Last week, Google announced they have begun using HTTPS as a search engine ranking factor. This means that if you take the time to make your website secure with encryption, Google will see your site as more authoritative and relevant than if your website is not secured with encryption. Increasing your website’s authority and relevancy in the eyes of Google strengthens your chance at higher search engine rankings.
This is big news because Google is often secretive about the factors they use to determine search engine rankings. However, Google wants to see website security improve across the web, and making it widely known that HTTPS affects search engine rankings is a great way of making that happen. For the last week, this has been the talk of the SEO world. With such hyped media attention, we thought it might be good to break down the facts about this new development. Here’s what you really need to know.
What is HTTPS?
If you aren’t a web developer or IT professional, this is the best way to understand HTTPS: it helps prevent your site from being hacked. This helps protect both the website owner and website users. When a website uses HTTPS, you can be reasonably sure that it and the server on which it is hosted are safe. In the past, it was used mostly for websites that accept online payments. However, after such widespread attacks like the Heartbleed Bug, using HTTPS has become a wise option for websites in general.
You Have Time to Make the Move
In its announcement, Google said, “For now it’s only a very lightweight signal — affecting fewer than 1% of global queries.” This gives webmasters time to make the change to HTTPS. However, Google says they may increase the amount of weight this factor carries in the future. So, it’s something you want to implement, but you don’t have to panic if you don’t already have it done.
Content is Still More Important
It’s important to keep HTTPS as a ranking factor in perspective. HTTPS is one of more than 200 ranking factors. In their announcement, Google stated HTTPS as a factor carries “less weight than other signals such as high-quality content.” In fact, Google constantly stresses that producing high-quality content on your website is the most important thing you can do to optimize your site for search engine exposure. Content affects so many of the other known ranking factors, such as inbound links, social signals, and more.
You Won’t Be Directly Penalized If You Don’t Have HTTPS
It’s also important to note that, while sites using HTTPS may have an advantage, it does not mean Google is doling out penalties to sites that don’t use HTTPS. Google gave no indication that they will be sending penalty notifications via Webmaster tools for sites without HTTPS.
Google Provides a Best Practices Guide for Using HTTPS
If you plan to make the switch to HTTPS, be sure to check out Google’s best practices for doing so. After all, if Google is going to tell you how best to optimize your site for their search engine, you might as well listen.
HTTPS as a Ranking Factor is Good
This new move seems like a good idea. In theory, it promotes a more secure internet, and that’s helpful for everyone.
Have your own thoughts on Google’s move to include HTTPS as a ranking factor? Share them in the comments section!