is just one in a string of changes to ensure the highest quality sites get access to Google’s golden goose of traffic.

The HTTPS and SSL addition just make it easier for them to separate the winning from the losing websites in an ever changing battle of quality and rankings.

Furthermore, websites who use this standard have a higher rate of confidence from their readers – readers who care and search for secure payment. In that sense, Google only sped up the transition.

Guest blogger John Feeney is an employee of Shout Web Strategy. They believe that SEO is essential to every businesses success. Priding themselves on being Australia’s leading digital marketing agency, they can help grow your business by delivering more targeted traffic to your website. For more information visit www.shoutagency.com.au.