Secure websites to get Google search boost

To encourage more websites to adopt the secure HTTPS protocol, Google makes it a factor in its search result rankings.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read


Google wants websites to become more secure and is using its search results ranking as incentive.

In a blog posted on Wednesday, Zineb Ait Bahajji and Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends analysts for the search giant, said that they've been tweaking their search ranking algorithms to incorporate whether sites use secure encrypted connections. So far, the team has seen positive results.

A URL that lists HTTPS as part of its address, for example, https://www.google.com, is an indication that the site uses Secure Sockets Layers (SSL). SSL is a security protocol that relies on certificates to ensure that any communication between the site and the Web browser is encrypted and therefore less vulnerable to being snooped on by the wrong people. With security always a concern on the Web, a site that uses SSL is considered safer than one without it. That's why sites that require a password, financial data, or other private information should by default be using SSL.

As a results of the positive results of Google's test, the team said it's now using HTTPS -- which stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure -- as a ranking signal in its search results, though the effort is just getting started.

"For now it's only a very lightweight signal -- affecting fewer than 1 percent of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content -- while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS," the Google team said. "But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we'd like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web."

For webmasters and developers who want to make the switch to HTTPS, the team included a list of steps in its blog post, such as deciding the type of certificate you need, choosing a 2048-bit key certificate (which offers a strong level of encryption), and checking out Google's Site Move article for details on how to change your website address.