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Inbound Marketing Blog

    Google Boosts SEO for HTTPS Sites

    Posted by Bill Faeth

    Does your website need to adapt to Google's new algorithm?


    Just when you think you’ve nailed Google’s Panda, Hummingbird and Pigeon updates and properly optimized your website content for these SEO requirements, Google has made another change.

    This time, the change comes to the security of your website.

    At its annual I/O developers’ conference in June, Google announced that it will boost site rankings for those sites with HTTPS addresses over HTTP addresses.

    HTTPS translates to Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure and is used to indicate when sites offer an additional layer of security through data encryption.

    Or, as Larry Magid put it in a Forbes.com article:

    "The simplest way to describe HTTPS is that it encrypts the data between the browser and the site, which protects the security and privacy of anything you do on that site. It’s not perfect, but it is a lot more secure than sites that don’t have that ‘s’.” 

    Why HTTPS?

    According to Google’s Webmaster Central blog, the search engine giant has been running tests recently to determine whether websites using secure encryptions perform better in its search ranking algorithms.

    The answer is, yes—they do.

    As a result, Google is bumping up the rankings of sites with HTTPS addresses. Before you panic and run to your web development team, it is likely you don’t need to overhaul your entire website immediately. Currently, this update is lightweight enough to only affect about 1 percent of global queries and does not impact SEO as much as high-quality content.

    Google is promoting "HTTPS Everywhere", a rallying cry to attempt to make the Internet more secure for all users. Eventually, it hopes all sites will make the switch from HTTP to HTTPS. But that could take years.

    Will HTTPS Affect My SEO?

    Right now, the weight placed on HTTPS sites in terms of SEO rankings is minimal. You won’t suddenly drop to the bottom of Page 5 of search results because your site is not an encrypted site.

    At this point, HTTPS is a determining factor used to boost one site over another where there are identical sites. Think of it as a tiebreaking factor, of sorts.

    Otherwise, your SEO should not suffer too dramatically if you don’t use secure data encryption.

    Should I Convert My Site to HTTPS?

    If your website collects secure information from your users, such as financial information or social media account details, offers secure search features or contains an e-commerce component, your site is likely already operating under HTTPS.

    Sites that require users to log in or password-protects any type of data should give serious thought to migrating to HTTPS to add additional secure around users’ data. Keep in mind, however, that the "s" in "security" only protects a few data elements. The HTTPS encryption essentially protects your data from being spied on, but it doesn't preclude the possibility of hacker attacks or database leaks.

    If your site primarily offers content in the form of blogs, videos, news, etc. that users do not need to create an account to access, then your site should be fine to remain on the traditional HTTP platform. Until Google revises its algorithm again to give more weight to secure sites, you should focus your SEO efforts in other ways.

    Steps to Convert to HTTPS

    If you think you need to convert your site to meet Google’s new security recommendations, you need to make sure you do it correctly. You certainly don’t want to lose the web traffic you are already receiving by making a few missteps.

    Google needs to know that you have migrated your site to HTTPS so that it can continue to track and rank your site. While it promises to publish best practices soon, Google offers these tips to make HTTPS adoption easier:

    • Decide the kind of certificate you need: single, multi-domain, or wildcard certificate

    • 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

    • Read Google’s site move article for more guidelines on how to change your website’s address

    • Allow search engines to index and crawl your site; avoid the noindex and nofollow robots meta tags whenever possible.

    Remember, the score assigned to HTTPS sites in the updated algorithm impacts so few sites right now that it may not be worth the time and resources you will have to invest in order to update your site’s security.

    Keep UX In Mind

    At this point, it is more important to focus on your website’s customer base and your overall user experience than whether or not you comply with every small change Google makes.

    If your customer base would be concerned with your site’s security, then by all means, update your site. If moving to an HTTPS platform would interrupt the way your users interact with your site on a regular basis, then consider holding off on a migration until we have more information from Google on this update.

     98 percent of visitors never return to your website, per HubSpot

     

    User experience is a crucial element to your website. In fact, HubSpot reports that 98% of visitors never return to your website. Don’t make it any harder to attract and retain visitors just to impress Google.

    So what does this mean anyway?

    These days, safety is a concern for all of us. From security breaches at major retailers to allegations of NSA spying, we are more aware of the vulnerability of our private information than ever before. This is simply Google’s attempt to make our online world safer and more secure.

    Bumping up the SEO rankings of HTTPS sites is just another example of Google wielding its power over the way we create and use the Internet.

     

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    Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

    Topics: SEO