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The answer for now is not yet, but there is a good probability this may happen in the future.

Let’s go over why…

HeartbleedSEO Heartbleed

You have probably already read articles concerning heartbleed but let’s have a quick rehash. Heartbleed is a serious vulnerability in the traditional SSL/TLS encryption that has been used to secure websites on the internet. The Heartbleed bug allows anyone using the loophole to enter supposedly encrypted memory and eavesdrop on communication or steal data directly from websites. This includes usernames and passwords which can then be used to access accounts and impersonate individuals or larger entities.

Although there has been a fixed OpenSSL released that websites have been implementing quickly it is still a good idea to change all your online passwords.

With such security issues becoming prevalent in the online community it is not surprising that it should become a topic for Google. Google runs one of the largest web indexes in the world and has a strong emphasis on security. Along those same lines the company does not want to send searchers to potentially dangerous sites that lack security. In fact Google has been migrating its properties over to SSL for years now.  If you work in SEO you are already familiar with this, especially because of the (not provided) keyword in you have seen in Google Analytics.


Google Matt CuttsMatt Cutts Advocates Secure Search

Matt Cutts, head of the webspam team at Google is apparently an internal advocate for rewarding secure sites in Google’s search results. At least according to Rofle Winkler who recently wrote an article that details internal conversations that Matt Cutts has had on the subject. Beyond internal conversation, while speaking at SMX West Matt Cutts publically stated that he would personally love to make SSL a part of the Google algorithm and would like to make it happen during 2014.

So the question is how soon coud this occur? After all Matt Cutts did say he hoped the change would happen this year. However, Google did not comment and this is just the personal opinion of Matt Cutts.  In fact, not everyone at Google agrees with him.

Even if this is simply opinion Cutts has become a predictive compass for webmasters with his conference appearances and youtube videos. With this knowledge of a potential change to the algorithm along and your desire for customers to trust your website security should you be migrating your site to SSL/HTTPS?


Considering Secure Search?

Google Search Results

Moving over to https may seem like the right thing to do and for many websites (particularly) small ones I would say this is the way to go, but there are a couple things to note first.

  • The size of your website.  I mentioned I recommend that small websites make the move; this is because it is relatively easy. For large sites, moving over to HTTPS or SSL can be a large investment that requires time and money in order to restructure the site and test it. Before making the moves anticipate the size of the project and consider the ROI of such an investment. If you are lucky enough to be starting a new site right now structure it to be secure so it doesn’t become a problem for you a couple years down the road.
  • If you do make the change to secure don’t forget to make the appropriate redirects. Moving from http to https is essentially the same as changing your domain name. To avoid any short-term ranking decline you can set up permanent redirects for the pages on your site. While this is a simple task it can be time consuming if you have a large site with many pages.

With these two factors in mind securing your site may be a potential way to beat out competition in search engine rankings.  Will this change actually occur?  When will it occur?  How large will it factor into ranking? We will have to wait and see, but if it does happen expect a turbulent few months as sites transition and rankings shift accordingly.

Photo Credit: Rejon, Thomas Hawk

Jamie Bates
Online Marketing Director