It has been three years since Google officially acknowledged the HTTPS protocol as a ranking signal. To recap slightly on the differences between HTTP and HTTPS: HTTP is a standard protocol used when accessing websites. On the other hand, HTTPS is the secure protocol for sending/receiving data over the Internet by encrypting in SSL and sharing a key with the destination server that is difficult to hack.
Here’s the announcement that was put out by Google with regards to the change:
“We’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now, it’s only a very lightweight signal, affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals, such as high-quality content.”
Although the bearing of HTTPS on rankings was not significant, Google promised that they would strengthen this in order to keep everyone safe on the Web in due time. In 2016, Moz released a study that revealed that HTTPS has accounted for 30% of Google search results.
Shift to HTTPS and Be Protected
Google has been pushing website owners to shift to HTTPS in order to for them to be protected against security threats. HTTPS provides three key layers of protection:
- Encryption — encrypting the exchanged data to keep it secure from eavesdroppers. That means that while the user is browsing a website, nobody can “listen” to their conversations, track their activities across multiple pages, or steal their information.
- Data integrity — ensures data cannot be modified or corrupted during transfer, intentionally or otherwise, without being detected.
- Authentication — proves that your users are communicating with the intended website. It protects against man-in-the-middle attacks (an attack where the attacker secretly relays and possibly alters the communication between two parties who believe they are directly communicating with each other) and builds user trust, which translates into other business benefits.
Visitors will benefit from this because they are able to verify that you are a registered business and that you own the domain. As such, they’ll be able to rest assured that information like their credit card numbers are encrypted and cannot be intercepted by others.
Divided Views on Shifting to HTTPS
Some webmasters, however, have resisted shifting to HTTPS. And here are the reasons why:
- Using HTTPS for a web request will always be slower than using HTTP.
- The additional cost associated with purchasing an SSL license.
- It requires tedious work and expertise migrating from HTTP to HTTPS.
Three Years On From HTTPS as a Ranking Signal: Where Are We Now?
A few days ago, in fulfilment of the previous announcement, Google sent out emails to users managing HTTP websites through the Search Console.
“Starting October 2017, Chrome (version 62) will show a “NOT SECURE” warning when users enter text in a form on an HTTP page, and for all HTTP pages in Incognito mode.”
This email clearly implies that Google is now requiring HTTPS.
Even before the announcement, there’s been a noticeable increase in the number HTTPS websites showing on page 1. Most-used websites such as Facebook, Wikipedia, LinkedIn and eBay are also using HTTPS.
Right now, it’s unclear how extensive the negative impact of using HTTP will be a website’s search visibility. But we’re sure that the use of HTTPS has become the standard in order to protect privacy and security of information, which is a good thing. This is why we don’t see any reason to delay the use of HTTPS.