In a Webmaster Central blog in early August 2014, Google announced that they were starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. They also said that securing your website with the HTTPS protocol will provide your site with a minor ranking boost. This was confirmed in a 2016 Backlinko study which found that sites secured with SSL had a very strong correlation with first page Google rankings.
What is HTTPS?
HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) is a secure version of the HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol). It is HTTP plus SSL (Secure Socket Layer). You need a certificate to use any protocol that uses SSL. HTTPS is the backbone of secure internet transmission and secures your internet conversations to protect sensitive information. These include customer names, address, phone numbers, account numbers, etc. during transmission such as ecommerce transactions.
SSL is essential for any website, as it ensures that any communication between a browser and a server is private and secure. Having SSL on your site will not only give you a ranking boost. It will reassure your visitors. If using Internet Explorer or Firefox, your visitors will also see a padlock icon that indicates your site is secure. All of this will help increase the confidence that your visitors and search engines have in your business.
What is an SSL Certificate?
An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is a digital certificate that authenticates the identity of a website. It uses encryption to secure information sent to the server using SSL technology. An SSL certificate contains a public key and certificate issuer.
Browsers (clients) can use the certificate to communicate with a server, which is what occurs when you visit a website. They can verify that the certificate was cryptographically signed by an official Certificate Authority.
How HTTPS Makes the Web More Secure
When a user connects to a website via https, the website encrypts the session with a Digital Certificate. A user can tell if they are connected to a secure website if the website URL begins with https:// instead of http://. HTTPS protects the connection to the website by encrypting all of the data that your browser is sending to the web server which makes the communication secure.
For example: if you are using your credit card online, a hacker listening in between the browser and the website’s server will be unable to make sense of the data being transmitted. This is because the communication will be scrambled, and this is what secures the data being transmitted (your credit card details).
Google has described HTTPS as a “lightweight signal” carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content. However, they also indicated that they “may decide to strengthen” the signal because they want to “encourage all website owners to switch from http to https to keep everyone safe on the web.”
What this means is that Google has found that sites that tend to use https are more likely to be authoritative and professional, and less likely to be spammy than sites that don’t use https. This is because of the cost and extra work involved in switching a site from HTTP to HTTPS.