Google’s HTTPS Announcement, Organic Search POV

Google’s organic search algorithm is comprised of 250+ variables and changes over 500 times per year. RMI is dedicated to relentless testing which uncovers otherwise unannounced ranking factors and delivers sustained value for our clients. Occasionally Google reveals certain ranking factors in an effort to increase adoption and improve user experience. On August 6th, Google released the following statement:

“…we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it’s only a very lightweight signal — affecting less than 1% of global queries…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.”

This announcement has forced many digital marketers to consider the adoption of TLS (transport layer security), otherwise known as HTTPS. Before committing to this change, RMI recommends answering the following 3 questions:

  • What is the true cost of switching to HTTPS? Simply put, there is an incremental cost associated with implementing TLS. Other IT investments may also be required to optimize performance while deploying TLS. Depending on the varying levels of cost and perceived value, an immediate move to HTTPS may only make sense in certain situations.
  • What are the incremental SEO benefits of adoption? Google openly admits this new ranking factor is “a very lightweight signal…affecting fewer than 1% of global queries”. Since Google uses over 250 weighted ranking factors, the chances of seeing a substantial lift from this change alone are slim. Response Mine continues to recommend a holistic approach to SEO, implementing the right combination of changes over time. Keep in mind that updates which benefit user experience are, and will always remain, paramount to SEO. Incremental organic rankings should not be the sole reason for investment in HTTPS.
  • How will this change affect the perception of my brand? Data security has been a hot button issue since last December when Target confirmed a data breach impacting over 40 million customers. Cyber-attacks and identity theft issues have taken center stage on major media outlets. Consumer awareness and expectations have changed – and smart companies are reacting. Facebook recently announced its acquisition of a server security company in an effort to position their website as a safe environment for consumers. This news broke less than 24 hours after Google announced the above change to their organic search algorithm. Facebook and Google aren’t alone. Various companies continue to increase security to better serve their customers and protect them from future risk.

Marketing and IT leaders should seriously consider investment in HTTPS. The recent announcement by Google is a great conversation starter, but should not be the sole reason for adoption. Efficiently acquiring high value customers requires more than organic rankings. Exceeding user expectations is critical to converting organic search visitors into lifetime customers.

Response Mine Interactive