Security continues to be a huge concern to users as services, apps and crucially data grows – our personal information is stored everywhere, from online booking systems to Apple Pay. On the face of it, it can seem that control over data security is dwindling: contactless bank cards raised concerns enough from users worried that money can be spent without thieves even needing to hack PIN codes, and online banking scams are in no way irregular. Yet despite all the questions surrounding security, apps and digital platforms continue to evolve into easier to use, and potentially easier to hack, tools.
So how is Google promoting data security from the roots up to developers and web hosts? One of the answers is search encryption, ensuring safe connections for users of Google search and Gmail. The right to be forgotten has also been a key concern in recent years for consumers, extending to Russia who approved the regulation just this month.
Another solution (and the focus of this blog) is HTTPS, and they’re using SEO as a backup to ensure developer buy-in. In August 2014 Google called for “HTTPS everywhere”, encouraging all websites to adopt encryption as standard. The complexities of moving a website to HTTPS do not enthral developers to say the least, so to further compound the seriousness of their security goals they also made encryption a ranking factor in its algorithms. What bigger incentive can there be than outright promoted ranking benefits?
When introduced last August it was a “lightweight” ranking signal, but this didn’t hold back the masses looking for confirmed and airtight ranking catalysts: a Moz poll in August showed that almost a quarter of webmasters were planning to make the switch to HTTPS.
Initially these were adopted by the expected bunch – online banking, e-commerce sites, and only on necessary pages which contained sensitive information. Whilst the initial percentage of 25% has not materialised, in recent weeks we’ve seen a jump in the number of HTTPS sites ranking on page 1. This may be merely because they are growing in number (growth in direct traffic is a good indicator since referral information is encrypted), or because it is more of a “middleweight” ranking signal now – we all know how Google loves to keep us guessing.
If you’re considering making the leap, know that HTTPS will be a backwards step if you can’t migrate your hard work to a new domain. Here are several things to consider:
Top Tips for HTTPS
- SSL certificates aren’t free, so these costs need to be factored into your marketing plan in relation to their ROI. Sites handling personal or sensitive information will benefit the most from encryption since this is where it’s really necessary.
- HTTPS can slow down your site, so many sure you’re equipped to handle speed bumps, since this ranking factor outweighs encryption.
- Old browsers and web applications frequently have problems with HTTPS, so make sure your site’s components work with HTTPS and consider whether your target market will rely on older technology.
- Setting up filters in Analytics to ensure you can access referral data which is otherwise encrypted and counted as ‘direct’.
- For new websites, you need a developer who understands the requirements of an SSL certificate.