SEO For Dentists: The Benefits Of Adding SSL

SSL For Dental Websites
The internet is specifically designed to facilitate the easy and instantaneous sharing of information across all corners of the globe. The world has never been more connected, making it easy for local businesses to connect with potential customers and clients from anywhere at any time.

With mountains of information being shared at any given moment, the security and privacy of data has become an increasing point of focus for users and businesses alike.

In an attempt to protect the security of their users, webmasters and search engines have started to place emphasis on ensuring sites have SSL certificates, indicated by a URL starting with “https” as opposed to the traditional “http.” These SSL certificates protect the user’s data as they navigate the internet.

As a dental professional trying to secure potential patients through organic search traffic to your website, it’s important to know the potential SEO benefits of acquiring an SSL certificate for your website.

What are HTTPS and SSL?

HTTPS stands for “Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure.” In short, HTTPS is a communications protocol that protects the integrity and confidentiality of data as it is transferred between a user’s internet browser and the website servers they’re connecting to. HTTPS is designed to protect the user’s data, which includes their browser history, anything filled out in a form, credit card information, or any other personal information.

HTTPS operates using the Transport Layer Security Protocol (TSL), which is commonly referred to as SSL, the predecessor to TSL. SSL and TSL encrypt information when it is transferred between servers and web browsers.

HTTPS and SSL have three crucial layers of data protection:

  • Encryption: Data is encrypted via a secret key shared only by both intended parties
  • Data integrity: Data is authenticated to ensure no data is lost or altered during transmission
  • Authentication: Proves that users are interacting with the intended website

Why Should You Care About Adding an SSL Certificate?

Safety and Security

The most obvious benefit to securing an SSL certificate for your dental practice’s website is its advertised purpose: the safety and security of your patients’ data. While you may not be performing any financial transactions or sharing any medical information online, your patients’ phone numbers, emails, or even browser histories could be intercepted by a third party without proper SSL encryption.

Increased trust

From a user perspective, they will see the trusted padlock icon that appears for sites with SSL certification. As users learn more about internet security over time, they are more likely to be willing to provide information through properly certified websites. It also shows you have a commitment to the security of their information.

SEO benefits

How do we know SSL provides an SEO benefit? Because Google says so. In a 2014 statement on their Webmaster blog, Google announced that they would be using HTTPS as a ranking signal. This means that HTTPS sites receive a rankings boost over their non-secured counterparts.

This news was somewhat surprising to SEO experts when it was announced, as Google tends to keep their ranking signals fairly private. The announcement was a clear push to encourage all webmasters to shift towards HTTPS encryption. A secure internet is better for Google’s business, users, and webmasters, so it’s a win-win scenario across the board.

Let’s be clear here though: Google uses over 200 ranking signals, and using HTTPS will only give you a minor boost, so you shouldn’t expect anything more than slight gains. HTTPS is meant to supplement traditional SEO best practices like:

  • building quality backlinks
  • writing original and fresh content
  • using proper internal linking strategies
  • keyword optimization

That being said, the potential is there for additional SEO benefits, such as an increased click-through rate if users come to trust HTTPS URLs over HTTP URLs.

You’ll also retain more referral data in Google Analytics. When referral data is passed from an HTTPS site to an HTTP site, the referral information is lost and treated as direct traffic, meaning any referrals you receive from an HTTPS site won’t be tracked if you’re still using HTTP. Upgrading to HTTPS will retain that information.

Why Doesn’t Everyone Use HTTPS?

A February 2016 study from ahrefs.com showed that approximately 60% of the 10,000 websites they tested had no HTTPS implemented whatsoever. If there are obvious benefits, why do so many sites not use HTTPS yet?

There are some risks to HTTPS. If not technically implemented correctly, there may be downsides like warning messages showing up on browsers or pages being deindexed, but experienced webmasters should be able to avoid these issues.

Given that HTTPS involves extra encrypted communication between users’ browsers and your website server, HTTPS is technically slower than HTTP. Site speed is thought to be one of Google’s SEO factors, but any properly optimized website following best practices should not be impacted negatively.

The major reason most businesses don’t secure an HTTPS URL is because of the cost. Yearly costs can range from anywhere to $0-2000, so many businesses don’t see the incentive to invest. Thankfully, there’s a solution.

The Let’s Encrypt Initiative

The Let’s Encrypt Initiative is a movement to bring free SSL certifications to small businesses. The campaign is fully automated, free of cost, and open to anyone. The campaign is administered by the Internet Security Research Group, a non-profit group based out of California that’s focused on removing both the technical and financial barriers that prevent webmasters from adhering to modern security standards. The initiative is sponsored by internet giants like Google, Facebook, Mozilla, among many others.

The Let’s Encrypt initiative issues digital certificates that enable HTTPS and SSL through a two-step process, including an initial domain validation followed by requests for certificates. The service is free and user-friendly and recommended for those looking to acquire an SSL certificate without breaking the bank.

The initiative has six main principles. Let’s Encrypt is:

  • Free: Webmasters can secure an SSL certificate free of cost
  • Automatic: No human intervention is required to issue certificates and to automatically renew them.
  • Secure: The initiative uses best TLS practices and helps webmasters secure their servers
  • Transparent: All certificate issued are publicly available
  • Open: Certificates are issued with an open standard that’s available for others to use as well
  • Cooperative: The initiative is a joint effort between the entire online community

Since the Let’s Encrypt initiative launched at the end of 2015, over 20 million active digital certificates have been issued free of cost.

Are you interested in acquiring an SSL certificate for your dental practice? Contact the DDSRank SEO experts today to discuss solutions for your business.