A recent change in Google has already begun sweeping the search results in the Chrome browser. The update has to do with website security, and it affects every business with a website.

You may not have noticed, but website URLs either begin with “HTTP” or “HTTPs.” That little “s” is making all the difference. It stands for “secure,” and it means that your site is equipped with protection against hackers and malware.

How do I know if my website is unencrypted?

This one’s easy. Visit your site, and look in the top left portion, right next to your URL. You’ll either see a bright green padlock that says secure, or a red padlock with an X through it.

If you don’t have either of those, you probably have a small black circle with the letter “i” in it. Click on that. If you’re using Chrome, it will say this:

“Your connection to this site is not secure. You should not enter any sensitive information on this site (for example, passwords or credit cards), because it could be stolen by attackers.”

The message couldn’t be much clearer than that! And if you think that’s unsettling for viewers, Google’s latest change draws even more attention to unsecured websites, while also punishing them in search results.

The SEO effect of having an unsecured website

More and more, Google has been changing the websites it displays based on their quality. Things like load speed, mobile friendliness, outbound links--they all affect how much Google likes your website.

In the past, we’ve talked about the Mobile Friendly shift, where Google punishes websites that aren’t compatible with mobile devices. We’ve written about Google’s “Fred” update, valuing websites with high quality outbound links in their content.

Today, the talk of the town is security. When it comes to SEO, having an unsecured site is beginning to make a big difference. Not only are unsecured sites being punished in search ranking, but when they do display, Chrome includes a “non-secure” message right next to their search result.

This sends an uneasy message to visitors. If they do continue into your website, they’re far less likely to fill out a contact form or inquiry. According to Google, “The goal is to more clearly display to users that HTTP provides no data security.”

What does it mean to have an unsecured website?

A secure site means that any data you enter in the site is encrypted between the server and your computer.

An unsecured site means that any information you enter is not protected and can potentially be accessed by hackers or malware.

What information is unsecured?

  • Search history within the site

  • Instant messaging or chat

  • Contact forms

  • Payment fields

As a website owner, we see it as our responsibility to ensure a safe and reliable user experience. When customers fill out our forms, we want them to know their information is protected. We’re sure most business owners would agree!

3 Reasons to update your website’s security

  1. Trust. First and foremost, you want your guests to trust that their visit will be protected and their information will be safe.

  2. SEO. Google has expressed that it will explicitly favor a secured site over a similar non secured site in search ranking.

  3. Security. Having an encrypted website is a two-way street. You’ll have peace of mind knowing your site cannot be easily breached, and you can share that confidence with all your visitors.

How can I get my website secured?

Have you had a website built by Sprout within the past few years? If so, we can secure your website for you.

If we’re hosting your site, it’s on one of two secure servers: Bluehost or A2Hosting. Each one offers an affordable solution for hosting secured websites.

Here’s what pricing looks like:

  • $75 one-time fee to encrypt your entire website

  • Less than $5 per month for hosting secure websites on Bluehost

  • Free hosting for secure sites on A2Hosting

Some websites may have unsecure links or other unexpected errors that we’ll have to navigate in order to secure your site. We’ll always contact you before tackling the additional work, but in cases like this, the fee may need adjustment.

Moving forward, all new Sprout websites will be hosted on A2Hosting, and will include free HTTPS security as a feature.

Got questions? We’ve got answers. If you’d like to know more, or if you’re ready to move forward with securing your website, give us a shout. Send us an inquiry through our (secure!) web forms, and we’ll get started on securing your site!

This security update is a special offer for our current clients only. If you’re new to Sprout and need a secure website, let’s talk! Our website design services are affordable and might be just what you need.