Google’s Preference for Security & Privacy
Last week Google announced they modified their process of crawling web pages to give preference to those pages which are more secure and private. This HTTPS indexing default is one more way the search engine is encouraging Webmasters to provide a better and safer browsing experience. Let’s take a look — using an SEO lens — at this security protocol and see if it makes sense for your business.
SEO Ranking Boost
In 2014 Google acknowledged they give a slight organic ranking boost to those website using an HTTPS URL. There are many factors (about 200 or so) that affect SEO. As a Webmaster you really only have control over a couple technical signals like site speed, site security, mobile responsiveness. In December 17 Webmaster Central article, Google makes it clear they want a more secure web and a better browsing experience. Pages that utilize security protocols will get what they call “indexing HTTPS pages by default.”
Ok, so what does all this mean? Google’s systems prefer to show users HTTPS pages in search results. It decreases the risk of a visitor making themselves vulnerable to content injection attacks and other sketchy problems with unsecure websites. OK, so your website is supposed to be rewarded in search if you go the extra step in website security.
And according to several respected SEO industry sources, this ranking boost is small. However, given that the Web is becoming a scary place with malware and injection attacks, Google may increase the importance of this ranking signal. Even so, be realistic with your expectations. You’re SERP placement will most likely not pop from the bottom of page 11 to middle of page 1. When using White Hat SEO techniques keep this mantra in mind: slow and steady wins the race.
Is HTTPS Indexing Relevant For Your Business?
The HTTPS indexing default affects a relatively small percentage of websites. HTTPS protocols are required for sites that handle financial transactions and other sensitive data. As you decide to upgrade, consider these implications:
- It’s a positive marketing message you can incorporate into your communications. Moving to HTTPS says you are vigilant about security and care about those who visit your website even if you don’t collect personal and sensitive information.
- Prevents tampering by third parties because all data communicated (like browsing history) is encrypted.
- There is an added expense to your web hosting expense. While the increase should be relatively small, check with your hosting service on costs related to the upgrade.
- Take advantage of this opportunity before your competition. It may not give you a huge edge, but every little bit counts in organic search. And, this is an advantage Google has publicly announced.
Retaining SEO Equity
When Google announced the SEO boost for websites using HTTPS, some early adopters experienced some major problems. As with any new release, there were some unreported bugs. Search Engine Land chronicled Buffer’s story about a huge drop in traffic and a penalty.
If you’re looking to take advantage of the HTTPS indexing default, you want to make sure you retain your SEO equity. If you are unsure about any of the following elements to secure your site with HTTPS, do not attempt to do this yourself. Hire a professional.
As you’re essentially moving your website, so you’ll want to:
- Make sure your web server supports HTTPS.
- Decide what kind of security certificate you need: single or multi-domain.
- Use 2048-bit key certificates.
- Redirect users and search engines with 301 HTTP redirects.
- Use relative URLS for resources that reside on the same secure domain.
- Don’t block HTTPS pages from being crawled using robot.txt
- Allow indexing of your pages. Avoid “no index” robots meta tag.
- Track migration from HTTP to HTTPS in analytics and within Search Console
The help feature in Search Console also provides great information on this subject.
When it comes to the HTTPS indexing default, it really depends upon your business. In general, security is a very good thing. If you have the resources to migrate, I recommend it. Just be aware of the technicalities so you retain your website’s SEO equity.
How can we help?
Are you using all of the latest security features on your WordPress website? Want to migrate to HTTPS?
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