Last week, Google announced that they would be starting to use HTTPS encryption as a factor for the search engine rankings algorithm. In other words, your apartment website will receive a search engine rankings boost if your website is HTTPS with an SSL certificate—and conversely, if you don't get HTTPS encryption for your website, you'll probably see your rankings slip a little.
This raised some eyebrows around the SEO community, since there are A LOT of websites that simply have no justifiable reason for creating a secure, encrypted channel for the end-user. For example, why should Google care whether apartment marketers encrypt their video tours, photography, and pet policies? For many websites, SSL is indispensable (and, if you are accepting credit cards or social security numbers through a resident portal on your website, SSL is indispensable for you there), but to require HTTPS encryption from the entire internet makes no sense to me.
It's no small irony that Google would announce this change on one of their websites that does not use HTTPS encryption.
Currently, this isn't a huge bump for your search engine rankings—so small that it should only affect 1% of all search queries. Ominously, however, Google included this in their announcement:
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.
In other words, Google is not-so-subtly insinuating that using SSL is going to become a really big deal for search engine optimization, so you might as well surrender now. Because Google controls so much of the internet, they can make silly demands like this with the force of blackmail by promising to grade websites accordingly. Google is saying jump, so I'm writing this article to help you calculate how high you need to go.
If you are a Rentping Media client, we have you covered. We are migrating every website we have to SSL for you right now. I think Google is mandating an unnecessary change, but we want to make sure you're in the best position to rank highly on the search engines, so we'll take care of everything I'm going to talk about in this article.
But if you aren't one of our clients, this article will lay out (1) what SSL is and how it works, (2) why Google is making this change, (3) what kind of SSL certificate your apartment website needs, and (4) how to make sure you don't hurt your search engine rankings in the process of transitioning over to HTTPS.
This is a complicated subject, so be forewarned—this is a longer article than most we publish.