Google has announced to give the websites with HTTPS a ranking boost on SERPs. Moving to HTTPS structure simply means adding a SSL 2048-bit key certificate on the website.
Although, it will be a very light-weighted ranking factor as compared to other factors, like high-quality content, in the overall ranking algorithm of Google, it will definitely give a ranking benefit. As stated by Google, the factor impacted less than 1% of global queries but they would strengthen the signal as they want to encourage all website owners to move to HTTPS to enhance security on web. Also, they inferred that HTTPS signal showed positive results in terms of relevancy and ranking in the search results.
It’s quite soon after Matt Cutts showing interest about making SSL a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm that Google is making it a reality. Matt Cutts, while still on leave, couldn’t stop tweeting:
Now, the question is: “Is it safe to switch to HTTPS from HTTP site from the SEO point of view?” To the answer, Google has been telling webmasters for years that it is safe, provided you take proper steps to ensure that traffic does not suffer in the transition. For this, one needs to make sure that the information of shift is communicated to Google. Google has promised to release more documentation in the future, but has provided the following tips as of now:
• Decide the type of certificate you will require viz. single, multi-domain, or wildcard certificate
• Always use 2048-bit key certificates
• Relative URLs should be used for resources residing on the same domain
• Protocol relative URLs should be used for all other domains
• Webmasters may also read Google’s articles on site move for more information on how to change the website address
• The HTTPS site should not be blocked from crawling using robots.txt file
• Try to avoid using noindex robots metatag and allow indexing of your web-pages by search engines wherever possible.
Google also recommends using Qualys Lab tool to test the SSL certificates and pages.
With Google updating Google Webmaster Tools to better handle HTTPS sites and their reporting, it has become even more convenient to make this shift. Also, make sure to track your HTTP to HTTPS migration in your analytics and Google Webmaster Tools carefully.
What to do if you already have SSL?
Since the announcement, many e-commerce sites have been seeking an answer to this question. They are in a constant state of doubt as if what they need to do if they already have SSL on their checkout forms. The thing is that the ranking boost will be given to only those pages that have SSL on them. So, if you have SSL on just the checkout pages and not on your product or content pages, the boost will not be given. So, you will need to shift your whole domain, all the URLs, files, and everything else to HTTPS. So yes, you need to do something, actually not just something; it’s a lot to handle at a time.
You will need to test again and again to make sure that HTTPS certificate does not show any errors to your users. There are many elements like images, videos, and third-party includes that need to be adapted on the pages to make sure they do not give any warning messages to the users.
As far as SEO and webmaster community is concerned, there are mixed reactions. Some believe SSL certificates would be expensive to implement while some believe the cheaper counterparts would work. Some believe they don’t require any security on their website while some take it as a positive step. While mostly the reviews are positive, the real outcome will only be seen in the future.