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Google Dangles A Big Carrot To Make The Web More Private
Google said this evening that it will give sites that use HTTPS a small ranking advantage in search results. This is a very self-conscious attempt to make the web more secure and private and reward those who comply.
(See our related story Google Starts Giving A Ranking Boost To Secure HTTPS/SSL Sites.)
This is also something that Google’s chief spam-figher Matt Cutts was publicly advocating a few months ago. He’s currently on a leave of absence from the company.
HTTPS is partly a response to the NSA spying scandal as well as the rash of hacking and digital espionage around the world. HTTPS prevents wiretapping and so-called man-in-the-middle surveillance in the transmission of traffic between servers.
Google said that HTTPS will be a minor ranking signal for now. It won’t trump other signals “such as high-quality content.” Over time however it could carry greater weight.
Many newly developed websites use HTTPS by default as a best practice. If that’s not true for your site, our companion story provides concrete advice from Google (and Barry Schwartz) about making the transition:
- Decide the kind of certificate you need: single, multi-domain, or wildcard certificate
- Use 2048-bit key certificates
- Use relative URLs for resources that reside on the same secure domain
- Use protocol relative URLs for all other domains
- Check out our site move article for more guidelines on how to change your website’s address
- Don’t block your HTTPS site from crawling using robots.txt
- Allow indexing of your pages by search engines where possible. Avoid the noindex robots meta tag.
This move will probably “encourage” most webmasters and publishers to embrace HTTPS if they haven’t already. Yet Google’s decision will also have its detractors, who will argue that HTTPS migration can be costly for larger publishers, slows down load times and unfairly punishes those who don’t encrypt their traffic.
Barry Schwartz discusses that there may also be a short-term negative SEO impact, from implementing HTTP, notwithstanding Google’s promise to reward those who comply.