Before the scurry begins towards hastily switching over to HTTPS/SSL, in light of Google’s latestannouncement that they are now using HTTPS/SSL as a ranking signal in their search algorithm, let’s explore what the news means.
What are HTTPS/ SSL? Well quite simply HTTPS is a communications protocol for secure communication over a computer network and SSL is also a protocol that encrypts your data.
Going SSL has little drawbacks. It is a safe straightforward migration and the SSL certificates themselves are relatively cheap. It does take time and testing to make sure the transition goes smoothly though.
There is currently slight concern over whether or not Google news will index and rank HTTPS content, as this has not been answered in full by Google. Watch this space, for news on any outcomes.
The temptation to go wild over HTTPS/SSL should be tempered slightly by the fact that Google offers only a very lightweight ranking signal,which has an impact on fewer than 1% of global queries, according to Barry Shwartz in Seroundtable.com. Google may decide to strengthen the HTTPS ranking signal over a sustained period to allow webmasters time to switch to HTTPS, but at present this remains undecided.
The SSL ranking boost is applied only to pages that have SSL on them, which means that E-commerce sites that already have SSL on their Checkout forms, will still have to convert all their domain names, URLS and files over to HTTPS, to get the full benefit of the ranking boost.
Here is where the slight drawback comes in. A great deal of time will have to be dedicated to testing to make sure the HTTPS certificate doesn’t show errors to your users. Remember errors are a sure- fire way to crank up your drop out rates, i.e. the numbers of consumers who leave your site immediately. Images and videos will need to be adapted on the page to ensure that they don’t spell out security warnings when viewed, another situation that impacts negatively on SEO.
There is very little drawback to switching over to SSL. There will be no negative ranking change. To add an extra support dimension Google even improved Google Webmaster Tools, to support HTTPS vs HTTP reporting.
To complete a successful change over to SSL, bear in mind the following and you are sure to reap the rewards Google intends for your site. As Barry Shwartz recommends in seroundtable.com, the following is hugely helpful:
” Decide on the kind of certificate you need: single, multi-domain, or wildcard certificate. Use 2048-bit key certificates. Use relative URLs for resources that reside on the same secure domain. Use protocol relative URLs for all other domains. Don’t block your HTTPS site from crawling using robots.txt. Allow indexing of your pages by search engines where possible andavoid the noindex robots meta tag.”
So there you have it a fairly seamless transition over to a highly recommended new protocol system which will give your site a much needed ranking boost.