Last August, Google hinted at changes to their search engine algorithm through a post on their Webmaster Central Blog. In the article, Google Webmaster Trends Analysts Zineb Ait Bahajji and Gary Illyes suggested that websites switch from HTTP to HTTPS encryption to better secure their sites and protect their visitors from fraud. More importantly, the analysts stated that Google will start using HTTPS as a ranking signal moving forward.
Now, more than eight months later, many website owners who chose to switch to secure connections are twiddling their thumbs as they wait for their rankings to rise. Analytics from Searchmetrics showed that there was no relationship between a site’s ranking and its HTTPS encryption. That begs the question, “Will switching to HTTPS help my site’s SEO?”
Difference Between HHTP And HTTPS
HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) is nothing more than a secure form of HTTP, the standard format for most websites online. It is most often used on retail and banking websites to ensure the security of transactions conducted on the site. You visit HTTPS sites on a regular basis without even noticing it. If you have ever seen a padlock next to the domain name of a site, you were on a secure website.
How HTTPS Influences Search Engine Ranking
In the Webmaster Central Blog post, Bahajji and Illyes called HTTPS a “lightweight ranking signal,” impacting only 1% of websites across the board. These aren’t the most encouraging statistics in the world. Chances are your site is not part of that 1% and thus will not benefit from a switch to HTTPS. Or, will it?
HTTPS may not play a vital role in Google’s algorithm right now, but that does not mean it won’t in the future. In fact, the analysts alluded to this possibility in their post, saying, “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.” Google wants you to switch in order to protect visitors on your website. It’s hard to argue with that.
Should I Switch To HTTPS?
If you’re trying to boost your search engine ranking, switching to HTTPS won’t do you much good. If you want to prepare for changes to come though, it would be wise to make the switch as soon as possible. Remember when you made funny faces as a child and your mother warned that your face would get stuck like that? We all know now that isn’t true, but that doesn’t mean that you should go around looking like a goof every day. Right now, Google is telling you to stop making funny faces and start acting like a grownup. Secure your site so your visitors won’t have to worry about their protection.
Google provides an extensive guide explaining how to switch to HTTPS, along with ways your website will benefit from the transition. Keep this in mind when you start making changes to your website so you can get on Google’s good side long before it ever takes notice of you.
Christopher Bower is a Member and Marketing Director of Detroit Internet Marketing, LLC and brings over 20 years' experience in marketing and online marketing. His education includes Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Marketing, and has been involved in both national and local marketing in Chicago, South Florida and Michigan.