As the digital age evolves, and technology becomes more influential, security becomes a top priority for users. Exploring the web safely is top of mind for a lot people, especially as they become accustomed to sharing sensitive information. Google understands this need and how it applies to users who depend on natural search listings to find information online. That is why in August of 2014, Google announced that it would be adding site encryption status as a SEO ranking signal to its complex algorithm. This means that it would favor HTTPS sites over their HTTP counterparts.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. 2014? That’s like a million years ago in digital years. Why is this relevant? Well, like most things that involve SEO, results tend to take time to fully make an impact on rankings. This algorithm update was no different.
Since the initial announcement, industry resources have been analyzing the strength of the HTTPS ranking signal and have found that it has had an incremental impact on search results each year. Moz.com recently announced that of the 100,000 keywords they track, 50% of their first page rankings belong to HTTPS sites. This is solid evidence of Google preference for encrypted sites.
What is HTTPS?
Short for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure; HTTPS is a way for webmasters to make the data transfer process more secure. It encrypts the information that is being passed back and forth from users, which prevents third parties from accessing it. This level of protection can create a safer browsing environment for users and provide them with the confidence they need to fully engage with a site’s functionality, while sharing information.
Why Do Brands Use It?
HTTPS is used by brands to protect sensitive information during the data transfer process. It preserves the anonymity of anyone who is trying to research information about indications or treatments. It also makes sites more secure, and less likely to be hacked by unauthorized users.
How Does It Impact Search?
Upgrading your site to HTTPS encryption can expand the effectiveness of your SEO campaign and could mean new traffic opportunities through improved keyword rankings. By securing your site, you are increasing your chances of outranking competitors who are still using HTTP. This will give you the opportunity to connect with your audience and familiarize them with your brand before anyone else.
Although it’s difficult to forecast the exact impact HTTPS conversion can have on your site’s SEO performance, this algorithm update creates an advantage for webmasters who are looking to increase their site traffic and provide a safer environment for users to learn more about the products they offer.
Pros and Cons of Converting Your Site to HTTPS
- Speculated SEO ranking improvement
- HTTPS sites protect user information
- Sites that feature HTTPS encryption are less prone to hacking efforts
- Browsers (like Chrome) play into generating user confidence while browsing through notifications that clearly communicate when a site is not encrypted
- SSL Certifications needed to operate HTTPS cost money
- Moving from an HTTPS site to HTTP site while browsing could cause user complication
- Can create proxy caching issues which can sometimes require an additional investment of resources
- Might require additional investment of resources to meet mobile compliance
Recommendations for Clients
Our recommendation to clients is that if your site currently does not feature HTTPS encryption, it should. Google tends to be very secretive about their algorithm, especially when it comes to variables that can impact SEO. It’s rare that Google provides this type of insight on something that can impact natural search rankings. By sharing this type of information in a public announcement, they are making a statement that they value user privacy and prefer to direct users to sites that take security seriously.
“In 2016, 2 different Google representatives, Maile Ohye in a joint BrightEdge webinar “A View from Google” called HTTPS a “requirement” and Thao Tran speaking on the main stage at Share16 in October said “HTTPS and making sure your site is secure is an imperative at this point… Google will start marking things non-secure…The future of the web is a secure one, and so make sure people in your organization understand HTTPS, and it should be on the road map” for 2017.”
– Full Article by Erik Newton (BrightEdge)
Protect your users, secure your site and while you’re at it, boost your SEO. Make the change to HTTPS!