This post was originally made on the 4Ps Marketing blog.
I’m really not a fan of jumping on bandwagons at the drop of a hat. In the fast moving digital world, flavours of the month come and go far more rapidly than they can be realistically evaluated for genuine business impacts. While early adoption can have its merits, diving feet-first into potentially high risk scenarios without a clear picture of the payoffs is not advisable for brands operating in a massively competitive space.
That’s why I was cautious about the newly announced HTTPS “SEO signal” back in 2014 that sent parts of the search industry into uproar. It was an enormously minor SEO positive but the transition was immensely risky as it (then) involved a complete change of address site move-style transition. Sites that handled the migration wrong ran horrible SEO risks and more than one ended up severely damaging their organic visibility in a way that far outweighed the minor benefit of having all their URLs on HTTPS.
I was therefore pretty “meh” about the whole thing.
Over the last two years, this has gradually refined into a more judicious “if you’re doing a big migration or relaunch anyway, let’s get onto HTTPS at the same time” with caveats around implementation and site speed implications. The SEO signal aspect of HTTPS remains minor at best, but Google is pushing hard to get the whole web secured and other factors started to come into serious consideration.
This is why, as of now, I’m officially revising our recommendation. It has been two years since the introduction and Google shows no signs of letting up on HTTPS. There’s been confirmation that as of January 2017, the Chrome browser will start flagging ordinary HTTP pages a “non secure” if they collect any passwords or card details. Google actually say that this is part of “a long-term plan to mark all HTTP sites as non-secure” in a way that is very obvious to users.
Next steps could be even more drastic – some current (unsubstantiated) rumours include Chrome not loading pages with mixed protocols, or even that the browser will stop rendering non-secure sites altogether. With Chrome usage accounting for comfortably over 55% of monthly browser market share, this is no longer something that brands can sit back on.