Can HTTPS Improve Search Engine Placement?

A picture of an HTTPS URL

Ask any SEO-savvy person what affects a website’s ranking on Google, and they’ll tell you hundreds of factors go into it. And hey, with so many different factors influencing your site’s search engine ranking, why not add one more? Forget keywords (if you haven’t already!), the latest ranking signal is all about site security or, more specifically, Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS).

What Is HTTPS?

HTTPS is simply a secure version of good ol’ Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP). HTTPS allows for secure ecommerce transactions, such as when you buy something off of amazon or do any online banking. When you are connected to a website via HTTPS, the website helpfully encrypts your session with a digital certificate. You’ll also notice the site’s URL begins with https:// instead of http://.

In August 2014, Google announced on its Webmaster Central Blog that they are in fact “starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal [but] for now it’s only a lightweight signal — affecting fewer than 1% of global queries.”

Obviously, the more secure a site seems to users and is according to Google’s standards, the more credible it is deemed. The more credible a site is deemed, the more users visit it for information, and the more users visit the site for information, the higher it will rank in Google or any search engine.

High-quality content still tops the list as one of the strongest ranking factors, but that doesn’t mean that this most recent signal won’t continue to gain strength. As more and more webmasters switch to HTTPS sites, the more likely it is to positively affect search engine ranking.

Unfortunately, the transition from an HTTP to HTTPS site could prove problematic for webmasters in many ways. While the change may not be very difficult for smaller, newer sites, it will definitely require “a lot of reconfiguration and testing” for larger, older sites. Another concern is that migrating site URLs may cause a temporary decrease in rankings unless redirects are successfully implemented.

Should you find yourself wanting or needing to make the transition from HTTP to HTTPS, Google has offered the following tips to help prevent a nose dive in website traffic and your search engine ranking:

  • Decide the kind of certificate you need: single, multi-domain, or wildcard certificate
  • Use 2048-bit key certificates
  • Use relative URLs for resources that reside on the same secure domain
  • Use protocol relative URLs for all other domains
  • Check out our site move article for more guidelines on how to change your website’s address
  • Don’t block your HTTPS site from crawling using robots.txt
  • Allow indexing of your pages by search engines where possible. Avoid the noindex robots meta tag

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t worry, the SEO and development teams at Signet Interactive are ready to help improve the search engine placement of your website. Contact us today!

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