SEO at the moment has it’s attention on Google, however it’s rare that Google reveals any of its actual ranking factors, so it came as a big surprise when representatives announced they would reward sites using HTTPS encryption with a boost in search results.
HTTPS isn’t like other ranking factors. Implementing it requires complexity, risks, and costs. Webmasters balance this out with benefits that include increased security, better referral data, and a possible boost in rankings.
SEO advantages of switching to HTTPS
1. More referrer data
Whenever traffic passes from a secure HTTPS site to a non-secure HTTP site, the referral data gets stripped away. This traffic shows up in your analytics report as ‘Direct.’ This is a problem because you don’t know where the traffic actually comes from.
If you use HTTP, traffic from sites like Hacker News shows up as ‘direct’, because Hacker News uses HTTPS.
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution: when traffic passes to an HTTPS site, the secure referral information is preserved. This holds true whether the original site uses HTTP or HTTPS.
As more and more sites make the switch, this becomes increasingly important.
2. HTTPS as a rankings boost
On one hand, Google has confirmed the ranking boost of HTTPS. On the other hand, with over 200 ranking, it’s likely you’ll find the effect of any ranking influence to remain quiet small.
In fact, a recent study by Search Metrics showed no detectable advantage to sites using HTTPS.
Like most ranking signals, it is very hard to isolate on its own.
In fact, don’t expect HTTPS to act as a silver bullet. If rankings are your only concern, there are likely dozens of things you can do that will have a bigger impact. Here are several:
- Reduce crawl errors
- Optimise for speed
- Create quality content
- Improve internal linking
- Fix duplicate content
- Local optimization
- Target relevant search phrases
- On page optimization
- Perform a site audit
- International targeting
- Freshen your content
- Change you hosting to Cloud and SSD