SEO is a tricky game, with an estimated 200 factors that impact how sites rank on search engine results pages. No factor works like a single building block, instead these blocks work together, building a solid foundation that improves a site’s rankings over time.

Security is one such block. Having a Secure HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTPS) site can show search engines you’ve taken the extra step to secure user data. Yet can implementing  HTTPS have a big impact on your SEO? Let’s read on to learn the benefits of including this building block in your SEO strategy.

The HTTPS Advantage

User Security and Privacy

By its very nature, HTTPS helps protect user privacy. HTTPS works with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to encrypt data, prevent data alteration during transmission, and user authentication. Having an SSL certificate installed on your site ensures user data is secure, including credit cards and personal account information.

Search Engine Boost

Back in 2014, Google called for “HTTPS everywhere” at its I/O conference. This should’ve been a huge sign that Google considers security as a ranking factor in its search engine algorithm. Though HTTPS alone won’t increase rankings, including it as part of a comprehensive SEO strategy has been shown to help improve results.

Better Analytics

One of the advantages of HTTPS is that it preserves the domain of referral sources. For example, if someone clicked to your site through a Facebook ad, Google Analytics will include Facebook as a referral source. HTTP, on the other hand, will often show all traffic as “direct traffic.” This makes analyzing the effectiveness of ads, social media, campaigns, and even organic referrals all the more difficult.

No Loss of Current Rankings

Understandably, marketing and SEO experts are concerned that switching from HTTP to HTTPS will result in a drop in rankings. The logic is that, with a new site, you essentially have to start from scratch to build link authority. Fortunately, Google’s John Mueller explained that there’s no loss in authority, as the search engine will fold the signals together.

Is HTTPS Right for You?

Despite the several advantages that come with having an HTTPS site, no company should make the switch without discussing current circumstances and capabilities. Your team should discuss the following before moving forward:

Costs

While SSL certificates are available for free, some webmasters charge a couple hundred per year. Those from the most respected security companies like Symantec can even run up to $1,499 per year! This is before adding in the costs associated with encrypting your data. If you’re running a small-size company, these costs may not be realistic.

Correct Implementation

Though HTTPS can help your SEO rankings, implementing incorrectly may not. Incorrect implementation of HTTPS can have a negative impact in the following ways:

  • Irrelevant redirect links: Links from your previous site that redirect to a single page (e.g. HTTPS homepage) might sound like an easy solution. However, this can confuse users and result in them leaving your site.
  • Duplicate content: Both HTTP and HTTPS versions of your pages could be indexed and appear in search results. This displaying of both versions could confuse users and again lead to a negative experience. Duplicate versions of your site being indexed in the SERP can also have a negative impact on rankings.
  • Speed: Since HTTPS requires more touches between your servers and the user, website loading time may lag. Search engines, especially with mobile, consider loading time in their rankings.

We recommend you take a look at Google’s guidelines on making site moves that require URL changes, and ensure that your team has the capacity to implement HTTPS the right way.

Main Path: Your HTTPS Experts

All other factors being equal, Google will rank HTTPS sites higher than those without. Even a couple notches up the results page can mean more business for your company.

We at Main Path take an holistic approach to SEO. Implementing a comprehensive marketing strategy, from HTTPS to content creation to conversions rate optimization, is needed to improve rankings. Our marketing experts understand this more than at any other agency. Reach out today to learn how we can help your company next!

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