Google has just announced that they are now including whether a site uses SSL / HTTPS on its pages as a rankings signal – basically meaning that if your site is secure it may receive a ranking boost.
Here’s an announcment on this from Google on the 6th: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com.au/2014/08/https-as-ranking-signal.html
The reason being (or at least the theory is) that it’s safer for the user (when exchanging data as most sites and applications do these days) and Google always has the user’s experience in mind first and foremost.
Google have also said that from their testing over a number of months, sites using HTTPS tended to be more relevant to the queries searched.
What does this mean?
For those that don’t know, HTTPS is when the pages on your site (either all of them or just some) are secure / encrypted. Basically when you see the little padlock and https:// in the address bar of your browser – the page you are on is using HTTPS.
There are sites already running it across the entire site. They are usually sites that need to be secure like bank sites, shopping sites, most hosted email platforms, social media etc.
Then there are a whole lot more sites that run HTTPS on part of the site like their checkout pages, their payment systems and pages, login areas etc – basically any part of the site where sensitive information may be exchanged.
For these sites, it should be a relatively simple process to have HTTPS extended to the rest of the site. I say it “Should” be, though on some site setups it might not be so simple.
For those currently not using it at all, there may be a bit of a process in getting HTTPS setup – it’s not too difficult, but there are some technical requirements and a number steps involved.
You do have to consider a few other things like:
– Site Performance: due to the overhead on the web server involved in encrypting the data being transferred, your site speed can be affected – particularly on lower cost hosting and where it is not configured correctly.
– Usability Issues: When HTTPS and the sites running it are not set up correctly, the visitor can sometimes get error messages and even warnings in their browser and from their anti virus software and firewalls. These can scare your visitors away so make sure you test everything if you go ahead with HTTPS.
– Costs: There are some costs associated with running HTTPS like the SSL certificates, IP addresses, time to set it up, changes to your site etc. It can add up.
So Should I Do it?
I would say not just yet. As Google said themselves, it will only be affecting less than one percent of searches and the actual effects are not that strong. But I would say “watch this space”. These issues are becoming more important to the internet community as a whole and it will have a greater effect as time goes on – Google has even indicated this.
But, if you are in a trust based industry – like finance, ecommerce etc. it may be beneficial to set up HTTPS to show your users that you are taking their privacy / security seriously.
Or, if you have HTTPS already on part of your site and it’s going to be easy to extend it to the rest of the site, then go for it. Make sure the person doing it knows what they are doing and everything is being monitored – including any issues that may appear in Google Webmaster Tools.
Of course if you are just after any edge you can get in the SERPs, then you know the answer.