Back in August 2014 Google officially announced that switchin to HTTPS will give your website a minor ranking boost. And in time they may decide to strengthen this ranking signal. In December it was announced that in 2015 Google Chrome would mark HTTP sites as unsafe. SEO community underreacted, because evident difficulties of moving to a new address overlapped vague future benefits.
Trend or Necessity?
HTTPS isn't a separate protocol. It's a usual HTTP which uses SSL and TLS to transport data. HTTPS is used for any site involving secure information. For security reasons it is necessary to implement encryption and server the certificate should be checked and trusted.
At the beginning of 2010s HTTPS was used for protecting transactions and private communication, personal data and browsing history. In the late 2000s and in the early 2010s HTTPS became popular as an approval of page authenticity for all sites, keeping in private users login data, digital messages, personal data and browser history.
As Google reports, less than 10% of websites are HTTPS-secure. There's at list one HTTPS website for 30% of global queries. All Google services have already switched to HTTPS.
Usually webmasters use HTTPS on checkout and registration pages. Only few sites use HTTPS sitewide. According to the latest statistics from BuiltWith, only 4.2% of the top 10,000 websites redirect users to SSL/HTTPS by default. While the percentage drops to 1.9% for the top million sites.
SEO Benefits of Switching to HTTPS
Google has started to boost rankings for HTTPS websites, but only for 1% of global queries. There are other benefits, though.
1. More referrer data.
If you go from an HTTPS page to an HTTP page, you lose all referrer data. If you’re exploring Google Analytics for your HTTP site, the traffic passing through referral sources can appear as “direct” traffic. And you'll never get keyword data. If you go from HTTP to HTTPS or from HTTPS to HTTPS, this is not the case and the referrer is thus kept intact.
2. Security and trust.
Since the key is security, HTTPS has been used for any site involving private information like credit card information and other personal data. But even content projects can win from using HTTPS/SSL.
- HTTPS confirms that the website is the one the server is supposed to be talking to.
- HTTPS prevents damages by third parties.
- HTTPS encrypts all communication, including URLs, which protects things like browsing history and credit card numbers.
HTTPS makes your bussiness more secure for visitors. Even without ranking boost.
Where is the catch?
Google rare uncovers how ranking factors actually work and just gives general recommendations for webmasters. And the news about HTTPS was suprising. Google seems to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS. And it's not a surprise, because HTTPS differs from other ranking factors. It's rather difficult and risky to apply.
1. Start all over again.
For search engines HTTP and HTTPS version of a website is two separate websites. New website with SSL will be really new with all the challenges, until Google understands that it's the mirror of the current site.
2. Speed issues.
HTTPS requires extra communication between servers, that's why it has the potential to slow down your website – especially on slower sites. Add to this the fact that speed is itself a ranking factor, especially on mobile. But there is a good news too. Your site should be more than fast enough to handle HTTPS, if you follow best practices. Google says, that to download a website via a secure protocol only 10 additional kilobytes is required per session. That impacts less than 1% of CPU load and 2% of network connection.
3. Not everything is ready.
HTTPS is a new technology for the web. Older web applications can have trouble with HTTPS URLs. If you run AdSense, you may see your earnings fall significantly, as Google will restrict your ads to those that are SSL-compliant.
SearchMetrics study shows no ranking benefit in Google after sites migrate from HTTP to HTTPS.
Other studies shows no correlation between encryption and rankings also. Raven Tools co-founder Jon Henshaw says marketers shouldn't switch to HTTPS yet. Henshaw said the rewards are not yet worth the time, resources and sacrifice in traffic that would come with turning a strong HTTP site into an HTTPS. Cyrus Shepard from Moz.com advices to concentrate on things that will have a bigger impact. Here are several: attract links, do local optimization, speed optimization, create quality content, etc.