Earlier this year, Google announced that it would be calling for “HTTPS everywhere.” In everyday-speak, HTTPS refers to a domain that operates with a stronger encryption code — i.e. is more secure with the information it transmits — than standard HTTP sites. So, by calling for HTTPS everywhere, Google was issuing a call to webmasters to begin adopting this formats. This call is in line with Google’s never ending quest to provide its users with the highest quality results possible.
Last week, Google adjusted its ranking algorithm to give more favor to sites using HTTPS. What does this mean for your site? If you already have a site running on an HTTPS domain, then you’ve been ahead of the game all along, and you will probably notice in the coming weeks a small but measurable boost in your search rankings.
Not already on HTTPS? Here are a few things you should know:
#1: Having HTTPS Can Benefit Your Site’s SEO
Again, Google’s algorithm will begin boosting sites’ rankings when that site runs on an HTTPS domain. Google’s Webmaster blog explains why this is the case pretty clearly:
Beyond our own stuff (all of Google’s own domains already use HTTPS), we’re also working to make the Internet safer more broadly. A big part of that is making sure that websites people access from Google are secure…
As a result, whether or not a site’s domain is HTTPS has been initiated as a signal that Google reads in order to determine its rank. More secure, in Google’s eyes, means higher quality, which means better user experience.
If part of your site is run on HTTPS (like payment pages or others where users input personal information), this new change might boost those pages’ SEO but not other, standard HTTP pages on your site. Because the signal is read on a URL-by-URL basis (as opposed to a site-wide or domain basis), you can test out switching from HTTP to HTTPS and see if the resulting boost is worth the effort to switch over the whole site.
#2: NOT Having HTTPS Will Not Kill Your Site’s SEO… Yet
Despite Google’s new-found favor toward HTTPS, the fact remains that making the switch could result in atemporary dip in search rankings. This is because changing a domain from HTTP to HTTPS means Google will have to re-index your site — or, at least all of the pages on which you decide to implement HTTPS (again, it does not have to be your entire domain).
BUT… Google itself admits that the boost a newly HTTPS site will see is relatively minimal right now, having as little as a 1% impact:
For now it is only a very lightweight signal — affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals, such as high-quality content.
That said, in the very same blog post (in the same paragraph even) they say:
But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS, to keep everyone safe on the web.
Of course, Google has not specified any particular time-table regarding when it will really start to boost the strength of the HTTPS signal for a site’s SEO.
#3: Content is Still King
Google has been very careful to make sure SEO’s main focus remains on high quality content that matches precisely what a user is looking for. Here’s more, in Google’s own words:
The key to creating a great website is to create the best possible experience for your audience with original and high quality content. If people find your site useful and unique, they may come back again or link to your content on their own websites. This can help attract more people to your site over time.
#4: The “Right Answer” is Different for Every Site
Some sites — perhaps like yours — is already doing well with an HTTPS across its entire domain. You rock! And, in this case, you really don’t need to take any action here.
Let’s say, though, you are running an HTTP site. Go speak with your webmaster or SEO consultant. Google has offered these preliminary questions to consider (with the promise of more to come). Don’t worry, your webmaster/SEO will understand the jargon:
- Decide the kind of certificate you need: single, multi-domain, or wildcard
- Use 2048-bit key certificates
- Use relative URLs for resources that reside on the same secure domain
- Use protocol relative URLs for all other domains
- Check out our Site move article for more guidelines on how to change your website’s address
- Don’t block your HTTPS site from crawling using robots.txt
- Allow indexing of your pages by search engines where possible. Avoid the noindex robots metatag
Hat tip to Barry Scwartz at Search Engine Land for his great read on this topic.
webFEAT complete is fully capable of assisting with HTTPS/SSL. Our Hosting/Technical team are experts in this area.