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HTTPS: Could This Be The SEO Boost Your Site Needs?

This post is brought to you by my mid-afternoon boost, a lukewarm, extra-large, medium-roast coffee. So before my heart palpitations hit overdrive, let me rip into a tantalizing SEO tidbit that could help boost your website’s rank on Google. Recently, Google announced a new ranking signal: HTTPS.

What is HTTPS, exactly?

It stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol with a Secure Sockets Layer – essentially, it’s  a technology protocol with safe Internet transactions in mind. Check below. Does this look familiar?

Think of HTTPS like a heavy metal shield against spammers and system compromises. It’s what makes online banking and shopping more secure. Spammy stuff has a much harder time getting past HTTPS, and that’s why Google incentivizing getting on board with making the switch from HTTP (no special security layer) to HTTPS.

To quote Google Webmaster Central blog authors Zineb Ait Bahajji and Gary Illyes: “Security is a top priority for Google. We invest a lot in making sure that our services use industry-leading security, like strong HTTPS encryption by default.”

Google pushing for HTTPS

So while Google products such as Search, Gmail and Google Drive are HTTPS encrypted, Google sees this as just the beginning. Ultimately, they’re calling for “HTTPS everywhere”. Every site, no matter what kind: E-commerce, brand brochure-style, portfolio, whatever! And in return for adopting HTTPS, Google is ready to reward webmasters with this “lightweight signal” – a boost that’s initially effected search results in a very small way.

So if it’s not a major ranking signal, is it important? We say yes: HTTPS builds trust. It tells both Google’s indexing bots and your customers that your site is legitimate and takes security seriously. Google generally gives priority to trustworthy websites in organic search results (just look how well major trusted brands rank compared to third-party sellers).

By starting as a lightweight signal and increasing the importance of HTTPS over time, Google is giving website owners enough time to convert from HTTP. This is a ranking factor with loads of potential.

And I quote:

…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.”

Here are two more reasons to adopt HTTPS, as noted in the comment section of a Google+ post from the Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller:

Data integrity: There are all kinds of weird and not-so-wonderful ways hackers can manipulate your site information so users receive your website in a way you did not intend. HTTPS is a safeguard against making your site vulnerable to these threats.

Authentication: Trust is the ultimate gateway to getting what you want from prospects online – whether it’s e-sales, an email address, or a product/service inquiry. Adopting HTTPS is a way to ensure users that your site is legitimate; the real deal, some might say.

So even if your site doesn’t experience a rank boost right away in Google organic search results, there are still worthwhile benefits to making the switch to HTTPS today.

How to adopt HTTPS for your website

Ready to go the way of HTTPS? Start with a phone call to your web hosting provider to assess the kind of certificate you need to make the move. Your hosting provider should be able to take you through the steps to ensure HTTPS adoption runs smoothly.

Photo credit to Flickr Creative Commons user Sean MacEntee. Photo title: “https://”. View image and license here

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