It's been about a year since Google announced that having a secure website would be a ranking signal
. A secure website is one that uses "https://" as the URL instead of "http://."
I hate it that most web browsers hide the "http" part of a URL in the address bar, but I recognize that it helps make the internet more understandable for a lot of people.
The "s" of https is the simple designation that a website has a "secure certificate" installed. Having a secure certificate doesn't automatically make a website more trustworthy; it just means the website owner filed out a simple form and took a few extra steps to set up their website.
That simple form is used to verify ownership of the domain name. If you have the time and money, you could fill out the more complicated application form and go through the business verification process, but that's not necessary to benefit from the ranking factor that Google offers.
The "secure certificate" is an encryption key that allows web browsers to open "secure socket layers" of communications. That's the "SSL" acronym you might have heard about. Although "secure certificates" and "SSL" are often used interchangeably in conversations, they represent two very different parts of the website security equation.
How good is the secure ranking factor that Google is offering anyway? Truthfully, I don't know.
Google has a history of announcing new ranking signals and making all of us website guys scratch our head wondering what they are up to. Oftentimes, the buzz of the speculation dies down after a few weeks and no one talks about it anymore.
As a Google watcher for quite some time now, I have come to recognize that Google never takes an action without a long term plan. A recent example of this is when they originally announced the use of mobile friendly labels
in November 2014. Followed by the increased number of email notifications to warn of non-mobile-friendly website status
in early 2015. Ultimately Google announced their policy to include mobile friendliness as a real ranking factor
rather than a strong suggestion.
What's interesting about this mobile-friendliness example is the increased number of mobile warning emails that Google started sending before they made mobile-friendliness a real ranking factor.
According to the May 2015 issue of Website Magazine (page 17), Google has increased the number of security warning emails they've sent to website owners this year. They are also taking major strides to secure all of their services
while the Interactive Advertising Bureau even explained the need for you to secure your website
While you might be worrying about the latest social sharing technique, the underlying technology that controls it all is becoming more secure. More security means we can go about our daily lives with fewer worries.
I am waiting for Google's next big announcement about security, which I assume will arrive shortly after their June 30, 2015 deadlines.
Keep remembering that Google takes security seriously and they will eventually encrypt all their online services. Google also wants you to take security seriously too. This security is more important as more businesses start collecting massive amounts of customer tracking data.
I expect that Google will eventually elevate the importance of their secure website ranking factor, so why not look into the "https" setup now instead of waiting. You could even use it as a marketing ploy and generate some social buzz announcing your move to a secure website.
The simple secure certificates are not difficult to set up, so why not put your customer's best interest first and get this taken care of today?