Does your website sit on a secure server? If not, there is now a strong justification for ensuring it does going forwards in the form that Google announced yesterday?on their Webmaster Central blog that they are now starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal.

Whilst we all understand the importance of online security and appreciate that, in many instances such as when payments are being processed directly through an eCommerce store as opposed to through a third party gateway such as PayPal or Sage Pay, HTTPS has always been a necessity, you?d be surprised at how few webmasters place their site on a secure server. Perhaps the reasoning behind this is simply that they?re not aware of the benefits which come with HTTPS encryption or maybe that they struggle to justify the cost of an SSL certificate (yes…unfortunately some would happily sacrifice security over a small cost), in many instances it?s simply the case that there hasn?t been the need. That is, until now.

Follow In The Footsteps Of Google?s Own Products

We?re all only too familiar with Google?s dedication to ensuring that all of their own products are secure (perhaps the most notable of this being the confusion and inconvenience caused by the rise in ?not provided? in Google Analytics), however in today?s post on their Webmaster Central blog, they announced, ?Beyond our own stuff, we?re also working to make the Internet safer more broadly. A big part of that is making sure that websites people access from Google are secure.? This, to many, doesn?t come as a surprise and it was simply a case of when the search giant would start encouraging others to follow suit and move to a secure connection.

Few could have predicted, however, that today?s announcement would bring with it the news that Google have, over the past few months, been testing the use of secure connections as a ranking signal. As outlined, ?We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it’s only a very lightweight signal ? affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content ? while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we?d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.?

Make The Move!

As a result of this announcement, we strongly encourage webmasters whose website?s currently don?t utilise a secure, encrypted connection to seriously consider this. Given that this ranking signal is currently only in effect across less than 1% of global queries, it?s not an immediately pressing issue, however we all know that what starts off as a minor signal can very quickly become a much more important inclusion as part of your wider strategy. It doesn?t cost a fortune to ensure your site uses a secure connection and as far as we are concerned, the added level of security is well worth it.


Carry Out The Move Without Making Common Mistakes

Don?t be the one who waits until it?s too late to make the switch to HTTPS. You?ll find within Google?s announcement a range of basic tips for moving your site over to a secure connection, however for reference, you can see these below:

  • Decide 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
  • Check out our Site move article for more guidelines on how to change your website?s address
  • Don?t block your HTTPS site from crawling using robots.txt
  • Allow indexing of your pages by search engines where possible. Avoid the noindex robots meta tag.

To summarise, you need to start considering moving your site onto a secure connection if it currently isn?t. With Google starting to utilise a site?s security as a ranking signal (and their announcement that over time they are likely to increase it?s weighting) there has never been a time like the present to make the move and offer your visitors the highest possible level of security both for their peace of mind and yours!

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