As many of you know, over the last few days, a new conversation has been taking place in the SEO world regarding the announcement by Google of a new ranking signal.
It is very rare for Google to come out and actually announce one of the 200+ claimed signals that they use to decide what position your website should be in the Google index. So, we have to sit up and take note when this does happen.
Well, on the 7th of August, Google has announced that in their drive to a more secure and safe searching experience, they will now use HTTPS as a ranking signal. Although admittedly, a very light one to begin with, they do stress that this could increase with time.
What Is HTTPS: ?
When you look at your website address in your browser you will most probably see the following: http://www.yoursite.co.uk . that “http” bit stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol which is, in very basic terms, a protocol (set of rules) that defines how browsers and web servers communicate. Google now wants you to move to https://www.yoursite.co.uk where “https” is the same as http but with the added Security.
How does HTTPS: make the web more secure?
In one word, Encryption. It encrypts all data that your browser is sending to the web server so that if anyone is “listening” in between those two points, they won’t be able to make any sense of the data making your data you send (credit card info, personal details, address etc.) private.
Is that it?
Well, it seems that Google has done some cross section tests and has found that it is more likely that the site is of authority, reliable or professional when it uses https: Also, the cost/extra work associated means that that its less likely that a spammy or “churn and burn” type site will use this protocol. Taking all of that into account, it does make sense that a site with https can be considered more “trustworthy” and as Google only wants good quality sites to be displayed for its searchers, it makes sense that they will give the site a small ranking bonus.
How do I get https: for my site?
You will need to purchase an SSL certificate for the site. This can range from around £50 all the way up to £250 / year depending on the type you require. This can be bought from your web host and in most cases, they will also install it for you for a small fee. There are several types of SSL and Google does not mention if some are better than others but they do mention that it should be of the 2048-bit variety (most are these days but double check).
Should I get https: for my site?
Well this is a very difficult question to answer in this email purely because each one of our client’s has different requirements, history and external variables that may affect our decision. If we strongly believe that your site should move to https: then we will be contacting you in the next few days to discuss. Please remember that this is only a tiny signal at the moment affecting 1% of all search queries so you should not rush into any decisions just yet.
If it's a positive signal, Is there any reason NOT to do it?
Moving to HTTPS is a move that you should not take lightly. As far as search engines are concerned, when you change your http to https, it’s almost like moving to a brand new domain/address. It involves building a permanent redirect from the old url to the new one (http:// -> https://). There are also consequences that may outweigh the small positive gain you may get from this move. For example, all of the incoming links pointing to the current http version of your site will now have to go through the redirect to find your site. This has been proven to reduce some of their effectiveness and may in itself cause a drop in ranking. So in a perfect world, you will also want to try and get as many of your incoming links changed to https which is not an easy job.
There are lots of other considerations that are beyond the scope of this blog. If you do have any questions or queries regarding your own website, please feel free to contact either me anytime via email or phone. I will be more than happy to help in any way.