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Mediavine SSL Ads: Should You Go Secure?

For nearly two years, Mediavine has supported SSL ads, but has never encouraged publishers run them.

In fact, our company stance was to gently discourage a blogger from going full site SSL if they were primarily a content site, and not actively collecting sensitive information that would require a secure connection (like selling something that needed to collect credit card information).

Why?

When you run an SSL site, all resources on a site must be SSL compatible and that includes the advertisements. When you run our script wrapper securely, only secure ads are eligible to serve.

With a decrease in available advertisements, there’s less competition for your ad spots. Less competitions ultimately means lower CPMs. We saw results as drastic as a 10-30% lower, when we first began supporting SSL.

Because this is just as important for our own sites as it is our publishers, we’re constantly researching and looking for ways to evolve with the blogging industry, not just advertising.

Mediavine is also a numbers company.

Luckily, we’ve had many publishers over the years that decided SSL was more important than ad income, and have gone SSL. Using that small percentage of the network, we were able to run studies to compare how the SSL sites fair against the non-SSL sites.

The Good News

The industry is evolving.

As of this past month, we’ve found that although SSL sites have fill rates that are on average 5% lower than that of regular http sites, their eCPMs end up being higher. Why? Because that last 5% of filled impressions are at the bottom end of performance.

It’s the ads that would have had lower CPMs, that weren’t SSL compatible, (and probably not great quality visually), that ultimately don’t fill for an SSL site. 5% less fill ends up translating to a much lower income loss than we expected – closer to 2-3% loss in revenue.

At a 2-3% loss in revenue, we ultimately have decided to change our stance as a company. Especially given the potential benefits a site can receive for being SSL.

We are no longer going to discourage SSL. And as a commitment to what we see as the future of all sites being better, we’re moving our own sites over.

We’re proud to say that The Hollywood Gossip is now fully HTTPS SSL compatible.

What are the benefits?

The question becomes, what are the benefits of going SSL if there’s a revenue drop. Why did we, and why should you, go SSL?

1. SEO. The big reasons most of our publishers are eager to adopt this. SSL gives you a small SEO boost. Although Google is quite clear to not expect to see a change in results as it only impacts 1% of search results, we’re suckers for Google over here. Mediavine started as an SEO company nearly 14 years ago, and it’s what drives The Hollywood Gossip. Eventually we’ll all have to appease our Google overlords.

2. HTTP/2. In the past SSL actually meant a slower website because of the computational overhead of encrypting and decrypting. Now? The new standard of the web, or HTTP/2, is only supported by most modern browsers if you run over SSL. That means for the first time, SSL sites are actually faster than insecure sites. We won’t go over the technical details of HTTP/2, but it means that your site, its images, JavaScript and stylesheets will all load faster if your CDN or server supports HTTP/2. Ours (Fastly) does.

3. Push notifications. Just like when Facebook sends you alerts when you get a new comment, you can send up your website to send out web push notifications. However, if you’re going to do so without the use of a hack – you’re going to need SSL. We recently launched these at The Hollywood Gossip and was definitely part of the decision to go SSL. We’re hoping that between the SEO boost and push notifications, we might be able to make up for the small drop in revenue.

4. AMP. We also recently launched AMP on The Hollywood Gossip and to be fully AMP compliant, all resources served on your AMP page already had to be SSL compatible. Although the pages themselves did not have to be SSL, once we were making the changes for AMP, the cost of the SSL certificate was already paid for, and the technical work was done. It seems like a natural fit to make the entire AMP page SSL, once ads being served on AMP pages were already taking the SSL hit.

5. Security. Although it doesn’t seem that important to a content website that collects no user information, SSL definitely makes your dashboard or admin more secure.

Conclusion

So should you go SSL?

Ultimately, you still have to make the decision if it’s right for your site. In addition to the revenue drop, there’s a lot of technical work that will need to be done to go SSL. We’ll be helping our publishers where we can, if they want to make the move.

What do you think about the move to SSL?

4 thoughts on “Mediavine SSL Ads: Should You Go Secure?”

  1. Pamela says:

    I did move to SSL for a brief time but it broke all my links to my PINS of my blog posts to Pinterest. To make the move again I would need to know how to make sure the Pins still work as I have TONS.

    1. Amber Bracegirdle says:

      Hey Pamela,
      When you moved, did you make sure to put a redirect in place at the server level for redirecting all http traffic to the https version of your site? As far as we can figure, that’s the only thing that would have broken your pins.
      Amber

  2. Dian says:

    You can contact Pinterest and they can make the links work. At least they did for me when I moved my site from one domain to another.

  3. Sarah says:

    I went SSL because my Chromebook never allows me into unprotected websites which drives me bonkers! I didn’t want my readers to experience this. Luckily most of my ads are SSL compatible!

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