In Business, SEO

Before we start off explaining Googles announcement back in August we probably ought to explain what HTTPS actually is, the nerdy version is :

Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the secure version of HTTP, the protocol over which data is sent between your browser and the website that you are connected to. The ‘S’ at the end of HTTPSstands for ‘Secure’. It means all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted.

In human language that basically means that when you browse the web you’ll come across some sites which have as the web address and some, you should always see the HTTPS bit when you buy something online or do your online banking. All it really means is that all of the communications (clicks, filling in forms etc) between your browser and that website are encrypted.

Google giving HTTPS a little nudge

Google has announced that going HTTPS — adding a secure certificate to your site (i.e encrypting your site) — will give you a small ranking boost.

Google is basically trying, ever so slightly, to push website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTP to keep everyone safe on the web. This isn’t a call for you all to rush out and update your sites and purchase SSL certificates, the thing you need to install on your server (hosting) to make your URL HTTPS, it’s a very very lightweight ranking nudge within the overall algorithm. Google has stressed this carries “less weight than other signals such as high-quality content”. They did intimate that they may decide at a later date to add more weight to push people to ‘go HTTPS’ but didn’t indicate when or if that would happen.

At a recent conference Googles head of search spam and all round good guy Matt Cutts, said he’d love to make SSL a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm. It seems Google listened and just under 5 months later is starting to make it a reality.

Should you be concerned for your own SEO?

So should you be worried when switching from your HTTP to HTTPS site for SEO purposes?

Not really. There’s no downside to doing it, Google has been telling webmasters to do this for years. If you do make the leap then you’ll need to take some steps to ensure your traffic doesn’t suffer. Basically this means making sure you tell Google that you’ve moved from HTTP to HTTPS, Google has provided the following info and says it will provide more documentation in the future.

  • Decide the kind of certificate you need: single, multi-domain, or wildcard certificate
  • Use relative URLs for resources that reside on the same secure domain
  • Use 2048-bit key certificates – There’s no real reason to use anything else nowadays
  • Use relative URLs for resources that reside on the same secure domain
  • Use protocol relative URLs for all other domains
  • Check out Googles site move  article for more guidelines on how to change your website’s address or give us a call and we’ll happily talk you through it
  • 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.

Google has updated Google Webmaster Tools to better handle HTTPS sites and the reporting on them and you’ll also want to ensure you track your HTTP to HTTPS migration within Google Analytics (there are other analytics software tools out there) and within Google Webmaster Tools if you use it (and why wouldn’t you!)

Google webmaster trends Analyst John Mueller has also answered questions about this on Google+ you can view the posts and answers here (yes people still use Google+!)

If you’d like us to set up SSL (HTTPS) for your sites do let us know we’d be more than happy to help out.

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