Google are encouraging ‘a safer internet’ by rewarding websites that use HTTPS with improved ranking. I’ve had several calls from concerned business website owners wanting to know if they should also change over to HTTPS to maximise their website’s Google exposure.
What is HTTPS?
HTTPS secures the online communications between your site and your visitor by encryption. HTTPS stops ‘middle men’ from listening into your visitors ‘conversation’ with your website. HTTPS is typically used for sites where sensitive information (like credit card details etc) are sent across the wire and encrypts the data so it is only readable by the two participating devices.
Interesting, HTTPS is not as secure as you might think, as a major security flaw code-named HeartBleed was discovered recently in an open source implementation of supporting software and impacted many high-profile websites globally.
Should you go to HTTPS?
I unreservedly recommend that website owners do everything that will improve their online exposure, and as Google is ‘King of the Internet’ for the foreseeable future then sure, it makes sense to do everything they want.
Has your site other significant SEO issues?
Let’s put this into perspective – the HTTPS benefit is apparently very small and likely completely masked/wasted if your site has other SEO related issues, such as a Google penalty from backlink naughtiness, or poorly SEO tuned. If your site is not already operating at peak SEO performance, in my view it’s probably not worthwhile migrating to HTTPS straight away, and certainly not until you address any other issues.
Does HTTPS cost anything?
Implementing HTTPS involves registering and deploying a SSL certificate for your site which costs around $AU 300 per year plus installation fees. Your website may also require a dedicated IP address which is likely to incur additional web hosting costs.
A soft-cost is the slightly reduced performance that comes from the on-the-wire and server processing overhead of HTTPS. Notably web page load performance is also a ranking factor, so the slow down of a poorly specified web server loaded with the additional processing of HTTPS may further reduce any SEO gains for the HTTPS migration – What a dilemma!
What should you do ?
- If your site is already performing well for organic traffic, (ie you get about 70+% of your visitors via organic search) then monitor your online exposure and if you see a performance dip, then consider rolling over to HTTPS.
- If your site doesn’t already compete well in the organic space, invest the money on identifying and resolving the current SEO issues and on-site tuning. You’ll see a dramatic increase in organic traffic and if its done well an increase in online sales leads.
Once you’ve done that, go to step 1 and reconsider.