Before we get any further, what exactly is HTTPS and SSL?
HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) is simply a secure version of http. It’s used for ecommerce sites, for example, to make secure transactions. If you’ve visited you bank’s website in either Internet Explorer or Firefox and noticed a padlock icon, then you can be rest easy knowing that the website is secure.
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Locket. It’s a protocol that provides secure connections for transmitting files. In other words, you don’t use SSL to encrypt a file, you’re using it to encrypt the connection. So, this is what a domain would appear with or without an encryption:
Both HTTPS and SSL require digital certificates, which are: single domain (www.domain.com), multi-domain (www.domain.com, www.subdomain.domain.com, www.domain.net) or wildcard (www.domain.com, www.subdomain1.domain.com, www.subdomain2.domain.com, www.subdomain3.domain.com, etc.).
Google has announced that going HTTPS — adding a SSL 2048-bit key certificate on your site — will give you a minor ranking boost.
Google says this gives websites a small ranking benefit, only counting as a “very lightweight signal” within the overall ranking algorithm. In fact, Google said this carries “less weight than other signals such as high-quality content.” Based on their tests, Google says it has an impact on “fewer than 1% of global queries” but said they “may decide to strengthen” the signal because they want to “encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.”
Google also said based on their tests for the past few months, the HTTPS signal showed “positive results” in terms of relevancy and ranking in Google’s search results.
Should you be concerned when switching from your HTTP to HTTPS site for SEO purposes? Not so much. Google has been telling webmasters it is safe to do so for years. But you need to take the proper steps to ensure your traffic doesn’t suffer. That means make sure to communicate to Google that you moved your site from HTTP to HTTPS. Google promises to release more documentation in the future, but for now has provided the following tips:
Google has also updated Google Webmaster Tools to better handle HTTPS sites and the reporting on them.
One last thing: You will want to make sure to track your HTTP to HTTPS migration carefully in your analytics software and within Google Webmaster Tools.