Why Google Made SSL An SEO Ranking Factor?

by Ahsan Parwez  August 26, 2014

On August 6, 2014, Google suddenly announced on their official webmaster blog that they are making HTTPS a ranking signal in their algorithm. It will effect over 1% search queries globally and, as for now, it is a lightweight ranking signal, but Google’s intent is to widen its effect on the SERPs.

HTTPS Ranking Factor

The team at Google said that the decision was made to make the web more secure and to encourage webmasters to consider security as a priority.

Personally, I have a different take on all this. More on that later.

First, let’s discuss the basics and why webmasters should start using HTTPS.

What is HTTPS?

The acronym stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). It is actually a mixture of two protocols: the HTTP and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). For the uninitiated, HTTP is the tunnel through data is transferred and SSL is the security protocol which protects the data by encrypting it. (SSL is also known as Transport Layer Security (TLS).)

Together, these two protocols combine to form HTTPS that encrypts the session (or data transfer) while communicating over a network. This helps to prevent attacks, like man-in-the-middle-attacks.

Use of HTTPS is widely used in email services, private networks, social networks, and online transaction system. It is definitely a reassurance factor for you and your site’s visitors as any data entered by users will be submitted in an encrypted form over a secure network.

Why Google Made It A Ranking Factor?

The Google team says that they are trying to make internet much secure. In order to encourage webmasters to make the move, Google is giving immediate, but a minor ranking boost to those websites that have made the switch over to HTTPS.

But, I think there is more at stake here, as Google already jumped into the domain business. I can bet that Google will soon start selling SSL certificates. Those who have been in the internet marketing business—specifically SEO practitioners—know that the primary reason behind updating the Google search algorithm is to generate economic growth, while the secondary reason of the search spam team headed by Matt Cutts—who happens to be on a vacation—is to serve better SERPs.

Well, these are my two cents. However, for webmasters, it is actually beneficial to make a switch from HTTP to HTTPS.

What You Will Need To Use SSL Certificates?

First, you will need to ask your current host if they support setting up SSL certificates on the domains. Cloudways allows setting up SSL certificates on domains easily.

Cloudways SSL service

SSL Management Bar Of Cloudways Cloud Console

Then, you need to buy a suitable SSL certificate from a reputed certification authority. There are three major kinds of certificates: Single certificate (for single domain), Multi-domain certificate (for sub-domains), or a Wildcard certificate (for dynamic subdomains). Before buying the SSL certificate, understand the use of it and only buy the one that fits your need. If you are confused, Cloudways 24×7 Support Team can help you out with this.

One more important thing: Google suggests using 2048-bit key certificate to ensure high level of security. Read rest of Google’s guidelines that are available on this link.

So, Who Should Start Using SSL Certificate?

I say: Everyone!

Whether you are running a blog, a business website, an ecommerce store, or a social network, you should start using HTTPS to reap the benefits. You never know when Google shakes things up again and you don’t want your competitors overtake you just because they have SSL certificates and you don’t.

We all probably know why ecommerce stores, social networks, and web services should use SSL certificates. It is essential for such websites to keep data transfer safe and sound.

But, many might ask: Why a blogger or a business website owner should use SSL certificate?

Well, the answer is quiet simple. Your data is encrypted whenever you log on to your website. An SSL certificate prevents man-in-the-middle-attacks and therefore the risks of getting hacked are minimized.

Conclusion

If you ask me, I don’t support Google making HTTPS a ranking factor. I see it as more of business move than an initiative to make internet more secure. But, my suggestion is to PLAY IT SAFE.

Be an early adopter and use SSL certificates right away to get a ranking boost over your competitors. Honestly speaking, there is not much to lose (except a few bugs for the SSL certificate).

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About Ahsan Parwez

Ahsan is the Community Team Manager at Cloudways - A Managed Cloud Hosting Platform. He loves to solve problems and help Cloudways' clients in any aspect he can. In his free time, you can find him playing RTS PC games.

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  • What’s the query used in the screenshot above? Can’t verify that. Even apache.org isn’t HTTPS?

    • Saad Durrani

      The motive behind the post banner is to give an example of an SERP page. A warning has now been placed underneath the graphic to highlight that it does not necessarily show the real SERP scenario. This is there are no search queries inside the graphic banner.

      I hope you understand. 🙂

  • Nothing to loose? Beware check this out “Why Google’s advice on HTTPS will screw your Magento site” – http://www.elastera.com/blog/why-google-advice-on-https-will-screw-your-magento-site/

    • Quoting Myself “there is not much to lose”….
      I really appreciate your findings and tests you have performed. It shows complexity involved and damage you can cause to your site. A big thanks for the valuable share!

  • For a testing purpose i am going to give it a try. Thanks for motivating @AhsanParwez:disqus

    • My pleasure. After you are satisfied with the tests and properly installed SSL, just make sure to 301 redirect your http pages to https version and authorize your website in Google webmaster. Hopefully you will get a ranking boost as Google claims 🙂

      Don’t forget to read these HTTPS guidelines by Google: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/6073543