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Does a secure online experience impact your brand? The research and why it matters

Does a secure online experience impact your brand

Unsecure websites often equal untrustworthy brands. That’s what research conducted by London SEO Agency John Cabot has uncovered in their study on how the “not secure” label impacts user behaviour and perceptions of a website. The survey showed 1,324 people in the UK the “not secure” warning, first on generic websites across various industries, and again with recognisable brands.

Back in 2018, Google started labelling secure websites with the easily recognisable, HTTPS status. Since then, it’s been one of the factors for a faster siteand higher rankingson the SERPs (search engine results pages) which already makes it well worth the investment. It’s also an essential part of brand perception. Now, there’s a good chance you already subconsciously know and believe this, especially if you find your mind doubtful every time you come across the red “this site is not secure” message. Here we’ve listed the top findings on what exactly this research means for your brand.

Fear of your brand

The worst case scenario for any brands’ perception is that they are feared or considered a risk to deal with. This may sound extreme, but humans often tend to think the worst when faced with any sort of risk. The research showed that nearly half of users have a bad reaction with 46% of participants refusing to enter their name, password and bank details into a “not secure” website and 64% leaving immediately.

As a brand, this immediate lack of trust is sure to mean a loss of conversions and ultimately sales. It, however, gets worse, with 14% fearing their device had been exposed to a virus and 12% thought it was a fake version of a real website. That is a lot of lost customers who are unlikely to return from fear of viruses and scams.

Integrity of your brand

All brands should be constantly anticipating what your customers are thinking, and often those thoughts are skeptical, particularly the younger, more tech-savvy market, so it’s important to not give any reasons for doubt. Customer-facing brands, however, were impacted the most. In particular, estate agents and hotels were called into question for having the “not secure” message.

Why? Legitimacy and integrity seemed to be missing from these examples, with participants commonly using the words “dodgy”, “fake”, “don’t trust” and labelling them unprofessional or inexperienced. Not that there’s anything wrong with inexperience – everyone starts somewhere – but a brand shouldn’t publicly appear to be. Having HTTPs demonstrates to your customers that 1) you’re an established, professional brand and 2) you’re a brand that cares about their safety.

Strong brands survive

One brand was strong enough to overcome the brand perception impact of the study’s “not secure” warning: John Lewis. Take a moment to think about your own perceptions of John Lewis and how you’d respond if you were told their site was potentially unsafe. Would you believe it? 23% simply didn’t. 24% searched for reasons why it couldn’t possibly be the brand’s fault.

Trust. That is what John Lewis has successfully achieved with its “never knowingly undersold” promise. If you needed more convincing of John Lewis’s brand power, only 5% of participants would have left that webpage despite being warned. That’s the kind of brand you want to aspire to be. However, while John Lewis is virtually unaffected, it still does have its security certificate and HTTPS status because they know that it counts.


While, like any study, there are limitations to the results, it’s pretty clear that these opinions are shared across many people – probably even you. Being a secure, HTTPS website is essential for your brand if you want to build trust and give your customers a positive perception of who you are and what you stand for.

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