Google Announce HTTPS as New Ranking Signal
August 19, 2014
The general theory is that there are currently more than 200 signals that Google looks for from a website to determine its ranking. Some of these are well known, such as quality content and natural backlinks, however the majority are kept under wraps. After all, Google doesn’t want to be giving away all of its secrets.
So when the company comes out and tells us that something is going to become an increasingly influential ranking signal, it’s a good idea to sit up and take note.
Webmaster Trends Analyst Pierre Far came out and claimed that the company “want(s) to convince you that all communications should be secure by default,” and it seems that they are making good on that promise by making HTTPS an official ranking signal for the Google search algorithm.
What this means is essentially that sites that use HTTPS instead of HTTP should be given priority over websites that don’t, all other ranking factors being equal. Of course, in practice it is never quite as simple as that (200 ranking factors after all), but if Google are providing webmasters with a method of improving their websites that is approved by them it would be foolish not to attempt to benefit from it.
Part of Google’s announcement, taken from Search Engine Watch, read:
“Over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it’s only a very lightweight signal — affecting fewer than 1% of global queries and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content — while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. 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.”
As mentioned, the signal is considered lightweight, so in all likelihood it won’t affect your search results. Yet.
If Google continue to see the factor as important, its strength in the algorithm will also only increase. This is supported by Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller, who continued to urge users to convert to the format even if they have informational or content sites that wouldn’t traditionally use HTTPS.
“Some webmasters say they have “just a content site,” like a blog, and that doesn’t need to be secured. That misses out two immediate benefits you get as a site owner:
1. Data integrity: only by serving securely can you guarantee that someone is not altering how your content is received by your users. How many times have you accessed a site on an open network or from a hotel and got unexpected ads? This is a very visible manifestation of the issue, but it can be much more subtle.
2. Authentication: How can users trust that the site is really the one it says it is? Imagine you’re a content site that gives financial or medical advice. If I operated such a site, I’d really want to tell my readers that the advice they’re reading is genuinely mine and not someone else pretending to be me.
On top of these, your users get obvious (and not-so-obvious) benefits.”
So what does this mean for the average site owner? Well, in-short, there is the possibility that you could gain a small bit of ground on your competitors should you choose to implement HTTPS on your website. This applies even if your site doesn’t sell any products online or doesn’t offer anything that would traditionally call for a secure version of the site.
Google is also offering help to people who may be a little bit stuck when it comes to converting the format of their site to the more secure HTTPS. Their information can get you started but in many cases it may be best to talk to an experienced developer, such as Pear Digital, to discuss how best to carry out the conversion.