Google has released a new ranking signal to encourage webmasters to switch from HTTP to HTTPS, in an effort to make the internet safer. It's a move made in hopes of achieving a small ranking boost through a simple SSL 2048-bit key certificate. Google already uses HTTPS encryption to securely connect its users to its sites (search, Gmail, Drive, etc.), however, the company’s call for "HTTPS everywhere" promises better results for webmasters who implement this technology on their own websites. Here's what you need to know to benefit.
Expect a (Very) Small Improvement
The maximum benefit of implementing SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is admittedly small. Even Google acknowledges that SSL is a "very lightweight signal" compared to some other SEO elements like keywords, original content, domain history and more. It's important to remember, though, that for some websites, the difference between showing up on the first page of results and the second page of results could be a simple matter of SSL implementation.
Understand the Advantages
There are at least two significant advantages of switching over to a secured HTTP connection. The first advantage is real time ranking. Unlike with Google's other algorithms (Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, etc.), HTTPs ranking evaluates and indexes new HTTPs URLs immediately. Other algorithms appear to be a bit sporadic. Additionally, unlike with keyword application, site originality, and duplicate content issues, this new signal is based on an objective evaluation and, therefore, not subjected to what some perceive as (Google's) opinion.
The second advantage is Google's "per-URL" approach. Google's new ranking signal evaluates and ranks each individual page of a website rather than a collection of web pages as a whole. The end result gives webmasters the opportunity to finally gain a higher ranking for some pages even though an entire website may currently suffer from a low search engine position.
Recommendations for the Switch
To make the switch more effective, Google recommends the following:
1. Decide on the appropriate type of certificate. Available types include single, multi-domain and wildcard.
2. Implement 2048-bit key certificates. Today's 2048-bit key certificates are stronger and harder to crack than yesterday's 1024-bit key certificates.
3. Point to relative URLs (URLs without the "https://" part) for pages on the same secured domain, but link to other domains with protocol relative URLs.
Other steps include ensuring a site's robots.txt doesn't block anything; readjusting an existing error response (404 or 410) scheme; updating current internal links, 301 redirects and sitemaps; and re-verifying ownership from Google's Webmaster Tools.
No matter how secure a website may be hundreds of other ranking factors play a huge role in SERPs. The question we all have to address at this point is how much better a site will perform with SSL or how poorly it could perform without it. Hopefully the answer will point towards a better ranking in the end.
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