Google announced on its Webmaster Central Blog on August 6, 2014 that HTTPS was now being used as a ranking signal. In the blog post, Google stated that the reasons behind this move was over security and that they have begun to â€œsee more and more webmasters adopting HTTPS.â€ However, the post does also state that HTTPS will be a â€œlightweight signalâ€ that will affect less than 1% of global queries.
If youâ€™ve been paying attention to HTTPS then youâ€™ve probably already saw this coming. John Mueller, Webmaster trends analyst, stated in a Google+ post back on April 6, 2013 that he would â€œlove to see more sites using SSL.â€ Matt Cutts, head of spam search, claimed during SMX West in March 2014 that he would want SSL to become a part of Googleâ€™s ranking algorithm as well. More recently, Google declared â€œHTTPS Everywhere.â€
What is HTTPS and SSL?
Before we get any further, what exactly is HTTPS and SSL?
HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) is simply a secure version of http. Itâ€™s used for ecommerce sites, for example, to make secure transactions. If youâ€™ve visited you bankâ€™s website in either Internet Explorer or Firefox and noticed a padlock icon, then you can be rest easy knowing that the website is secure.
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Locket. Itâ€™s a protocol that provides secure connections for transmitting files. In other words, you donâ€™t use SSL to encrypt a file, youâ€™re using it to encrypt the connection. So, this is what a domain would appear with or without an encryption:
- An encrypted domain would be: https://www.domain.com/index.html.
- An unencrypted domain would be: http://www.domain.com/index.html.
Both HTTPS and SSL require digital certificates, which are: single domain (www.domain.com), multi-domain (www.domain.com, www.subdomain.domain.com, www.domain.net) or wildcard (www.domain.com, www.subdomain1.domain.com, www.subdomain2.domain.com, www.subdomain3.domain.com, etc.).
HTTPS as a Ranking Factor
Prior to Googleâ€™s announcement, Searchmetrics had already considered using HTTPS as a ranking in its 2014 Ranking Factors Study. After examining the average rankings of http and https directories, research showed that there was an increase in encrypted URLs in May/June 2013. However, it was discovered that several domains, such as play.google.com/ or games.yahoo.com/, were responsbile for the spike. When those were removed, SEO visibility between HTTP and HTTPS ran parallel to each other.
Searchmetrics came to the conclusion that there were â€œno relationships have been discernible to date from the data analyzed by us between HTTPS and rankings nor are there any differences between HTTP and HTTPS.â€ They also believe that Google hasnâ€™t begun using HTTPS as a ranking factor yet.
If Google is encouraging â€œall website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web,â€ then you better listen â€“ they do own 68% of the search engine market share. So, why wouldnâ€™t Google want to reward website owners who are listening to their advice? HTTPS may be a lightweight signal for now, but if website owners and the Big G believe itâ€™s needed to enhance userâ€™s experience, then expect HTTPS to eventually play a bigger role in search ranking algorithm.
Going back to my original question;Â Should I switch from HTTP to HTTPS for just SEO reasons? Â No, I havenâ€™t seen any data that suggest that it helps so far. Â This doesnâ€™t mean that it wonâ€™t happen in the coming months or years.
Article source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnrampton/2014/08/30/should-i-switch-from-http-to-https-for-seo-reasons/