Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, hinted at Google using HTTPS as a ranking signal months ago and now it’s official. For the first time ever, Google has announced that it’s factoring HTTPS into its search algorithm for the search engine. While the Internet giant admitted that this would be a relatively weak ranking factor, they admit that this may change in the future.
What is HTTPS and what does it mean for my site?
The “S” in HTTPS signifies a website is secure and encrypted. A SSL or Secure Sockets Layer provides security for web users. It provides an encrypted link that allows for sensitive information to be passed securely over the Internet.
Although security for your users and improved search rankings are both important, there are some negatives of transitioning to HTTPS webmasters should consider before making the shift.
Authenticity and Trust
Sites using HTTPS demonstrate to users the data they are receiving is coming from a trusted site and is authentic. This makes it difficult for sites using spoof techniques and malware to “hijack” a site when you type in the wrong URL.
User data is securely transferred over the Internet. HTTPS encrypts and decrypts private user information when passing from the site pages to the server allowing secure transactions to take place. This also limits the opportunity for hackers to grab your data.
As we stated earlier Google said this is a lightweight ranking signal, but undoubtedly sites using this technology will start to rank better than those that don’t, with all other things being equal.
It costs money to acquire a SSL certificate. While some companies offer these certificates for free, a decent one will cost you. Implementing a SSL may require updates to your hosting server as well.
Longer Page Load Time
It takes time to encrypt content, so HTTPS websites take longer to load. Site speed directly impacts user experience and search rankings. Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a great tool to use to benchmark your site’s performance before and after implementing a SSL.
Google Analytics Data Loss
Once HTTPS is implemented on your website Google Analytics will no longer be able to track valuable information about your website users. Important metrics such as keyword phrases and referrer data is no longer passed along to the analytics programs. Internet marketers use these key pieces of data to determine which sites and keyword are driving visitors to your website. In the era of “not-provided” useful keyword data has been waning, but the loss referral data is a huge blow to marketing specialists.
Social Media Share Loss
Anytime a URL is changed any social media outlets will not follow the 301 redirect put in place. This means that implementing HTTPS will cause you to lose any social shares, likes, or mentions on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and more.
Since HTTPS is currently a weak-ranking signal it may not be worth the time and effort it will take your company to make the switch at this time. We suggest weighing the positives and negatives of making the transition before shifting your site over. If you decided against it, make sure to keep an eye out for signs that Google’s increased the signal strength, because that may change your mind.