When I first saw Google announcing HTTPS as a ranking signal in August 2014, I was not convinced and did not pay much attention. However, things have evolved since then and I think HTTPS is becoming a prerequisite for anyone serious about SEO.
Why Google wants you to move to HTTPS?
Google wants to make the web a more secure place, and getting site owners to encrypt communication with HTTPS is the way they are making it happen. Over the last 1-2 years, they acquired a patent to make SSL faster, added HTTPS as a ranking signal, and made a whole presentation called “HTTPS Everywhere” at Google I/O 2014. The first 10 minutes explains in simple terms why they want HTTPS everywhere:
Adding HTTPS as a ranking signal is their incentive to get site owners to make the switch. The following excerpt is from their post HTTPS as a ranking signal published in August 2014:
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 Moz Search Engine Ranking Factors 2015 study also indicates that HTTPS is still a lightweight signal.
“[…] we found that using HTTPS has a very low positive correlation”
Google’s push for HTTPS seems to be working according to SSL adoption numbers. I think they didn’t feel the need to increase the weight of this ranking factor, at least not up until now… I also think they will increase the weight of HTTPS as a ranking factor at some point in 2016. The fact that they are really vocal on Twitter about the importance of making the switch supports this assumption:
If you’re an SEO and you’re recommending against going HTTPS, you’re wrong and you should feel bad.— Gary Illyes (@methode) August 18, 2015
Why is @TheSEMPost not HTTPS? Why?! Kudos to @seroundtable for being HTTPS! — Gary Illyes (@methode) January 29, 2016
Questions about moving from HTTP to HTTPS? I posted a bunch of FAQs at https://t.co/xvdO3C1bPppic.twitter.com/oBJiDmvyBM — John Mueller (@JohnMu) February 1, 2016
Is it a Priority?
Everyone has different priorities and unique situations. But I think most site owners should have “move to HTTPS” in their priorities for 2016. Here are three things that tend to make this change more urgent:
- Most of your competitors in search are HTTPS
- You capture sensible information (email, phone, address, credit card, etc.)
- SEO is an important channel in your marketing strategy / you are serious about SEO.
For the competitors, one way you can use to gauge the urgency of moving to HTTPS is looking at the competitors you share the most positions with in SEMrush.
Isn’t it Risky?
The bigger the site, the more complex this change is, and the more risks there are. It’s no surprise many big sites did not make the move yet. A small mistake can lead in huge traffic loss, but this is nothing you can’t recover from. Proper planning, expertise and resources is highly recommended. An important thing to keep in mind is that postponing this change is also a risk. Great Resources
You’ll find below the best resources I came across to plan and make this move:
- Planning on moving to HTTPS? Here are 13 FAQs! by John Mueller
- Secure your site with HTTPS by Google
- Webmaster Forum HTTPS related threads
- Moving your website to https by Yoast
- Complete WordPress guide to migrate from HTTP to HTTPS
If you need any help making the move, feel free to contact me. If you have thoughts or experiences to share, I’d love to read them in the comments below.