Google Uses HTTPS as a Ranking Signal: Do You Need to Switch Now?

In a rare moment of transparency, Google announced last week that it would begin using HTTPS as a ranking signal in the search results (be careful: their official announcement doesn’t use HTTPS).

This change shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. Google made it clear a few months ago that they want to help create a safer web. Of course, whenever Google makes an official announcement about ranking signals, the world of SEO turns upside down. Before casting aside all other marketing plans and breaking your budget to buy an SSL from the new security certificate department at #1 Rankingz on Google!!, it's important to consider the actual implications of Google's change.

Just How Much Does HTTPS Matter for Rankings?

For now, not much. In its official announcement, Google made it clear that this is a lightweight signal (at least for now). The HTTPS ranking factor affects fewer than 1% of all search queries, and it carries far less weight than other signals (thank goodness content is still king!). In other words, HTTPS won’t make up for an otherwise poorly optimized site. Nor will it guarantee you a number one ranking. We've yet to hear any big stories of sites skyrocketing up or spiraling down in the rankings because of HTTPS.

Do You Need HTTPS Now?

While Google also used their announcement to encourage all websites to become more secure, rushing to get an HTTPS site doesn’t need to disrupt your current website plans. Of course, if the checkout process of your e-commerce site asks for credit card numbers without offering any layers of security, then you need to make HTTPS a high priority. Any area of your site where a user logs in or shares sensitive data needs to be secure, and this seems to be exactly what Google is targeting with this new "lightweight" ranking factor.

For the vast majority of website owners, moving to HTTPS isn’t a requirement at this time. You don’t have to rush out to buy an SSL for your cat’s new recipe blog (or any site that doesn’t collect sensitive personal information for that matter). This doesn’t mean you won’t need to switch in the future, but for now you can focus on other areas of your site. Having quality content, smooth navigation, and strong calls to action will earn you a lot more traffic and customers than having an HTTPS site will.

Naturally, if you are looking for a new business venture, you may want to get into SSL sales.

For information about switching to HTTPS, visit Google’s help center.

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