, How should you respond to Google’s announcement that Site Security is part of the ranking algorithm?

How should you respond to Google’s announcement that Site Security is part of the ranking algorithm?.

September 3, 2014

We’re always telling our clients that following Google’s best practice is the best strategy to ensure longer-term success in the search results.

So it’s no surprise that every small announcement of changes to their algorithm now gets picked up upon quickly and generates a rush to ‘comply’ regardless of the detail.

Recent announcements about site speed and site security have prompted clients to immediately worry about how their sites will fare, and in most cases these worries are simply unfounded.

Site speed

In our opinion site speed is really important for the user. Whilst Google will also look at this metric it is way down its list on important factors affecting page/site rankings.  Matt Cutts himself even stated that these changes would affect less than 1% of all queries,

You’ll notice that the current implementation mentions that fewer than 1% of search queries will change as a result of incorporating site speed into our ranking. That means that even fewer search results are affected, since the average search query is returning 10 or so search results on each page. So please don’t worry that the effect of this change will be huge. In fact, I believe the official blog post mentioned that “We launched this change a few weeks back after rigorous testing.” The fact that not too many people noticed the change is another reason not to stress out disproportionately over this change.

Site owners seem happy to panic about site speed and security before addressing more fundamental (and infinitely more important) aspects such as page mark-up, site structure and hierarchy, and on-site copy.

It goes without saying that a fast site will improve usabiltiy and help conversions and this is as good or better reason for addressing it than for a Google announcement.

HTTPS

Recently Google announced that they will treat sites served with https better then sites that aren’t using a secure certificate.

https (1)This means that you would need to buy a secure digital certificate.  (Apparently google is part owner of a large SSL company, so this might explain things).

As with site speed metrics, this is way down on Google’s list of priorities in the ranking algorithm, and we do not consider that it is a particular band wagon to be jumping on with the aim of improving search results. Google themselves admit that

“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—while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. 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.”

Google certainly has history of implementing changes which website owners feel obliged to comply with, only to backtrack on them later.

So our advice is to implement HTTPs on your site only if you feel it is required for other reasons than just search (eg customer confidence), we have outlined the possible pros and cons for you below,

Pros

  • Your site is protected by an additional SSL layer
  • A minimal algorithmic gain in rankings, implementation is certainly unlikely to result in any visible rankings changes
  • An increase in trust from site visitors, especially important on sites offering more sensitive data or transactions

Cons

  • The initial connection to your site may be slower, especially if you have to implement 301 redirects from non https pages
  • Cost of an annual SSL (if you don’t already have one)
  • In some cases you may lose referral data
  • You’ll need to ensure all https pages are correctly 301 redirected to the newer https versions
  • Need to update your internal link structure if you’re using relative URLs for internal links
  • You may find that many products don’t support the use of https