Thursday, August 14, 2014

HTTPS: Google's New "Ranking Signal"

Last week Google introduced a new ranking signal: HTTPS. If you're not a webmaster, you can be forgiven for not knowing what HTTPS means--or, for that matter, what "ranking signal" means. However, a little bit of knowledge about both can offer the casual SEO reader (the majority of this blog's audience) an intriguing view into the complexities of the SEO world.

First, let's tackle HTTPS. You might already be familiar with HTTP, which has been a part of web addresses since the beginning of the world wide web. HTTP stands "Hyper Text Transfer Protocol", and it is the primary web technology that allows users to link and browse websites. In a way, HTTP is the "web" in the word wide web.

HTTPS stands for "Hyper Text Transfer Protocol", which is HTTP with an added element of security--Secure Sockets Layers (SSL) for you tech junkies. Netscape invented HTTPS in 1994 in response to the burgeoning e-commerce market. Before this time (and well after), consumers were hesitant to offer credit card numbers online for fear of security breaches. As eHow writes:

"The Hypertext Transfer Protocol carries most of the traffic for the World Wide Web. However, it is a plain text format protocol and third parties can read details of HTTP transmissions through wire tapping. This knowledge discouraged consumers from giving their credit card details over the Internet. The HTTP Secure protocol, or HTTPS, was invented to address the security shortfall of HTTP."

If you're old enough, you might remember a time--well after 1994--when most consumers were hesitant to shop online. Ebay and Amazon didn't come around until 1995, and PayPal didn't enter the marketplace until 1998. (Google arrived in 1998). But it wasn't until the mid-2000s that e-commerce really exploded.

The fact that Google is now revealing its preference for HTTPS means, of course, that the search giant is focused on security. In their blog post on the subject, Google writes:

"Security is a top priority for Google. We invest a lot in making sure that our services use industry-leading security, like strong HTTPS encryption by default. That means that people using Search, Gmail and Google Drive, for example, automatically have a secure connection to Google.

 Beyond our own stuff, we’re also working to make the Internet safer more broadly. A big part of that is making sure that websites people access from Google are secure. For instance, we have created resources to help webmasters prevent and fix security breaches on their sites."

However, the preference for HTTPS also signals a more commerce-centered view of the Internet. Remember, HTTPS was invented for the purpose of securing transactions. By citing its preference for HTTPS, Google might also be acknowledging that the most relevant sites in the future will be transactional in nature.

Which brings us to "ranking signal," the term Google uses in its blog post:

"For now it’s only a very lightweight signal — affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content..."

In its article about the new ranking signal, WebProNews, offers a succinct view of its meaning:

"As you may know, Google’s algorithm uses over 200 ranking signals to determine what search results to show users."

So what does this mean for you? More than ever, the Internet is becoming a place for transactions. If you have a product to sell, however, it's not so simple as building a website. You need a well-developed website, with quality, relevant content, and a secure connection.

And those 200 ranking signals? Knowing and utilizing these signals is the work of the SEO specialist. However, only a few SEO specialists understand the complexity of SEO. On the one hand, SEO is about quality content, design, development. On the other hand, it is about understanding the Google's "ranking signals." The latter is be practiced by any number of internet marketing firms (with varying success). But to truly succeed you need an SEO specialist who understands the signals.

Of course, we're partial to the work of our blog's sponsor, Stepmans PC, a professional website marketing agency that focuses on natural website optimization and organic marketing. If you wish to talk to a trained professional about the latest news from Google and how it might effect your business, do not hesitate to call Alex and his staff today: (215) 900-9398.