Using HTTPS as Part of Your Website to Improve SEO
Google is now encouraging websites to go HTTPS. HTTPS means HyperText Transfer Protocol over SSL (or over TLS), or maybe HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure. Let’s not get too geeky here; essentially, when your web browser uses HTTPS to communicate with a web server, the communication is encrypted. Believe it or not, even the NSA can’t read the communications if they’re intercepted.
It’s HTTPS that’s being used by ecommerce sites when you send your credit-card information to make a purchase; you’ve probably seen Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. for a URL in the browser Location bar, or a little lock icon indicating the user of HTTPS. (In fact, it isn’t all about encryption of communications, it’s also about authentication and data integrity.)
In 2014, Google launched its HTTPS Everywhere program, a program aimed at getting the entire web to go HTTPS. In other words, not just financial transactions should use HTTPS, but everything going across the web should use it. You can search for http everywhere to learn more.
However, as part of this program, Google has decided to start using whether or not a page is being delivered across an HTTPS connection as part of the ranking algorithm. Before you get worried, right now it doesn’t count for much. Here’s what Google said when it first announced this:
…we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it’s only a very lightweight signal — affecting fewer than 1% 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.”
The writing’s on the wall. Anyone beginning a new website probably should take this into consideration from the start, and owners of existing sites might want to consider adding HTTPS soon. It isn’t hugely complicated, but it’s a bit geeky.