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What is https, and why should you care?

Whether or not you know what https is, an interesting piece of news floated down the SEO pipeline this week when Moz reported that half of Google’s Page 1 rankings begin with https.

Regardless of your level of awareness, you – or at least your company’s website and search engine rankings – could end up being affected by the move toward https.

So what is https? When you see those five little letters at the beginning of a web address instead of the plain “http,” that means the website is secured with extra coding. This additional level of security means that hackers can’t intercept the personal data entered by a visitor to that site.

Awareness of https began growing beyond typical online retailers like Amazon in late 2014 when Google announced that https would be included as a factor in its ranking algorithms.

We’ve been tracking the https development ever since. Our research shows that it’s basically a secondary factor, which is in line with the findings of other SEO experts. Https does not have the same influence as the content-related factors that help Pilot Fish clients rank so well on the search engines.

Our experience also is consistent with the Moz report. The growth in secure sites seems to be more of an issue of increased compliance on the part of website owners as opposed to increased enforcement on the part of Google.

Basically, Google hasn’t changed the influence https has on its algorithms, but it has ramped up its message that website security is a vital priority. As a result, a growing number of website owners and SEO professionals have taken the hint and are making the move to https.

But the switch needs to be approached carefully to ensure that the revised website address doesn’t hurt your website’s current search engine rankings. Adding that “s” at the end of “http” – even though all the other letters in the web address remain the same – gives each web page a new website address, making the page appear brand new in the search engines’ eyes.

It’s been well documented that new web pages (even those that only appear new) don’t perform as well on the search engines. You need a rigorous, detailed plan and meticulous implementation to help each page retain its search engine ranking.

A slapdash approach will destroy your website’s search engine rankings, requiring months – if not years – of hard work to regain your site’s former stature.

Eventually, we can see all our clients moving – carefully and cautiously – toward https. But we aren’t recommending an immediate wholesale switch across the boards. Https, for the time being, seems to have a limited effect on B2B SEO and organic search traffic because:

  1. The role https plays in Google’s algorithm appears to be static.
  2. Most searchers don’t understand what https is when they see it in search results, so it doesn’t affect click-throughs to our clients’ websites.

SEO observers expect both of those factors to change at some point. Sooner or later, Google will assign https more influence in its ranking algorithms, and most search engine users will realize that https websites are more secure. And what reasonable person wouldn’t want to visit a website with more, rather than less, security?

For the time being, though, only a handful of industrial companies need to consider switching their websites to https. These higher priority sites have at least one of the following:

  • Online stores that require payment by credit card
  • Login areas (for employees as well as customers) that require a username and password
  • A large percentage of online competitors that have implemented https
     

Concerning that last category, if your competitors are all using https and are all SEO-savvy, your website could already be at a disadvantage when it comes to search engine rankings.

As the Moz article points out, the actual switch to https isn’t cumbersome, and secure certificates are relatively inexpensive. Pilot Fish’s tech staff is well-versed in installing them, and our SEO and content experts have helped clients successfully transition their websites to new addresses.

Now you know what https is and why you should care. If you’d care to learn even more or to find out how Pilot Fish can help with your B2B SEO, contact us today.

 

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