On a bi-monthly basis, SMS conducts audits on client websites to determine their “Google health”. In other words, Google uses algorithms to reward those sites that are user-friendly and informative and penalizes those that may have attributes that are less desirable or give the appearance of “spam” sites. It’s in Google’s interests to provide their users with the best possible search results, and being the number one search engine with 81% share of the search market, these penalties are highly likely to affect our clients. Lately, we’ve been notifying them in their reports of a new factor that may affect their organic search results and user behavior, one that is growing in importance.
Let’s begin with a very simple definition of HTTP, which stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. It’s responsible for how website information is presented to the user, and it aims to make that transfer quickly because, for most, speed is the most important criteria for using the Internet. HTTPS is pretty much the same thing except its primary focus is security, and works in conjunction with something called an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. If you’re exchanging sensitive information like credit card numbers, most will appreciate the slightly slower transfer in favor of not being robbed blind.
Whether your website is involved with the exchange of sensitive information or not, there are a few things worth noting about HTTPS that could still effect your traffic:
• HTTPS is increasingly preferred by Google and switching to it will give you a search ranking boost. Another way of saying this is you will effectively be penalized by Google by staying with HTTP, and that will increase in severity in the future.
• If SMS hosts a website, it is automatically switched to HTTPS at no additional cost. Check with your server provider if you’re still seeing HTTP in your URL as you may have to purchase an SSL certificate periodically to stay current. Prices range from $70 – $100 per certificate.
• Users that do a lot of shopping online may begin to set their browsers to ignore unsecured sites and/or deny access. It is already pretty universal that a warning is shown near the URL address when accessing a site still using HTTP.
Switching to HTTPS can be tricky if you’re doing it yourself, so it’s best to consult an IT professional as there are many steps to take. It’s pretty clear that your SEO activities will be reliant on making the change, so waiting too long could open the door for your sharper competition.
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