Google is going to factor HTTPS when ranking websites in search results which it hopes will encourage more site owners to switch to HTTPS from HTTP, according to a blog post by the search giant on Wednesday.
According to Google Webmaster trends analysts, Google has been running tests over the past few months evaluating whether sites use encrypted connections as a signal in its search ranking algorithms.
After seeing success during the testing period, Google is starting to use HTTPS as a “very lightweight” ranking signal. It carries less weight than other signals such as high-quality content, for example.
Google will be sharing best practices over the next few weeks to help website owners find the right type of security certificate. SEO experts have been critical of Google’s announcement on Twitter, arguing that HTTPS should not be a factor in website ranking.
Securing websites with SSL certificates is certainly nothing new and there are still lots of challenges. Encryption has become a bigger concern as hackers continue to leverage weak passwords to take control of major systems and encryption technology has become easier to implement for the regular user. In June, Google announced that it was developing a tool for email that encrypts messages as they leave the sender’s browser.
For hosting providers, the opportunity could be a marketing one. If Google is suggesting SSL certificates as something that will improve website rankings, web hosts could capitalize on this demand and educate their customers about the value of website security.