Since 2014, Google has been promoting the idea that the usual HTTP initials appearing before website addresses should be replaced by HTTPS, which transmits digital data more securely. Google has also suggested more recently that it will soon begin "marking" pages that do not adopt the HTTPS protocol.
The question that many SEO companies are asking is whether this digital mark will affect website SEO or not. While there are definite benefits to SEO services adopting the HTTPS format, does continuing to use HTTP result in reduced pagerank?
Why the Switch to HTTPS?
The main reason for Google’s call to switch to the HTTPS protocol is because it provides better security for data being transmitted online. HTTPS transmits data in an encrypted form over SSL or secure socket layers, which is harder for unauthorized parties to intercept.
This is a definite advantage SEO companies should implement to increase the security of some customer websites, especially e-commerce sites or those that collect user information. SEO services should also be building new websites using HTTPS if they have not already started doing so.
Yet implementing this change with already existing websites can be quite an undertaking since it requires changing the URL of every page on the site. Every major change to the URL structure typically results in an initial and sometimes significant loss of SEO ranking. Any current ranking must then be recovered over time once pages with the new URL structure gain the traffic and authority of the ones they are replacing.
Does HTTPS Affect SEO?
Currently, it is unclear what the result will be for pages that are identified as being unsecured HTTP pages. In instances where risk is minimal and site owners would rather not go through the time and expense of making the switch to HTTPS, will it affect their sites in any way? More importantly, will SEO services see any negative effects to pagerank?
Pages using HTTP will show an icon and the word "unsecured" in the left hand side of the URL bar on Chrome and Google has already expressed its preference for secure HTTPS websites. Yet there is no indication thus far as to whether this will negatively affect SEO to a large degree. What does “preference” mean in this case? Will it apply similarly to the way Google now puts rank preference on mobile-ready pages, with non-mobile pages sinking further down the list?
What are Some Benefits for Switching to HTTPS?
Beyond any effect that Google may have, some also suggest that HTTPS website security may increase site traffic as users become more aware of secure and unsecured sites. SEO companies also point to other benefits such as more accurate collection of analytical data since HTTPS can differentiate between direct and referral traffic. Whether all this will improve rank is unknown, as is whether pages with unsecured icons and labels will be penalized in any significant way.
There is much yet unknown to SEO services regarding Google’s push to switch website URLs to the HTTPS protocol. HTTPS does offer important advantages for those sites requiring high security levels, such as e-commerce, financial, and other sensitive sites. What SEO companies want to know is whether making this change is necessary for others. Will keeping the HTTP protocol result in being penalized and a loss of authority that causes reductions in pagerank - or will it simply assign a browser icon label and do nothing more?
In an attempt to discover the answers to these and other HTTPS SEO questions, Marketing Heroes has embarked on a mission to compare HTTP and HTTPS websites. Using analytical data from both, we hope to determine what, if any, negative effects may arise for HTTP pages and whether the switch is necessary for low-risk websites. Look for updates in the near future!