Google announced in 2014 that it would be using SSL as a ranking factor in search. In other words that means if you have a security certificate applied to your domain, Google uses that signal to place you above other sites that may not have that feature (all else being equal of course).
What is SSL?
The acronym literally means Secure Socket Layer but doesn’t really tell you much. Basically SSL is in internet protocol providing a secure connection between a web browser and a server.
A security certificate (also called SSL) helps one computer understand that the other computer trying to communicate with it is legitimate or safe. Security certificates help keep data safe during transmission over the internet.
Picking Your SSL Provider: Who Attorneys Can Trust
Don’t just buy a certificate from any old hosting or SSL provider. At best you or your web development team will have a hard time installing it. At worst you could be compromising your site’s security without even knowing it.
Attorneys for the most part do not need highly sophisticated certificates so going with a mainstream hosting provider is a good bet. Below is a list of hosts that provide solid SSL services:
- Network Solutions
- Name Cheap
- Rapid SSL
It’s not as if you have to go with one of these providers. If you are happy with the customer service and performance of your current web host and they offer SSL certs, by all means go with them.
Choosing Your Certificate Trust Level
SSL certificates are not a one-size-fits-all type of thing. There are various price points, levels of sophistication and configurations depending on how many domains you are using the certificate on.
Global Sign (a certificate provider) has a pretty good infographic and post here explaining how to choose your certificate trust level. Different providers may have different names for their product offerings but in general here’s what you’ll find:
Single Domain: This is a standard certificate used on one domain (i.e. http://www.example.com or domain.example.com)
Wildcard Certificate: Typically used for multiple types of domains (i.e. sub-domain and primary domain like www.example.com and domain.example.com)
The cost of each of these usually goes up the more variation there is in what you need. Attorneys should look for certs that have 99% browser recognition, free re-issues, some type of guarantee or warranty,
For the most part, law firm websites that are not transferring sensitive information over the internet (i.e. social security numbers, credit card numbers, etc) do not need a sophisticated and expensive SSL option.
Adding SSL to Your Site
When you add SSL to your site, you are changing the URLs of links that are pointing at your site. Whenever this happens you have the potential to lose rankings in search.
- Make sure whoever is installing your certificate properly redirects http to https
- If you are using a CMS like WordPress, remember to change your default URL in settings to https
- If you have your domain configured in Google Analytics and Search Console, make sure Google knows that your new URL is HTTPS
If you’ve never installed an SSL cert before (or maybe you’re just not that technically inclined), we strongly recommend having a development company do it for you. Mistakes in adding SSL to a site can cause a poor user experience or could even stop your site from loading.
Keeping SSL Up To Date
Once you have a security certificate installed on your site, you have to get it re-issued each year. If you do not, your certificate will expire and users will get a security warning when visiting your site. They will still be able to proceed past security warnings but many browsers do a good job of scaring people into thinking they are in danger if they visit your site.