Google announced early this morning that they are now using SSL/HTTPS as a ranking signal in their Google search algorithm.
The signal is incredibly weak and webmasters should not go crazy about it, but it is indeed a signal now. Google said they are “starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal.” Google did add it is “only a very lightweight signal” and that it only had an impact on “fewer than 1% of global queries.” Google equated the SSL ranking signal with the Panda signal and said it carries “less weight.” Google did say they may “decide to strengthen” the HTTPS ranking signal “over time” to “give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS.”
In March, Google’s Matt Cutts said he’d like for HTTPS to be a ranking signal and I guess, even though he is on leave, he got his wish. Matt did decide to tweet about it even while on leave:
Reading “HTTPS as a ranking signal”: http://t.co/nEjcGhm8bJ
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) August 7, 2014
I Have SSL Already, Do I Need To Do Anything?
I am seeing this question a lot, from e-commerce sites that have SSL on their checkout forms. The answer is, yes, you need to still do something. This ranking boost is applied to only the pages that have SSL on them. Typically, SSL is only on those checkout pages and not on your product pages, content pages, etc. So you need to make your whole domain name, all the URLs, all the files, all the includes, all of it, go over HTTPS. So yes, you need to do something.
This obviously will take some time, you need to test and then test, to make sure the HTTPS certificate doesn’t show errors to your users. There can be images, videos, and third-party includes that need to be adapted on the pages to ensure that it doesn’t give the user a security warning.
Is There A Negative Side To Going SSL
Google has told us time and time again, that if you switch your site over properly, there is no downside. Google has said before there was an SSL boost there there is no ranking change in a negative way for going SSL. Even back in 2012, Matt Cutts encouraged users to go SSL with their sites. Google even improved Google Webmaster Tools to support HTTPS vs HTTP reporting.
But the key is you need to do it right. Google gave this advice:
Google also recommends you use Qualys Lab tool to test your SSL certificates and pages.
My only concern right now is with sites included in Google News. Google News has your URLs plugged in so I think it is more than just a 301 that will communicate the change to Google News. Google said they will get back to me on that question, but once we hear back, we know Google News can index and rank HTTPS content.