Throughout the past year, Google has taken a number of initiatives to improve security across the web; one of the more recent changes may turn out to have a drastic impact on SEO practices. As part of their efforts to encourage sites to adopt secure protocols, Google has decided to give a slight preference in search results to sites that use secure URLs. However, according to the blog post announcing this change, that preference may become more important in the future.
It’s useful to understand these changes in the context of Google’s efforts to improve web security. In June 2014, the company ran a weeklong campaign called #NoHacked to help site administrators understand some of the steps they can take to avoid attacks on their sites. Later that month, two Google developers spoke at the I/O 2014 conference to make the case that all sites should utilize Transport Layer Security, the protocol that characterizes websites using https rather than http in their URLs.
In their talk “HTTPS Everywhere,” Ilya Grigorik and Pierre Far explain the advantages of using TLS protocol to secure all web pages—not just those, such as login pages, that are typically associated with heightened security. The distinction is explained in much greater detail in the video, but advantages include making it more difficult for hackers to actively attack your site to change information or steal private user data such as passwords, as well as blocking passive attacks on users who view pages on public Wi-Fi networks. Sites must be secured properly and consistently in order for the security measures outlined in the video to work.
In August 2014, Google took their campaign to encourage use of secure pages a step further by prioritizing those sites in their search results. In a blog post, analysts explained that while the current change would only affect about 1% of search results, the company would consider expanding that preference for secure websites in the future.
John Rampton of Forbes concluded that, strictly in terms of improving SEO results, it’s not yet worth switching over to https pages. However, he added that that may well change in the future, and that it’s worth watching closely to see what happens. In addition, the issues outlined in Grigorik and Far’s talk provide plenty of other reasons why improving your site’s security is a good idea.
While the process of switching your website over to secure URLs requires some upfront investment, the time and resources needed to do so may soon be well worth the trouble if Google continues to increase the importance of https pages in search results. If you’re still on the fence about switching over to a secure website, keep a close eye on Google’s actions in the coming months. If they follow through on their plans to increase the importance of site security in search results, investing in the resources needed to upgrade your site will make a huge difference in your business’ success.