checking and fixing SSL errors
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With the increasing risk of cyber-crime, users want to know that the websites they view are secure. If they are to hand over their bank card details or other personal information, they want to know you have done all you can to protect that data. Many visitors will back out of even browsing a site in the first place if they get security warnings of any kind or don’t see the security padlock to show your site is protecting their data.

As such, here at Ditto Digital, we know that you must make changes to ensure your website’s visitors are secure. Adding Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protection to your website guarantees that you have measures in place to protect private data.

Let’s first look at how to implement SSL as part of a basic SEO strategy – or if you want to know more about why SSL is important for SEO skip down to that section now

Implementing SSL

Properly implementing SSL certificates includes checking that all URLs, content and scripts load as HTTPS rather than HTTP. However, when integrating SSL certificates, you may come across “mixed content” warnings. Commonly these can appear when sites have been migrated from HTTP to HTTPS, or when adding a plugin or new service. These warnings appear on the user’s browser, and they will often cause a user to close the webpage so it’s essential to do all you can to stop Google and other search engines from flagging your webpages as insecure. The good news is that you can find and fix any SSL errors relatively easily.. We use WordPress as our guide, but rest assured that whatever hosting platform you use, the solutions are the same.

Does User Security Matter for a Business?

It certainly does. Even when people use a site for information only, any warning will put them off. In fact, many users will immediately leave the website if they see a warning even if they are simply browsing and not buying anything. If people want to buy something from a website, they must give information such as credit card details, which is where they will want to see clearly and be reassured that measures are in place to protect their data, such as encryption through SSL.

SSL protection, such as those offered by providers mentioned in this rundown of SSL Certificate Services, provides security and privacy between the browser and the hosting site server. Secure sites will have a padlock icon in the address bar in front of the page URL, showing that the pages loaded are HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) and are protected by SSL, which encrypts the data transfer between a customer’s device and the server hosting the website.

Even though most sites have already switched to HTTPS, sometimes things go wrong with the setup, so let’s look deeper into how you can avoid security warnings.

Common Causes of HTTPS Mixed Content Warnings

There is both active and passive mixed content. Active refers to webpages loaded over a secure HTTPS connection containing HTTP-loaded scripts. Passive mixed content relates to video, audio and images loaded via HTTP.

As we mentioned previously, most warnings occur straight after migrating from HTTP to HTTPS and are often the result of one or more of these:

HTTP links in CSS and JS files – Some developers hardcode the HTTP link in the code of themes and plugins rather than an HTTPS link.

External scripts in CSS and JS files – If you are calling files from external resources that are not HTTPS enabled, you could find a mixed content warning on your site.

Hotlinked images on the page – When images are called from other sources, known as hotlinking, the images may have paths that use HTTP hardcoded into their URL.

Identifying Mixed Content Errors

Manually check for assets loading over HTTP using Chrome DevTools. You should inspect anything the browser has flagged as not secure. All non-secure issues will be displayed, and mixed content security warnings will be highlighted. Where a small number of items require fixing, you can select and fix them directly on the page or post. However, where many issues are identified, you may need the assistance of an SSL check tool to help. Once you have identified the problems, it’s time to fix them. Leaving them makes the site appear untrustworthy and can damage your brand and user experience and hurt your rankings.

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Fixing Mixed Content SSL Issues

Confirm the validity of your SSL certificate. Many certificates have default expiry and require regular renewal if your hosting provider doesn’t offer SSL certification renewal automatically. This may not be the cause of the warning, but it’s worth watching out for.

Change the HTTP to HTTPS for internal URLs. If your certificate is valid, the warnings could be because the integration wasn’t correctly configured for HTTPS encryption. So you need to change the dashboard settings to reflect HTTPS (from HTTP) for the internal URLs. You should also add a rule that redirects direct access users of the HTTP URL to the secured HTTPS version. This can be done manually or with a plugin that forces the SSL on every page of your site.

Lastly, perform a search and replace action to update links in your database and existing content. This, again, can be done using a plugin to locate and change the link from HTTP to HTTPS. If you have images and other media with absolute HTTP links, then some may require further attention. You can run a database search and replace query to update any missed items. 

Once you have taken the necessary steps, clear your cache and revisit the site to confirm that all the mixed content warnings have been resolved.

Why Is an SSL Certificate Important For SEO?

An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is important for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) for several reasons, as it directly impacts the security, trustworthiness, and user experience of a website. While SSL is not a direct ranking factor, it indirectly influences SEO in the following ways:

Improved Security

SSL certificates encrypt the data transmitted between a user’s browser and the web server, making it difficult for hackers to intercept and eavesdrop on sensitive information, such as login credentials, personal data, and payment details. Google and other search engines prioritise the security of user data, and secure websites are more trustworthy in their eyes.

Trust and Credibility

Websites with SSL certificates display a padlock icon in the browser’s address bar, indicating a secure connection. Users are more likely to trust websites with this visual indicator of security. Trust is a significant factor in SEO, as users are more likely to click on, stay on, and engage with trustworthy websites.

Improved User Experience

Secure websites provide a safer and more private browsing experience for users. When visitors feel that their data is secure, they are more likely to interact with your website, resulting in longer session durations, lower bounce rates, and higher user engagement—factors that can indirectly impact SEO.

Google’s Ranking Algorithm

While SSL is not the most critical SEO factor, Google does use HTTPS as a ranking signal. While the weight of this signal is relatively low compared to other ranking factors, Google has been gradually increasing its emphasis on HTTPS over time. Sites that are HTTPS-secured may have a slight advantage over unsecured sites.

Browser Warnings

In recent years, web browsers like Google Chrome have started to label non-secure websites as “Not Secure.” This label can deter users from visiting such websites, leading to a higher bounce rate and lower user trust. In addition, some anti-virus software will block sites that do not have valid SSL certificates meaning potential customers may never get to see your products or services in the first place. In contrast, secure websites with SSL certificates don’t have warnings, contributing to a more positive user experience.

While having an SSL certificate is not the most important SEO factor, it can improve security, trustworthiness, and user experience on your website. These factors indirectly impact your site’s SEO by encouraging user engagement and trust, potentially leading to better rankings and increased organic traffic. As web security and user privacy continue to be a priority, having an SSL certificate is now essential for online businesses and website owners.

Final Thoughts

People are now very aware of the significance of the padlock symbol and the difference that having an ‘S’ added to the HTTP makes. Search engine rankings favour sites marked secure and the padlocked HTTPS sites knock others off the top spots. Sites without an SSL certificate will be flagged as “not secure” and may give highly visible security warnings or meet blocks from user browser security. People will, at best, be wary but most likely refuse to engage with sites that don’t have it and certainly be reluctant to give any personal information and credit card details to sign up or buy.

With cybercrime on the increase, building site visitor confidence is critical. HTTPS and SSL certifications are now more than just desirable; you should consider them essential. If you have any concerns about the security of your website you may need a Website Audit to identify possible problems.

If you still find your rankings dropping, check out our SEO checklist.

About Michelle Symonds

Established as an SEO specialist since 2009, following a career as a software engineer in the oil industry and investment banking. Michelle draws on her IT and web development experience to develop best-practice processes for implementing successful SEO strategies. Her pro-active approach to SEO enables organisations to raise their online profile and reach new audiences, both nationally and internationally. She has a wealth of cross-industry experience from startups to Fortune 500 companies .

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