It’s been a few weeks since SEO agencies were erupting over the announcement that serving your site over a secure connection (https://) would provide a small rankings boost in search engines, specifically Google.
You may already have seen this on some websites, mainly eCommerce sites, usually in the checkout – look out for the little padlock or green symbol in the left side of the address bar.
So why did this news cause such a ruckus and what does it actually mean for your website?
Firstly, the reason why Google’s announcement caused such a stir is because it’s now one of the few hard-fact elements of the search engine’s algorithm that SEOs actually know about (or can at least categorically say came from the horse’s mouth). Google keep the ranking algorithm so secret it makes SEO largely a guessing game, especially since they tweak, change and update ranking factors on a daily basis. So, this revelation is something which can be implemented and will have surefire results – a guarantee which SEOs can rarely provide.
Nevertheless, it’s worth stressing the vague information provided around this new fangled snippet of information. The algorithm is not a simple points system and there’s so many factors at play. Nobody can really know how much a ‘small rankings boost’ will actually be – apart from Google themselves. Depending on your industry and your competition, it could be enough to see some serious gains. However, the likelihood is that it’s just another drop in the ocean alongside all the other ranking factors SEOs already have to consider.
If you’re going to make the necessary changes to your website to serve it over https:// there are a few considerations you need to take into account which could have a negative SEO effect if ignored.
It has been made clear that only specific pages which are served via https:// will receive a ranking boost, not the entire site. This is important if you already have an SSL certificate installed. For example, if you’re an existing eCommerce site, you will likely already serve your site over https:// in the checkout process but perhaps not the rest of the site. This means only the checkout process is receiving the benefit – and you probably don’t want this to rank anyway. In order to receive the full boost, the whole site must be served over https://.
Additionally, be sure to redirect your http:// site/pages to the new https:// version after implementation. Like any URL change, Google and other search engines are going to consider this a brand new page and you’ll need to transfer over any previous SEO authority to avoid seeing an initial drop in your rankings.
Similarly, as again is the case with a change of domain or URL, it’s worth going back and amending any inbound links from http:// to https:// where possible. Going forward, take note that links to your site should now contain https:// rather than http:// to get the full benefit from any link building.
Furthermore, it may be worth investing in more reputable SSL certificates, which is likely going to cost you a bit more cash but will probably provide an additional boost or benefit. Although there is no obvious evidence of this yet, we’d predict that this a reasonably obvious way for search engines to make a distinction between small businesses and big brands. We’d recommend aiming middle of the road – treat your SSL cert like buying wine for dinner, the £8-£12 supermarket bottles are certainly better than the bargain bucket and taste pretty much as good as £35 oddbins endorsed label.