Should I Switch From HTTP to HTTPS for SEO Reasons?

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 “see more and more webmasters adopting HTTPS.” However, the post does also state that HTTPS will be a “lightweight signal” that will affect less than 1% of global queries.

If you’ve been paying attention to HTTPS then you’ve probably already saw this coming. John Mueller, Webmaster trends analyst, stated in a Google+ post back on April 6, 2013 that he would “love to see more sites using SSL.” Matt Cutts, head of spam search, claimed during SMX West in March 2014 that he would want SSL to become a part of Google’s ranking algorithm as well. More recently, Google declared “HTTPS Everywhere.”

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. It’s used for ecommerce sites, for example, to make secure transactions. If you’ve visited you bank’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. It’s a protocol that provides secure connections for transmitting files. In other words, you don’t use SSL to encrypt a file, you’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:
  • An unencrypted domain would be:

Both HTTPS and SSL require digital certificates, which are: single domain (, multi-domain (,, or wildcard (,,,, etc.).

https ranking signal

HTTPS as a Ranking Factor

Prior to Google’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 or, were responsbile for the spike. When those were removed, SEO visibility between HTTP and HTTPS ran parallel to each other.

https vs http for SEO reasons

Searchmetrics came to the conclusion that there were “no 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.” They also believe that Google hasn’t begun using HTTPS as a ranking factor yet.



If Google is encouraging “all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web,” then you better listen – they do own 68% of the search engine market share. So, why wouldn’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 it’s needed to enhance user’s experience, then expect HTTPS to eventually play a bigger role in search ranking algorithm.

Going back to my original question; Should I switch from HTTP to HTTPS for just SEO reasons?  No, I haven’t seen any data that suggest that it helps so far.  This doesn’t mean that it won’t happen in the coming months or years.

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