Google and HTTPS Secure Sites SSL

digital-marketing-strategyLast week Google announced a new ranking signal that would give HTTPS websites a small ranking boost to encourage migration over to the more secure protocol. Emphasis at this stage is on the small impact this will make on your search ranking, although Google has admitted SSL/HTTPS could play a much larger role in the future.

Less than six months ago Matt Cutts admitted he would “love” to make SSL a ranking factor and, even though Google’s Webspam team is on extended leave, he promptly got his wish. However, many SEOs have raised concerns about moving sites over to HTTPS, which leaves many website owners wondering what to do next.

It’s only a small signal, for now

The most important thing to remember is that the page rank benefits of HTTPS are very small. It sounds like SSL will have more influence in the future, but if you have your doubts about making the move, my best advice is to sit and wait. If you can’t do that, spend you time learning more about the intricacies of SSL and the process of moving to HTTPS.

Google only announced the algorithm tweak last Thursday and we are not talking about an update in the vein of Penguin or Panda here. The SEO community itself needs more time to monitor the effects of moving websites over to HTTPS, so don’t do anything rash and keep a keen eye on what we come up with in the following weeks and months.

HTTPS is not your biggest SEO concern

In terms of page ranking, I can guarantee you there are a host of other things you can do to improve your website to better effect. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking this is an essential move – at least from an SEO point of view – and go back to the simple things if you want to improve your page ranking.
Things like page structure, URLs, link profiles and content are the keys to climbing the results page, while UX factors like loading time are more important for converting relevant traffic into genuine leads and customers.

Switching to HTTPS is not free

One of the major stumbling blocks so far for HTTPS has been the cost involved. If your website handles any sensitive data then secure SSL is definitely the way to go. The trouble is that HTTPS costs more money that plain HTTP – particularly because HTTPS and virtual servers don’t get on, which is generally the cheapest hosting solution.

The other concern is from a performance perspective. Moving over to HTTPS will slow down your website, which – as we have already mentioned – could potentially damage your conversion rate.

Keeping things in perspective

Although this post might seem like an anti-HTTPS attempt, this is not the point I am trying to make. If your website handles sensitive data like passwords and payment details, you should definitely be thinking about secure encryption.

On the other hand, if you run a small business website without so much as a log-in form, you need to realise the limited benefits of secure SSL. While moving over to HTTPS for the sake of your page ranking hardly justifies the effort – at least not yet.