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Is Google Right to Warn Us Of Non-SSL Sites?


Is it fair for Google to warn visitors about sites without SSL certificates?

If you have been reading through recent internet chatter, you may have seen a particular subject doing the rounds involving Google warnings. It comes down to the news that Google will start alerting internet users if a website is not using a secure Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTPS) system.

It would appear from the comments, forums and discussion groups that not a lot of people are happy about this announcement. Comments like ‘internet police’ and ‘who do they think they are?’ are floating around the numerous blog posts and articles that have arisen on the subject.

While trying to keep an objective perspective on this development, we look at the potential fall-out from this decision;

Potential Problems

  • Non-profit sites could suffer – they aren’t selling and don’t necessarily need an SSL

If you are a non-ecommerce website, such as a charity or other non-for-profit website, then why should you need an SSL? No one needs to enter their personal information onto your website to use it so what’s the worry? However, if Google puts a warning next to your listing on the search results page, browsers are more likely to steer clear, chased off by imagined fears of viruses or hackers.

  • IPs are being used up – as SSLs require an IP, this will put more pressure on demand

According the recent figures, there are only so many IPs available and they are being gobbled up fast! Essentially, in order to buy an SSL, you need an IP to attach it to, so logic dictates that more SSLs will need more IPs. If supply and demand is already being pushed to its limits then surely Google’s warnings will push demand up even further?

  • New sites/bloggers could be penalised before they’ve had chance to establish themselves

Imagine you’re a new website designer or blogger and you’ve just spent the last 6 months working on your new website. It has just been launched and you want to concentrate on getting it up and running first. But now you have to go out and grab an SSL before you really know what to do with it.

Additionally, like the other non-profit sites, blogs could be hit hard by these warnings. New blogs need all the readers they can get to establish their PageRank and Authority, so you don’t want potential followers chased away by an unnecessary warning.

  • Is this an attempt by Google to control more websites?

With these warnings, Google will essentially be telling users which sites are ‘safe’. There’s no two ways about this. If you are looking through Google’s search results and a warning appears telling you a particular website is not secure, nine times out of ten you will leave it alone. It’s not worth the risk, right? The thing is, there may not even be a risk to take.

Are there any benefits?

  • Encourage those who need a certificate to get one

One of the benefits of the new warnings will be to ensure that websites that do need an SSL will get one. There are ecommerce websites out there that deal with private and personal information but are lax on security. Google’s warnings may give them the wake-up call they need.

  • Would deter clone/mimic websites

One of the downsides of creating an amazing website is that people will try and copy you. And we don’t mean just taking a few ideas on board – we’re talking full-on cloning of an entire website. There has been instances of websites being cloned or mimicked by unaffiliated businesses which then impacts on the rankings of the original website. An SSL certificate would give the original website authority over any clones that spring up.

The bottom line is, if Google does decide to implement this strategy, we will have to either learn to live with it or try to use it to our advantage.