How to get a free SSL certificate and rank higher with Google

How to get a free SSL certificate and rank higher with Google[ 3 min read ]

Google announced in 2014 that it would start to rank sites with HTTPs higher than those without but it’s only recently that people are sitting up and taking notice – and, now Google have started sending emails to those registered with Webmaster tools who don’t have secure sites.

HTTPs is the little padlock in your browser that tells the user (and Google) that the site is secure and encrypted. Read more about the ins and outs of HTTPs (or sometimes referred to as SSL) in our previous blog: Why HTTPS is going to help your Google ranking.
If your website is an ecommerce website, it’s probably better to buy an SSL certificate with adequate encryption – especially if you’re not using a payment gateway like Paypal which handles part of the transaction. But, if your site is a brochure or blog site then consider getting yourself a FREE SSL certificate and give your website a boost in the Google ranking battle.

Option one for a FREE SSL is a CDN (content delivery network)

A CDN is a way of spreading the load of your website by caching (keeping a copy of) the website page on a multitude of servers worldwide. When you visit a page on a website with CDN, it will find the nearest server to you with a cached copy which means that the page will be quicker to load for the visitor. It also helps with high traffic ‘bursts’.
The most popular CDN is called Cloudflare and one of the reasons it is popular is that the free subscription also offers a free SSL ‘flexible’ certificate.
It’s relatively easy to setup, Cloudflare will talk you through their steps, and can be scaled to a Premium account if you need to. However, it does need you to change nameservers on your domain and a couple of extra plugins when using it with WordPress.

How does Cloudflare SSLs work

Option two for a FREE SSL is Let’s Encrypt

Let’s Encrypt is a relatively new option but is now being rolled out by a variety of hosting providers (some use Cloudflare instead). It is by the non-profit Internet Security Research Group (ISRG) and they don’t charge, however, you can make a donation to them to help their cause if you want to.
Let’s Encrypt is a lot easier to set up, without the need of changing nameservers but does need one extra plugin when using it WordPress. However, it is just the SSL part – you don’t get any of the benefits of Cloudflare.

SSL from Let's Encrypt

How to choose an SSL for HTTPs

  1.  Think about the type of encryption you need  – will a free certificate secure your data to the right level?
  2. See what your hosting provider offers – if they already support one type, consider using their preferred option – they may even install it all for you free of charge.
  3.  Think about ease of setting up. If you’re not technically minded, the Let’s Encrypt option is probably the better route as it only needs one extra plugin for WordPress users and there’s no setting up of that plugin whereas the Cloudflare option is a little more complicated.
  4. If you’re still not sure, get in touch with The Smart Bear! We’ll help you decide and we can even install it for you. Our prices start from £10 which is a one off fee and not a yearly cost.

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Suzi Smart Bear

I'm Suzi - the owner of The Smart Bear.

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