How Search Engine Giant Uses SSL / TLS Data for Ranking
Late last week, Google announced on their official blog that they were going to start using whether or not a site used HTTPS as one of the many ranking signals they use to create their index of web pages. As you might imagine, a lot of conspiracy theorists got to work right away, spreading rumors and misinformation about this big change. To combat that nonsense, we’ve come up with a definitive list of the facts, including tips and advice on what you want to do with your website.
HTTPS Ranking Signal is in Real Time
The first thing you need to know is that Google is using HTTPS as a “real time” ranking signal. Right after you switch to using SSL / TLS, your pages will begin to see a slight boost in rankings. Note that it may not be big enough to bring you up in the index. The information comes from Google’s own John Mueller, who mentioned it in a Google hangout video recently posted. You can watch it here. Look around 29 minutes and 6 seconds into the video.
HTTPS Ranking Signal Is On A Per-URL Basis
Another thing to note is that the HTTPS ranking signal boost is on a per-URL basis. Basically, this means that each and every single page of your website will get a little boost rather than all of your pages getting a boost because some of them are using SSL / TLS. This information also comes from John Mueller’s Google hangout video. (See link in last section or go here.)
Change Of Address Tool Not Supported (Yet)
In the past Google has recommended using their “change of address” tool at Webmaster Central. However, you cannot use this tool to change from HTTP to HTTPS – at this time. John Mueller from Google has said that this may be fixed in the future but that just using a proper 301 redirect from HTTP to HTTPS will be more than enough to let Google know about the changes you made to your site.
Google News Sites NOT a Problem
Fretting about changing your site that’s in Google News? You’re not alone. Luckily, Google has told SEO Roundtable that migrating websites that are currently indexed by Google News will NOT be a problem. The Google News team confirmed this, which is good news for anyone with a website that appears in the Google News search.
SSL Errors Via Google Webmaster Tools
Have you received SSL errors in your Webmaster Tools console? If so, you don’t need to worry. According to various sources online, these messages are old and are NOT connected to the recent announcement by Google that they’ll be using HTTPS as a ranking signal. The errors most likely have to do with misconfigured certificates, CDN services and/or shared hosting accounts.
HTTP To HTTPS Migration Case Studies
Here is some further information on migrating from HTTP to HTTPS.
- Helene Celine Hall, Columnist at Fourth Source recently wrote this in-depth article about migrating from HTTP to HTTPS.
- Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable wrote My HTTP To HTTPS Status Report For RustyBrick and another on migrating a Google News site. Both are worth the read.
Is Google using HTTPS as a ranking signal going to be a big deal for most people? Not when it comes to the SERPs, but with more people using SSL / TLS, the web is going to be a more secure place. And that’s a good thing for everyone.