If the trend continues the way it has been, 50% of all Google SERPs page 1 results will be HTTPS secure by the middle of 2017. This news is according to Dr. Pete Meyers, Marketing Scientist at Moz, and an authority on the subject. His obsessive task is analysing and unpicking what the Google algorithm is up to and he has announced his latest findings on Twitter. A clear upward trend in HTTPS, month over month, shows an increase of secured URLs with TLS (Transport Layer Security) encryption appearing on the front page. But why is this happening?
Google announced in August of 2014 that there would be a slight preference given to HTTPS addresses. It would be tempting to believe these results show this now in play, that the algorithm’s changes are now starting to pick more secure pages over unsecured ones in its arcane and obscure ranking formula. However, as Dr Meyers points out, this could also be a product of more and more people switching to HTTPS as a result of the announcement.
The irony of this is that as more people switch, the more likely it is that Google will go ahead and increase the weight of this signal in its ranking algorithm, so there is a slight question of “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Whichever way around it is, the fact remains that pressure for all websites to switch to the secure protocol is mounting. If there is any truth to the theory that switching in this way will help SEO results, it seems almost irrelevant. The increase of HTTPS sites on the front page is becoming like a self-fulfilling prophesy when the majority of sites are making (or planning to make) the switch.
So what is the real difference with HTTPS? With regards to the theorised rankings boost, many have said the change in and of itself has not been significant. However, the confidence that the green padlock symbol gives to customers can definitely help improve site traffic, especially as e-commerce sites without this are shown as NOT secure by some modern browsers. Check what is being said about your site by clicking on the small “i” symbol next to Chrome or Firefox address bars. All these psychological factors can certainly affect web traffic.
The trend by Dr. Meyers shows an increased adoption rate of HTTPS by webmasters, and it looks unlikely to hit a sudden down curve. It is certain that the announcement of Google has influenced this effect, albeit over a few years’ timeframe. However, it is less certain whether switching effects the SERPs per se. Whatever the reason, Google’s mission to “encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web” seems to be coming to fruition. It would be difficult to be the only non-HTTPS in a sea of secure sites, if only for the customer reaction.