When Google proclaimed HTTPS a ranking factor in August 2014, some website owners—those that are SEO conscious—didn’t hesitate to eschew HTTP while some others believed the development had little or no benefit to warrant making a switch.
It was always a matter of time before the impact of the announcement revealed itself.
How the Update Has Played Out So Far.
Data provided by Dr. Pete Meyers of Moz showed that,before the announcement, about 7% of websites listed on the first page of Google search results used HTTPS. The number moved up by only 1% after a week of the announcement and didn’t show much improvement even after two weeks. This was possibly why many website owners didn’t assign much importance to the update and thus didn’t bother switching to HTTPS.
But then by June 2016, data from Moz showed that Google means business—32.5% of websites listed on Google results’ first pages now use HTTPS. This number was confirmed by Google’s webmaster trends analyst, Gary Illyes, in a tweet to @rustybrick, saying, “…Didn’t I say ‘about 30%’ and referenced @dr_pete?”
This Could Mean One of Three Things
- Google has, since the announcement, made updates to its algorithm, rewarding the use of HTTPS. If so, then the percentage of sites using HTTPS that feature on Google search results will progress gradually over the coming months.
- Website owners are adopting the ‘https:’ protocol for reasons best known to them.
- Or it could be that Google has simply manipulated people into believing that their websites will be rewarded with higher rankings if they switched to HTTPS.
What The Data Means for Google
- Google needs to find an even ground. Rewarding the use of HTTPS now that sites that have adopted it are the minority could mean devaluing great websites that haven’t made the switch. Alternatively, waiting for sites using HTTPS to become the majority would only render the reward obsolete.
- Google also can’t afford to set the reward for the use of HTTPS too high. Otherwise, it might become an invitation to sites looking to manipulate the system. On the other hand, the reward can’t be too low—or people will ignore the prompt to switch.
- Thebest time for Google to instruct its algorithm to start rewarding sites using HTTPS is when at least a half of all websites have adopted HTTPS. Also, for its HTTPS campaign to be successful, Google may need most major trusted websites to make the adoption. Once the top players are on board, smaller sites will be more compelled to switch.
Big changes to URLs don’t only threaten your site’s SEO and daily hits, but can consume time and money too. This is especially true for heavy websites. You have to weigh the risks against the unverified boost Google’s algorithm will give your website if you switched to HTTPS.
Take a look at the problems Wired.com encountered while switch to HTTPS. It will give you a broader view of what to expect as you plan your move.
If you haven’t switched to HTTPS yet, you might want to keep an eye on the number of sites in your niche that are adopting it. Also, watch out for another update, pertaining to HTTPS, to Google’s algorithm within the next one year.
That way, you will be ready to make your switch as soon as the need arises.