When Google set out to index the entire cyberverse, even it would not have had an idea of the amount of power it would wield one day over the internet’s eventual development. Google has and will continue to do so nudged website designers in a certain direction largely by incentivizing those changes in its search engine results.
A successful example of this would be giving increased prominence to websites that are optimized for mobile in all search results from mobile devices. It ensured that Google’s users would be getting the best possible browsing experience since it showed up websites that would render well on mobile.
Another example of Google pointing the direction in which it wanted websites to go was including HTTPS as a soft ranking signal. HTTPS, also known as HTTP over Transport layer Security, is a widely used protocol for carrying out secure communication. All the data that is exchanged between the client and the server is encrypted and thus prevents anyone from eavesdropping or carrying out ‘man in the middle’ attacks.
So How Does HTTPS Affect You?
When Google first announced on August 6, 2014, that it would be including HTTPS as a ranking signal, it mentioned that this would be a low ranking signal and unlikely to cause much fluctuation in the search results. It said that this signal would affect only about 1% of the global search queries and so was not something that immediately mattered, at least from an SEO standpoint.
Since that time, though, more and more websites have adopted this change. Moz, which tracks search engine metrics closely, found that 7% of websites being returned on Google’s first page of search engine results were using the HTTPS protocol.
Immediately after the announcement, this number rose 1%, as could be expected. Now, however, different search engine analytic firms are reporting 32-50% of the results being shown as following the HTTPS protocol.
These results could mean one of two things. The first is that Google is prioritizing websites that have HTTPS built into them or the second, that Google’s nudge has pointed them in the right direction.
The second scenario seems more likely since the number of companies undertaking online transactions, internet banking or storage of data have grown exponentially in the last two years. For such websites, HTTPS is a minimum deterrent against phishing and other scams.
HTTPS May Soon Become Mandatory
With the fast-rising numbers of HTTPS compliant websites, Google may choose to strengthen the ranking signal and further increase the speed of adoption. The search giant has publicly stated in the past that it wants to help develop an internet that is more robust and secure than it is now. Even its original blog post mentioned that HTTPS could become a much large cog in the intricate SEO machinery.
For businesses that rely on being visible on Google, adopting HTTPS may no longer be an option in the near future.
As a website owner or a business owner, it would be prudent to move up to HTTPS and not wait until the move is forced on you by Google. Moving early may also help improve the search engine ranking ahead of your competitors.