Why this Update is Significant?
Google is making changes to their algorithm all the time so the addition of a new ranking factor is not that noteworthy in and of itself. (After all, it was just a couple years ago when Google announced that social signals would be taken into account for rankings.) However, this is the first time that Google has made a change that does not directly improve usability for searchers. Let me explain…
That is to say, this shift marks Google’s segue from just the most popular search engine to a position as the lead policy maker in the search space, which is huge in the world of SEO! This time Google cannot point to searcher preference and say “searchers want a certain experience so we made an update to reward sites that help to provide this” because people that are concerned about their search data and security already have safe search options. This time Google can only say “we want the web to operate a certain way, so we’re going to make that happen.”
Usually SSLs are just used to secure pages where personal information or financial information would be submitted or stored (online store checkouts, bank account portals, log-in pages and so forth). However, Google’s announcement indicates that they are using their power as the leading search engine to try to move all webpages to adopt this same security.
What Do You Need to Know about this Update?
• As soon as Google indexes your secured site you will receive the boost in real-time
• The HTTPS ranking signal is per page, not per site, which means that if some of your pages are secured and others are not, then you will not get a boost for all pages on your site, just for the ones that are secured
• You will need to do a 301 redirect from your old HTTP pages to your new HTTPS pages
• Google has said that the move to HTTPS has not caused any known security certificate errors so if your site is experiencing those, then they are likely due to an improperly configured SSL
Where Should You Go from Here?
Many site owners are waiting to see whether the supposed “boost” from moving to a secured site is worth the effort. Depending on how much of a ranking factor it is, this may not actually end up being noticeable at all. Until some larger sites have hammered out the details of how to accomplish this efficiently and discerned whether or not it is worth the trouble, you’ll probably want to hold off for now.
By Kate Pierce. Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Web Consulting for small businesses, Copywriting and Local Online Marketing. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and enjoys cooking, watching sports and spending time outdoors. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about marketing theory and SEM trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!