HTTPS as an SEO Signal

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So the Internet decided to start screaming and waving its arms around a few days ago when Google announced that they were going to start giving a little SEO-type visibility boost to sites that were making use of HTTPS. Cue the mad rush as the more idiotic flavour of search marketer starts throwing SSL certificates onto everything, probably forgetting to do it properly and causing their sites to vanish from the SERPs.

Deep breaths, folks. Let’s think about this.

Firstly, while Google made it clear they “may decide the strengthen” the HTTPS signal by giving it more weight in the future, at the moment the key phrases to note are things like “minor” and “very lightweight,” referring to how much impact HTTPS is actually going to have on your search visibility. Especially when you compare it to things like good quality content, a sound site structure, decent URLs and a non-frustrating user experience.

So, what to do now? There’s actually a pretty obvious and easy decision here.

  • HTTP to HTTPS constitutes a site move – this means you need a (good) SEO involved to make sure you don’t muck up your existing visibility, and it isn’t something to be done lightly
  • If you weren’t considering it, don’t bother – it’s a pretty big undertaking in terms of cost, time and risk and if done incorrectly (or in a hurry) it’ll do more harm than good to your search visibility, so there are other things you can be doing that will have a bigger impact long term

Like every other update Google has mentioned since forever, this isn’t a silver bullet that is magically going to solve all your SEO problems – by all means look at it as part of a wider strategy, but don’t go haring off to the SSL certificates shop with the idea that it will magically boost you from page five to page one.

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