Google recently announced that they have starting using HTTPS as a ranking signal in their search results. This comes after news they called for "HTTPS everywhere" in order to attempt to make the internet safer, at the recent Google I/O in June.
The decision to use HTTPS as a ranking signal was likely backed by Google's desire to make their services safer and more secure, this therefore having a knock-on effect for the internet as a whole.
In the past Google has taken similar steps to improve internet security by placing a strong HTTPS encryption on all of their services by default. This includes Google Drive, Gmail and Search and gives anyone using these services a secure connection to Google. They have also created guides and resources that explain how webmasters can fix and prevent security breaches on their websites. It is clear then, that security is something Google are passionate about as they move to make the websites their users access from their search engine more secure and safe.
From a test signal Google experimented with, the results were positive. This test involved looking at whether website have encrypted their pages, and therefore created secure connections. As a search signal affects Google search result rankings, Google started using HTTPS as a ranking signal.
At the moment, it isn’t a very significant signal affecting less than 1% of global queries, but this is purely so webmasters have that time to switch to HTTPS. Other signals such as high quality content currently carry more weight than HTTPS but Google have stated their desire to strengthen it over time in order to encourage website owners to start using more secure HTTPS connection.
HTTPS works by securing information via Transport Layer Security Protocol (TLS) and this provides three important layers of protection:
1. Encryption - encrypting the data that is exchanged so as to secure it from eavesdroppers. This means that while a user is browsing a website, no one can steal their information, track their activities across a number of pages or "listen" to their conversation.
2. Authentication - proving that your users communicate with the desired website. This protects against man-in-the-middle attacks and helps build user trust which translates into other business benefits.
3. Data integrity - prevents data being modified or corrupted during transfer, whether it is intentionally or otherwise, without being detected.
Getting webmasters on board with the switch to HTTPS might be a struggle for Google, but in order to help make the adoption of HTTPS easier they have given some basic tips and best practises in order to make the transition smoother and help avoid unwanted mistakes. Here are some of their basic tips to help you get started:
• Work out which kind of certificate you will need: single for a single secure origin, multi-domain for multiple well-known secure origins or wildcard for a secure origin with a number of dynamic subdomains
• Make sure you use 2048-bit key certificates
• Use relative URLs for resources that are present on the same secure domain
• Then use protocol relative URLs for every other domain
• Avoid blocking your HTTPS site from crawling by using robots.txt
• Allow the indexing of the pages on your site by search engines wherever possible; avoid the noindex robots meta tag.
With Google's desire to make their search safer, it is clear that adopting HTTPS is something that all webmasters should do, not only to protect themselves but also to help boost their rank in search results. By switching to a HTTPS connection, the benefit in search rankings webmasters will slowly increase as Google looks to steadily increase the weighting of HTTPS as a ranking signal. Switching to HTTPS is a relatively easy process, especially so with the availability of Google's own tips and best practises to ensure the transition is a smooth one, allowing your website to prosper, instead of encountering any problems.
To find out more ways to improve your websites ranking in search results or if you just want a chat give Frank a call on +44 20 7097 8906. Frank is the owner of Orchid Box, a boutique marketing agency based in London.