Google has announced that going HTTPS — adding a SSL 2048-bit key certificate on your site — will give you a minor ranking boost.
Google says this gives websites a small ranking benefit, only counting as a “very lightweight signal” within the overall ranking algorithm. In fact, Google said this carries “less weight than other signals such as high-quality content.” Based on their tests, Google says it has an impact on “fewer than 1% of global queries” but said 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.”
Google also said based on their tests for the past few months, the HTTPS signal showed “positive results” in terms of relevancy and ranking in Google’s search results.
As you may remember, at SMX West, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, said he’d love to make SSL a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm. Well, less than five months after that announcement, and while he is on an extended leave, Google is making it a reality.
SEO Concerns With Going HTTPS
Should you be concerned when switching from your HTTP to HTTPS site for SEO purposes? Not so much. Google has been telling webmasters it is safe to do so for years. But you need to take the proper steps to ensure your traffic doesn’t suffer. That means make sure to communicate to Google that you moved your site from HTTP to HTTPS. Google promises to release more documentation in the future, but for now has provided the following tips:
- Decide the kind of certificate you need: single, multi-domain, or wildcard certificate
- Use 2048-bit key certificates
- Use relative URLs for resources that reside on the same secure domain
- Use protocol relative URLs for all other domains
- Check out our site move article for more guidelines on how to change your website’s address
- Don’t block your HTTPS site from crawling using robots.txt
- Allow indexing of your pages by search engines where possible. Avoid the noindex robots meta tag.
Google has also updated Google Webmaster Tools to better handle HTTPS sites and the reporting on them.
One last thing: You will want to make sure to track your HTTP to HTTPS migration carefully in your analytics software and within Google Webmaster Tools.
Postscript: Google webmaster trends analyst John Mueller is also answering some questions about the change here on Google+.