If you’re an SEO marketer, or an SEO firm like ourselves, it’s a given that you want you clients to have the latest and greatest in Google ranking signals. As SEO changes constantly, you things you and your client want will change, no doubt. The latest hype surrounding Google search algorithms is site encryption.
That is, encrypting your sites to HTTPS, as opposed to simply HTTP. Outside of the beneficial signal it gives off to Google, going encrypted has lots of other benefits. It defends against what’s known as ‘man-in-the-middle’ attacks, and anyone visiting you encrypted site will be offered this token privacy too. (Though, be warned, for Americans this does not mean the NSA has stopped sucking up data. The reward you’re getting for encrypting your site is simply a perception-based one, not reality based.)
In SEO, calling something a ‘benefit’ is a fairly broad way of describing something. You should always be asking how beneficial something is.
Turns out, encrypting your site probably won’t have that much of a significant effect.
Google have been doing experiments of their own, and even though they admittedly give secure websites a bit of a nudge in the rankings, Google trend analysts Zined Ait Bahajji and Gary Illyes explained through their blog that the encryption signals are small. For now.
Over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it’s only a very lightweight signal—affecting fewer than 1 per cent of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content — while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.
In short, Google’s making this particular signal soft so that webmaster have time to upgrade the security of their sites and switch protocols to HTTPS.
A lot of people in the web hosting and web security are praising the move too, as they generally agree that HTTPS should really be the default on the web.
A trend you might start to see is a new swath of firms offering encrypted websites, coupled with a high site speed. Sites won’t want to be plagued by slower connection times, and rankings that are gained by using HTTPS will surely be negated as speed becomes an issue. Why might you ask does speed become an issue? HTTPS is takes longer to load than non-encrypted sites.
A lot of weight is given to the speed of your site. Encryption, in its current state, does impact performance.
Nevertheless, the whole world now understands HTTPS to be a ranking signal. You’ll most likely start to see lots of guides showing up everywhere on how to secure your site and server.