Google has made changes to its search algorithm to give
preference to more secure websites, the company announced in a blog post this week.
The search engine will start to highlight pages that have HTTPS
encryption — which scrambles the data sent between your browser
and the server — by default as part of Google’s stated ambition to
make the web safer. This follows the company’s call for “HTTPS
everywhere” on the web at developer conference Google I/O earlier
this year. It’s likely that the move will encourage more website to
start using encryption as they compete for Googlejuice.
In a blog post, Webmaster Trends Analysts Zineb Ait Bahajji and
Gary Illyes explained: “Security is a top priority for Google. We invest a
lot in making sure that our services use industry-leading security,
like strong HTTPS encryption by default. That means that people
using Search, Gmail and Drive, for example, automatically have a
secure connection to Google.
“Beyond our own stuff, we’re also working to make the internet
safer more broadly.”
It turns out that Google has been testing changes to the search
ranking algorithms that take whether sites use secure encrypted
connections into account. “We’ve seen positive results, so we’re
starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal,” the pair explain.
For the time being, it won’t make a huge difference to search
rankings — Google says that it will carry less weight than signals
such as high-quality content while the company gives webmasters the
opportunity to switch over to HTTPS. However, over time the company
may decide to upweight encryption as a ranking signal.
If your site isn’t encrypted, Google is offering detailed guides
and advice about how to adopt the Transport Layer Security (TLS)
protocol, the successor of the SSL protocol, which turns a regular
HTTP site into an HTTPS one. You can read about it here.