The answers to both of those questions has changed
Earlier this year, Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, suggested that a secure, encrypted site was an important consideration for website owners in 2014.
A secure site, if you are uncertain on that, means that the owner of the website is verified and the information given to the site is encrypted, as explained below. There are various types of encryption with various acronyms that we’ll leave alone for now so that we don’t go down that rabbit-hole of epic web-geekery and potential confusion. Instead we’ll focus on those two important characteristics of website security:
- If your site is secure, the content is encrypted, meaning that others can’t “eavesdrop” and see what information you are sending to a website or what it is sending to you. Think of a bank website or ecommerce checkout process. The information, like credit card numbers, used in those sites is essentially scrambled and made into gibberish while it’s moving around, then unscrambled for you. Very Tom Clancy, I know.
- As well, a secure website means your site is verified, or authenticated. This means that your browser is told “Yes, the www.example.com website really does belong to ‘Example Corporation'” Sort of like a celebrity being “verified” as a real celebrity on Twitter. The obvious advantage there is that it keeps someone from posing as an official website in order to get your information.
When implemented, a secure website results in sites that look like the homepage of Google when you look at the website address bar. It shows “https://www.google.com” instead of just “http://www.google.com”. The difference is that ‘s’ which stands for, you guessed it, the security component and shows that is installed and in effect on that website.
Up until recently, security was primarily used for ecommerce sites or applications that asked for your personal or financial information: credit card numbers, personal identifying information and the like. You’ve seen and certainly used sites that were secure and encrypyted for good reason, such as your bank or credit card site or a checkout process on Amazon or other online retailer.
But with the announcement in March, it became clear that the future of the web was that all websites would best be set up with web security firmly in place.
That Future Is Now
Today, the Google Webmaster Blog released news that https was not just recommended, but that in fact it would be used as a ranking signal. A ranking signal simply means it’s one of the dozens and dozens of factors that the Google search system takes into account when deciding which websites come up first after someone does an online search.
While they state that “fewer than 1%” of search queries are affected, they also state that they may “decide to strengthen” it. Not surprising, since Google is known for changing their ranking factors every so often.
So What’s It All Mean?
Because it is a factor we have begun transitioning clients (and ourselves!) to secure https-based versions of their websites, starting with research into how to do this with no disruptions. Some marketers or website developers have already said, “It isn’t a make or break component. Just relax, or ‘wait and see’.” They ignore however, at their own or their client’s peril, that it IS a component, with an official statement stating so. We utilize and continuously work to improve as many ranking elements as we can—factors such as quality content, site structure, attractive design, website speed and many more—so there’s no reason not to incorporate this as well to offer the best value to our clients.
Most importantly, secure websites increase trust in those websites by their users. This then improves their user experience, making them, our clients and us happier. Hard to argue with that.
One thing to keep in mind, in case you’re wondering: this does not mean websites are hack-proof. It means that with security and https enabled, information is not able to be viewed easily by 3rd parties. If someone really wants to hack into your website and disrupt it, they probably can. That said, we also employ significant security measures on our sites, and have for some time, including constant website monitoring and making daily website backups so that even if a site is hacked, it can be restored quickly.
So if you are wondering how to set up your own online presence the right way, with demonstrable marketing results to boot, give us a call or drop us a line and well be happy to help you out.