Whether you're a developer who runs multiple websites, or a business owner with an ecommerce site, it's important you recognise the importance of Google rankings.
Google's PageRank system is arguably the most important feature of the search engine, and Google rarely makes it known how they rank websites. However, a few months back, Google announced 'HTTPS Everywhere' – meaning they are now using HTTPS as a ranking signal, and that's something all website owners should have paid attention to.
More weight in the future
According to Google's blog post on the matter, this is a relatively lightweight signal, affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than high-quality content for example, to give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. However, Google also noted that this could easily change and have more weight in the future.
The fact Google told us this is a revelation in itself, and it's something that we can't ignore. It is presumed that this information was revealed to provide webmasters with the opportunity to switch to HTTPS (also known as HTTP over TLS, or Transport Layer Security, also accomplished with SSL certificates).
Here's what we know so far about the PageRank system:
• PageRank assigns a rank to every search result, and the higher the page's score, the further up the search results list it will appear
• The scores are in part determined by the number of other web pages that link to the target page. Every link to the page is counted as a vote, the idea being that pages with good quality content are linked to more often
• Votes from high-ranking web pages count more than low-ranking sites
• The more links a web page sends out the weaker its voting becomes
Reasons to shift to HTTPS
With Google announcing anything about their ranking signal being a rarity, we would strongly advise making the move to HTTPS, as it's relatively inexpensive and doesn't take too much time to set up. There are also a number of benefits:
• The ability to ensure information goes to the right recipient
• Increased security for you, and your customers
• SSL is trusted by customers, meaning they will feel safer using your website. When browsers are forced to use HTTPS connections it raises the security policy, meaning less opportunities for hackers
• It's a ranking signal
In the same blog post earlier this year, Google also said that it will be encouraging websites to adopt SSL and HTTPS as standard practice, as Mountain View will be zoning in the focus on this particular ranking signal. Websites that are HTTPS-ready now, will benefit from any increase in this ranking signal in the future too.
Make the switch
So, if you are not using HTTPS via SSL, be sure to switch over straight away. There is virtually no downside, and the upsides are that your site, visitor data and search rankings will all benefit. Your hosting provider should be able to offer you a number of SSL certificate options ranging from a standard SSL certificate to extended validation certificates.
- Daniel Foster is the co-founder of Manchester-based web hosting company www.34SP.com