Way back in August 2014, Google announced that https would be a ranking signal in its search algorithm, and all around the world, SEOs began recommending their clients make the switch as soon as possible to get some sweet gains. Thing is, https is just one of hundreds of ranking factors, and so nobody really saw any difference – or worse – they bodged the migration and ended up losing visibility instead.
A recent study by Moz’s Dr. Pete revealed that the number of https results on page one has increased to 50% – an increase of 20% from his last analysis back in July 2016. He also predicts that by the end of 2017, 65% of page one results will be https. Google also hinted a while back that https would become a more significant ranking factor (only to retract this a few weeks ago) – but what does this data actually mean?
First of all, there has been an increase in the number of sites migrating to https. Therefore, by proxy, it becomes more likely that a page of search results will contain a higher proportion of https sites than it did previously. The recent rumours that Google was going to add weight to https may have also been a contributing factor in more sites scrambling to become full SSL before an algorithm rolled out and dropped the rankings of any sites not implementing it. Secondly, some huge websites, such as Wikipedia, have implemented https, and with pages of popular websites appearing frequently on page one of search results, it’s no wonder that this number has increased.
So, if Google wants sites to migrate to https, why did it choose not to reward those who had made their websites safer for its visitors? The simple answer is that a site could be authoritative, publishing great content and bolstered by plenty of high-quality backlinks, but has not migrated to https, and there could be another site with OK content and a number of good links that has. In this scenario, it’s clear that the more authoritative website should take precedence in search results over the one that has simply switched to a secure version of the site. In addition, there are still a number of high profile sites that have not decided to bite the bullet just yet – even eBay is not full SSL.
Does this mean you shouldn’t consider moving to https?
It may only be one of the hundreds of ranking factors, but having a site that keeps your visitors’ data safe, and assures them of this by displaying the padlock in the browser, can only be a good thing. In addition, Chrome has started warning visitors about non-secure pages when those pages are collecting sensitive data – something that could turn off a visitor and see them choosing a competitor, who they see as more trustworthy, instead.
However, it’s not just a case of buying an SSL certificate and considering it job done – there are risks involved with the migration if you aren’t sure what you are doing. And even if you do know what you’re doing, there can still be issues you may not have considered that prevent it from going as smoothly as you’d hoped.
Our blog post on https migration covers the basics, but if you’d like to speak to someone about making the switch, get in touch with us today.