By Niki Morock
I have a love/hate relationship with Google as I think most people in the digital advertising/marketing business do. I will give the internet media giant credit, though – they do care about their users’ online security.
Not long ago, Google made it known that they will start looking at whether a website has a SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate when ranking search results. This certificate authenticates a website and encrypts any data transmitted to the website through a visitor’s interactions. The idea is to protect the user’s information from unintended prying eyes. Personally, before I fill out any online form, digitally sign my name, or make a payment or donation, I glance up to the web browser’s search bar and make sure the web page’s URL says “https,” which is the sign that your information will be encrypted.
Does the SSL guarantee that your data will never be stolen or the site will never be hacked? Not really, but it does provide an additional layer of security and make that moment that you hit the submit button much safer for you.
I recently found that a client’s digital advertisements had been rejected by Google. I looked at all the obvious factors – clear messaging, professional looking landing page that matched the ad copy, appropriate content on both, etc. I had to really look at the client’s website and Google’s advertising guidelines three times before I realized the client had missed an important step in building his website. The site was not secure, and the lead form that he wanted potential customers to submit asked for personal information. Without the SSL certificate, that information is vulnerable.
Can you run a website and advertise digitally for your organization without a SSL certificate? Yes, and if you are not asking site visitors to submit forms, donations, or payments via that website, you are probably fine running your ads on Google exchanges or the Adwords network. However, if you are doing those things, expect to be rejected by Google. Even if you’re not advertising, without the SSL certificate, your website’s search results ranking – where it lands on the list on the search results pages – will likely suffer.
There are other exchanges and networks in the world. Google doesn’t own all of them, but Google is the biggest and at this point, sets the standard. Eventually most of the others will fall in line. So, if your website is not secure, you really should consider taking that step and protecting yourself and your visitors.