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Google’s Ranking Boost To HTTPS Pages

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Google on 6 Aug 2014 announced that it has started using HTTPS as a ranking signal. Google made a very clear statement saying that it wants to create a safer web and to that effect that it has made HTTPS a ranking factor. Web pages with HTTPS will have better ranking than HTTP pages given that all the other factors are equal. Google does not make any such open statements on its ranking algorithm so frequently and this is one such rare occasions. So better take advantage of this piece of information. Let us see how Google’s New SSL and HTTPS ranking factor works.

#1 Google calls it a ‘very lightweight signal’ however the search giant makes it clear that it is a lightweight signal only for now, in the near future Google may decide to increase the value attributed to this signal. Google wants to make this transition gradually and give webmasters enough time to switch to HTTPS so that we can make the web safe for everyone. As per Google’s statement, less than 1% of global queries will be affected. This signal carries less weight when compared to the other signals for example high quality content. Here, Google is making another clear statement unintentionally (or intentionally?) that high quality content is a very important ranking signal.

Googles http url

#2 Google’s HTTPS signal is not an appendix or update to any of the existing ranking algorithms such as Google Panda or Penguin update but a ranking signal that is independent of any of the known ranking algorithms.

#3 Thirdly, like most of the other Google ranking signals, the search engine will not go for site-wide application of the HTTPS signal but will apply it to individual pages. If you have only a few pages of your website in HTTPS and the rest in HTTP, pages that use HTTPS will receive a slight boost. This will allow you to test the effectiveness of this signal by switching just the few pages of your website to HTTPS.

#4 Google News Index presents a unique situation and a concern to the news publishers. As per John Mueller’s statement, there should not be any problem with Google’s News Index too, news publishers just need to go through the regular migration process and they should not be facing any glitches.

#5 Normally, when a website moves to new address, webmasters can make use of Change of Address tool that is available in webmaster tool. With regard to HTTP to HTTPS move, you cannot use the Change of Address tool because it does not support such migrations yet. In the near future, Google may start supporting such migrations too in the Change of Address tool but as of now, such a support is not available. How then to communicate the move? You can make use of 301 redirects and the use of Change of Address Tool is not required.

#6 Google will shortly share the best practices on making TLS adoptions without any glitches. However, for now Google has asked webmasters to pay attention to some of the basic factors such as the nature of the domain certificate, use of relative URLs for all resources in the same domain. Google has also asked webmasters not to block their HTTPS sites through robots.txt but to allow indexing where possible.

#7 As soon as you make the move to secure URL, you need to update all the incoming links. This includes external links, authorship links in Google+ profile, social media profiles including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

#8 If you are running any ad campaigns make sure that all the landing pages are pointing to the new page.

#9 Webmasters need not have to worry that the move from HTTP to HTTPS will slow down their sites; tests indicate that there is not much change in the site speed. We cannot totally deny the marginal slowdown of the loading speed of the website. However, Google’s priority is a safer web. It is better to have a slower, safe web than faster, unsafe web. So don’t you worry about the slowing down of your web pages and that how it might affect your page speed score signal that Google uses to rank websites.

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