securityLast week the Webmaster Central blog published a post about using “HTTPS as a Ranking Signal.” What does this mean for you and the websites you access? I’ve broken it down below.

What’s the difference between HTTP and HTTPS?

HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) is the underlying protocol used by the Web. Whether you know it or not, as soon as you open a web browser, you’re using HTTP. When you type in a URL an HTTP command is sent to the web server to retrieve the data and transmit the requested page. In short, HTTP defines how data is transmitted and determines how web browsers respond to commands.

HTTPS (Hyper Transfer Protocol Secure) is a similar communication protocol, but unlike HTTP, these commands are encrypted. For example, when you log into your bank accounts or use Facebook you’re accessing websites via HTTPS. Here HTTPS helps protect sensitive communication from being intercepted (and information stolen).

What’s is the implication of Google using HTTPS as a ranking signal?

This recent announcement means that HTTPS is one of the many factors Google is now using to determine the position of your site in their search engine results. Why? In short this indicates you are a trusted individual (or business). In order to get HTTPS working on a website you have to go through the process of buying a certificate, which means that a third party has endorsed you. This third third party trust signal is reflects positively in terms of Search Engine Optimization.

The extent to which HTTPS will factor into the ranking algorithm is still unclear. What is clear, however, is that the HTTPS ranking signal is consistent with Google’s effort to bolster internet security for all its users. As Google says, “We’re also working to make the Internet safer more broadly. A big part of that is making sure that websites people access from Google are secure.”

Does my website need HTTPS?

There’s a slight overhead associated with the SSL certificate required for encryption, but this overhead is decreasing as processors have gotten more efficient. Ultimately given the security benefits and potential SEO boost associated with HTTPS, it’s prudent to start making this transition.

I want to make the move to HTTPS, what now?

Talk to your web developers. If you’re making this change yourself, in the coming weeks, Google promises to publish detailed best practices (now located in its help center) to make TLS adoption easier, and to avoid common mistakes.

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