How can your business secure the best possible ranking on Google’s search engine?
Well, most SEO experts would tell you that you need to have the best possible backlinks and be able to provide quality information and content to your potential customers. Now you may wonder why that’s so important, when you can deliver great products and services at great prices. Why should you need to do more? Well, the answer is simply that it’s what Google demands, and it’s what Google’s algorithms are predicated around. If you want to rank highly on Google’s search engine rankings, then you need to toe the line. So is that it then? Is that all businesses need to do to rank higher on Google’s SERPs? Well, not any more we’re afraid. From now on your business will have to make sure its website is secure and is operating HTTPS encryption by default.
So what’s the reasoning behind this latest change?
Why is Google altering its algorithms to accommodate security as a ranking signal? Well, there are a number of reasons. Security is the hot topic of the moment, though in fairness Google has been expressing its concerns since 2011: Edward Snowden’s allegations about the interception of private information by NSA and GCHQ simply fanned the flames on the global debate of cyber-security and privacy. Google made its position clear when in 2011 it introduced HTPPS by default on its popular Gmail service.
So what does this mean for businesses which rely on Google’s search engine ranking pages? Well, Google has said that ultimately it wants to introduce ‘HTTPS everywhere’ on the web so that its users know that the sites they are searching on its search engine are secure. To that effect Google has been running tests over the last few months which take into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in its search engine rankings. The favourable results have prompted Google to now adopt this as a new ranking signal.
What does this mean for your business?
If you don’t operate a secure encrypted site are you likely to see your search engine rankings plummet? Well, we wouldn’t go quite that far yet, but security is definitely an issue on which Google will place an increasing emphasis; so it’s an issue your website will need to address at some point in the not-too-distant future. However, Google has been at pains to point out that currently less than 1 per cent of global queries have been affected by the changes. It points out that HTTPS adoption is only a low-level ranking signal at the moment, and that the delivery of high quality content should still be the top priority for websites: however, Google has given notice that over time this is an area that will become increasingly important in determining search engine ranking – so you have been warned.
So what can your website do to make sure it complies with Google’s latest TLS adoption strategy? How can websites make TLS adoption easier? Well, fortunately Google has provided some information and advice on its Webmaster Central blog:
- 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 its 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 advised that if a website is already serving on HTTPS, it can test its security level and configuration with the Qualys Lab tool.