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August 25, 2014

HTTPS Now a Google Ranking Factor

When Matt Cutts, Google webspam fighter extraordinaire, says something, SEOs best listen. Most of the time he’s offering hints at a policy the search engine will soon adopt, and so it is with Google’s latest change in ranking factor.

On Aug. 6, Google announced that it will start using HTTPS as a ranking signal.

Only a few months before, during March’s SMX West, Cutts had hinted the company was considering a move in that direction, but he declined to speculate when the change would take place or even whether it was a viable option for Google.

Looks like the company heeded Cutts’ advice. It claims it was motivated by a desire to make the web a safer place, which is a nice idea, though a cynic might say it’s just another case of Google enforcing its will on us. Goodness knows that once the search giant makes a decision, the rest of the internet has no choice but to fall in line. Google has said that the switch to a secure domain will give sites only a small boost, and it could rise later if more sites are doing it.

So what does this new change mean for SEOs? Let’s take a look at what HTTPS is, why it’s important, and how it could impact you.

What is HTTPS?

In the simplest terms, HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP. Your site can switch to an HTTPS domain after you install an SSL certificate. When you connect to an HTTPS site, your session will be encrypted by a digital certificate.

It’s basically a way to ensure that your private stuff stays private. Online retail sites have been using HTTPS for years to keep sensitive information such as credit card numbers and addresses private. Since Internet fraud has become a huge concern, and with hackers trying to get their hands on any information that’s left unprotected on the web, using SSL connections has become understandably popular.

Google itself switched over to HTTPS for all of its searches last year. The move was unpopular among SEOs, as it meant keyword data was no longer passed along to site owners, eliminating one way to track users.

Why the HTTPS Switch is Important

Google is calling the switch a “lightweight signal” in terms of search page ranking. It says in its announcement that it could tweak its formula to put more weight on having HTTPS, but it wants to give sites more time to get their SSL certificates installed.

For now, many SEOs seem to be waiting for the other shoe to drop. Marketers reacted to the Google switch on Twitter
by suggesting that Google’s announcement was really a precursor to the search engine starting a business selling SSL certificates, since those should become very in demand following Google’s decision. They were joking, for the most part, but it’s hard not to imagine that Google has some sort of long-term plan relating to this change.

Google always has an endgame for its changes, whether it’s eliminating Google author profile pictures in search results or changing SERP displays. Perhaps the company is waiting to fully implement the next step until Cutts, who went on sabbatical this summer, returns in the fall.

Smaller sites have argued this change should not apply to them. Why does a content site like a blog need to be secure? Google says there are two main reasons: data integrity and authentication. If your server is not secure, there’s always a possibility someone could change the way your content is reaching your readers. And you want to be able to prove that you are the one actually writing the content on your page, not someone posing as you.

How HTTPS Could Impact Search Rankings

Google itself has been coy when it comes to how the switch to HTTPS could impact search rankings. It claims that it will be only a “lightweight signal” and not very significant when you look at all the other factors that go into search rankings. High-quality content, for example, will continue to be much more important than security of a site.

But the company also hinted that HTTPS could become a much more important search factor down the road. Google wants to give sites time to adopt SSL certificates. So while the company says right now it will impact about 1 percent of all searches, in coming years you can expect that to change.

So what should smart sites be doing to ensure they are properly optimized? Here are some tips you can use to get your site in line with Google’s HTTPS push:

  • Determine which type of certificate your site needs. You can choose from single, multi-domain or wildcard.
  • Make sure you pick a 2048-bit key certificate.
  • Do not block your HTTPS site from using robots.txt to crawl.
  • Let your pages be indexed by search engines when you can.
  • Use your analytics software to track the move from HTTP to HTTPS.

The Bottom Line

For now, HTTPS will not be a huge factor in search rankings, so you may think you can put off transitioning. But remember, this is Google. The company rarely makes any moves that don’t have a bigger aim down the line, and it punishes those who don’t fall in line with its vision of Internet orderliness. While you probably don’t have to jump to HTTPS the moment you read this, you’d be wise to do it in short order, if only to avoid the headache of having to do it quickly once Google inevitably decides security is a big search ranking factor.


Adrienne Erin writes twice weekly for SiteProNews about online marketing strategies that help businesses like 12 Keys Recovery succeed. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter to see more of her work or get in touch.

50 Responses to “HTTPS Now a Google Ranking Factor

    avatar Oxyzen says:

    Yes this is true that you can’t assume any movement of Google. Even you don’t know for he will punished you.

    avatar ecommerce website development says:

    Useful post. thanks for the share

    I’ve been waiting for this to happen. Google should have done this many years ago.

    avatar Michael says:

    Ridiculous! Not all websites need an SSL cert.

    avatar Sameual says:

    Thanks for the Important share..

    avatar Tom Njiri says:

    Hi Adrienne!

    Thanks for the post. It is usually said that to be forewarned is to be forearmed. For sure, as you seem to indicate, Google is upto something in the medium / long term in relation to HTTPS.

    Warmest regards

    Natural Body Supplements

    avatar seo company in India says:

    Now we should use https for ranking. Thanks for sharing. Its very useful to everyone..

    avatar jack says:

    ..and what has HTTPS to do with me looking for the best answer to my search question?

    Google has everybody by the throat and we are running after them as small puddles…
    One single private company should not have a monopoly to decide how the whole web should look and function.

    Hm… Your right bro prefixed monopoly norms they are….everyday they making changes in algorithms and other factors .

    Thanks for this useful information. I subscribed for this.

    avatar Hotels India says:

    thanks to such a great information.

    avatar Hotels India says:

    Good article.. thanks

    avatar says:

    You are unfortunately on the wrong path. There is more to this than just wanting to enforce Secure Connections over the internet at all.. It is a technical matter and the Keyword here is called SPDY. You might read into this here:
    Google and all larger Corps have already switched to this… and all modern Browsers support it.
    At the bottom line, it comes back to Speed! The faster Content can be transferred from a Server to the end-user, the better your surfing experience.
    So. Just to summarize: SSL Certs are just one piece in the puzzle to new technologies that speed up the net, and google is hell doing well to try to enforce this (and btw I am not a huge fan of google) 🙂

    avatar jerome says:

    Nice one..Thanks for sharing this….

    avatar oxyzen says:

    Thanks the great informative post.

    avatar Life Coach says:

    Clear Explanation About Https..Thanks

    avatar Praveen says:

    May be this is because Google has started their own Domain central another marketing trick like algorithm updates targeting paid advertisements.

    hey adriene
    i am a bit worried though i don’t have any more bucks to spend on https is there anyway i canget it free 😛 well can it effect our traffic

    avatar James says:

    Well, I believe so far there is no evidence that HTTPS affects rankings. Also, I have read on some forums that HTTPS may add only upto 1% to 2% in rankings, which may be insignificant for many websites. Please keep posting thank you

    Thanks for the Important share..

    Google has been trending towards a completely paid search engine for a long time. They have made it very difficult to get a listing outside your local area. They have all but forced people who want to promote themselves outside that area to buy AdWords. Now they are forcing people to spend a lot more on a website than what should be necessary. Where are all the small businesses going to get the money to do so? Google, please cut the crap!

    avatar steve says:

    Thanks for sharing this article.Great work!

    avatar Buka Info says:

    thank you so much for sharing, this was before it became apparent that HTTPS be one of the significant factors for SEO should we always adopting from the above, the most likely cause for HTTPS definitely google for the future will be another talk.

    avatar Ferry says:

    The transition will be https and http arthritis which is nice in the SEO world would need to be known and understood too well by the online business is also

    Hello there,
    Thanks for sharing this info. I think Google will start a SSL service providing service world wide at lowest cost. That’s why they’ve implemented this Algorithm.


    avatar Tom says:

    HTTPS requires a dedicated IP number. There aren’t enough IP numbers already … this will make the shortage even worse!

    avatar says:

    @Tom -> not true.
    There’s no such thing as “SSL certificate”. The term is misleading. X.509 certificates can be issued for different purposes (as defined by their Key Usage and Extended Key Usage “properties”), in particular for securing SSL/TLS sessions.

    Certificates don’t require anything in regards to sockets, addresses and ports as certificates are pure data.

    avatar says:

    For anyone interested.. there is a big sale on SSLs going on…
    As cheap as USD 5 per year… so something for everyone’s budget!
    No need to wait for “Google” to supply SSLs… LoL

    avatar Jordan says:

    I think we must follow up the Google guidelines either if it is HTTPS or some thing else.

    HTTPS is much beneficial in terms of our website security as well as Google search ranking.

    we must implement it and test security level and configuration with the Qualys Lab tool

    Not surprised by this, Google Domains just came out so naturally they will begin selling SSLs. It complicates things for me since I now have to explain to clients what an SSL is and why they need it for their 4 page website. I am reluctant to not make the change since being penalized or seeing my rankings drop could undue months of work. I hope this remains a light signal.

    avatar Laura says:

    How will this affect getting found? If we are suddenly adding the s, think of all the places our website is listed. Will it recognize it, if it suddenly has an S?

    avatar FindurLaptop says:

    Google got power to force conditions, It may be public interest or self but it is true that we have to follow them, at least in the current circumstances.

    avatar Portal says:

    Thanks for sharing this informations and knowledge like this

    avatar vKonnect says:

    Well said by Author. We will be on HTTPS. We buy SSL certificate now, And protect our social media management tool website to secure. Thanks for the sharing.

    avatar Scriptor says:

    When you think about it, what looks better in the search results and which site would you rather go to – http or https?

    I would go to https where it is safe, secure and warm.

    avatar Hindu Girls says:

    its really helpful and great about google ranking. appreciated

    avatar Michael London says:

    Thanks for the heads up – another factor to consider!

    Our page is on the cloud and getting a domain specific https is impossible on our platform we have to share their wildcard which is no good as their is a domain mismatch. Will have to move at some point

    The subject matter of HTTPS is never new to the World Wide Web. Now that Google is making it a ranking factor, the onus lie on the web owners to move gradually before the search giant will descend upon no compliance after the grace period has lapsed. Security is a great concern on the net and a great way to authenticate data is through SSL.

    avatar SmithLopez says:


    Really very informative post. I agree with your views.

    Thanks for sharing

    avatar Lakshman says:

    Thanks for sharing awesome article on Google Ranking factor. I am sure it is going to help us in SEO.

    avatar sai says:

    Google has started their own Domain central another marketing trick like algorithm updates targeting , make it useful for us.

    avatar Nazia Rani says:

    great stuff, i really lit sitepronews and i am going to share with my friends. appreciated

    avatar pravallika says:

    Google has started their own Domain central another marketing trick like algorithm updates targeting , make it useful for us.

    avatar Life Coaching says:

    I am a life coach trainer. Now I am learning sarch engine techniques and this “https now google ranking factor” was useful to me.

    avatar PCNTECH says:

    Hello i started using https ssl for my site now. but after some days my keyword ranking started going down. i used correct 301 redirect from http to https still keyword not getting ranking …

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