Security Experts:

Google Uses HTTPS in Search Engine Rankings

Google is now using whether a site is leveraging HTTPS as one of the factors in its search ranking.

The move follows a growing emphasis on HTTPS by Google during the past few years. In 2010, Google for example began using HTTPS by default for Gmail and Web searches. A few months ago at Google I/0, the company called for the adoption of HTTPS everywhere on the Web. Increasingly, blogged Google Webmaster Trends Analysts Zineb Ait Bahajji and Gary Illyes, webmasters have been adopting HTTPS on their sites.

"For these reasons, over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms," they blogged. "We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it's only a very lightweight signal—affecting fewer than [one percent] 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."

In the coming weeks, Google plans to publish best practices that make TLS adoption easier so webmasters can avoid common mistakes, the analysts wrote. Along those lines, they listed some basic tips:

  • 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

"If your website is already serving on HTTPS, you can test its security level and configuration with the Qualys Lab tool," blogged Illyes and Bahajji. "If you are concerned about TLS and your site’s performance, have a look at Is TLS fast yet?."

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