If your small business website is not secure in 2017, you may be losing customers. In January, Google rolled out updates that affected how your customers see your website in Chrome – a browser that now commands a whopping 76% of browser traffic. We can all understand why. With the recent proliferation of viruses and identity theft, the search engine giant is more committed than ever to its users’ security – which has huge implications for your website. What happens when customers get to your page and see this? Your connection is not private Message Source: Viral Patel That ugly screen means Google Chrome could not verify the identity of your website. The browser is warning your customer that your website is not secure and therefore their data could be intercepted by hackers. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. If you were them, wouldn’t you click “Back to Safety?” If you were them, would you feel comfortable performing a financial transaction on that website? You’d probably leave and find whatever you were looking for elsewhere, perhaps at a competitor’s website that doesn’t flash that scary screen. We know that as a small or medium-sized business, you may get tired of people telling you that you need a website or need to change this or that about your online presence. But your site’s security through HTTPS/SSL is one update you can’t afford to ignore. Read on to discover why you need a secure website in 2017 and how to go about it.

1. First of all, what is HTTPS/SSL?

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SSL stands for “secure sockets layer” and HTTPS stands for “Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure.” When you type a website name into the search bar, for years you have typed “http://www.” Now, however, even if you type that, you’ll see more and more websites redirecting you to their “https” version. This certificate encrypts information so that when someone is filling out a form or making a purchase on your small business website, their information is protected from people who might want to “scrape” it. It prevents a hacker from redirecting the user to a false, malicious version of your website that is designed to swipe their personal information. It ensures all their data remains private.

Watch this helpful 90-second video to gain a quick understanding of how SSL works:

What is SSL? from SSL.com on Vimeo.

(If the video does not display properly in your browser, click here to view it).

 
Finally, a helpful diagram from Neil Patel’s blog of how HTTPS/SSL works: How HTTPS/SSL Works Source: Neil Patel

2. Your Google rankings are affected by your website’s security.

Google has preferred websites with an SSL certificate since 2014. In fact, this factor has possibly already served as a tiebreaker between you and your competitors. If you and a competitor rank equally highly for a certain keyword and have similar domain authority, Google will usually choose the secure domain over the insecure domain. Google’s increasing preference for secure domains could even have a cascading effect across PPC advertising. If someone clicks a landing page link to a non-secure page, you’ve just paid for one of your customers to see “Your connection is not private!” Google used to implement one big algorithm update once a year; now the updates are once a month, with countless small updates in between. We don’t know exactly how Google is going to further reward secure websites in 2017 or to what extent, but we do know it will continue to prefer secure websites.

3. Google has publicly said it will continue to ramp up its efforts to mark non-secure websites throughout 2017.

“Our plan to label HTTP sites more clearly and accurately as non-secure will take place in gradual steps, based on increasingly stringent criteria…don’t wait to get started moving to HTTPS.” – Google Blog
When Chrome first started warning users that websites weren’t secure, around 70% of them were ignoring the warnings and clicking “Proceed Anyway.” Then Chrome intentionally changed the design so that now over 60% of users click “Back to Safety”. Your website will be “shamed” both by the most popular browser and in the search rankings of the most popular search engine if you do not migrate to HTTPS. Cone of Shame Movie Up Avoid the Google Cone of Shame! Secure your website.

4. A non-secure website can negatively impact your conversion rate.

Even if the user ignores the “Back to safety” button and continues, will they now trust your website enough to do business with you? Not only does having a secure small business website impact your search engine rankings and browser experience, but it also impacts your conversion rate. 77% of internet users are concerned about their data being intercepted online, while 84% said they would abandon a purchase if they knew it was sent over an insecure connection (and Chrome is doing its best to make sure they know). Trusting Website Forms Source: Unbounce

5. Securing your website can be expensive, but you can do it yourself for free.

Probably the only drawback in making the switch to HTTPS/SSL is the cost. A lot of companies like Symantec charge very high fees, which is why many websites have yet to make the switch. The good news is, if you’re willing to put in some time and do a lot of research, you can do it yourself. Google provides some great resources, as does Geek Flare and this great guide from Moz. The process is, however, highly technical. We’ve been building secure websites for all of our clients for a while now, so for our digital marketing clients, it’s just included in the package. If you just need a secure website and have some technical expertise, you can implement it yourself. But if you need general digital marketing services for small and medium-sized businesses as well as a secure website, contact us and we’ll be happy to help. [[For a limited time, we are also offering a free SSL certificate for certain content management systems.]] Have you made the switch to HTTPS/SSL yet? What effect has it had on your website traffic and conversions? Leave us a comment below!