In 2014, when Google announced that its search algorithm would soon give boosted ranks to secure sites, I recommended a cautious approach and suggested that site owners carefully weigh the pros and cons before migrating to a secure site environment.
At that time, corresponding boost sizes were undefined and for many companies, it was unclear whether the potential site disruption would be worth the expense.
The boost in SEO rankings has proven to be small, as then suggested, but there are now more compelling reasons to transition to a secure search. Now is a good time to reconsider implementing security into your technical improvement plan.
That Was Then
In 2014, I recommended the prudent approach of focusing on site speed improvement, with the long-term goal of moving to a secure environment. A small, unquantified boost in rankings was not worth the effort of making the immediate move to a secure environment. Unless site owners sped up their unsecured sites and placed protocols to continuously monitor and test that speed, going secure seemed expensive and ill-advised.
This Is Now
The basis of this recommendation has not changed, but the best time for implementation has. Instead of keeping the transition to a secure environment on the “maybe someday” list, it should be integrated into your 2017 plan.
The Pioneers Have Taken the Arrows
A great advantage of having taken a cautionary approach to secure sites is the ability to learn from the pioneers.
As with product planning, the pioneers take the arrows while settlers follow behind and take the land.
With regards to site migration, there are now enough collective experiences and a well-trodden path to provide guidelines for tech teams to follow. Shifting and redirecting thousands of URLs for a large site is still a significant mapping task, so migration will not occur instantaneously. But an ever-growing number of sites have already successfully made the shift, and you should consider doing the same.
Google Favors HTTPS
Google continues to advocate for a more secure Web.
Data gleaned from Google Chrome users has shown that users spend a greater amount of time on HTTPS pages than on HTTP pages — a rate that is increasing across both mobile and desktop access.
Google notes that more than half of pages loaded and two-thirds of total time spent by Chrome desktop users occur via HTTPS. The longitudinal data shows the prospects of continued growth, as both users and sites are adopting and adapting to a more secure environment.
A further incentive is on the horizon: In 2017, users of Google Chrome can expect to see clear designations on the browser bar whenever they visit insecure pages that accept usernames, passwords or credit card information.
Google intends to further tighten the ratchet by warning users of potentially harmful sites in 2017. This shaming of insecure sites should provide a stark incentive to make the move.
Take Action Now
As I see it, now is the time to complete the plans for your switch to a secure site. Set a specific date and then execute your plan.
But take caution in your move, and keep best practices in mind: Learn from the experiences of the pioneers, ensure proper crawling of your new secure site and protect your valuable search rankings.
Moving to a secure environment is no longer just something that should be done for the tiny boost in rankings — it is now a move to protect the reputation of your business.