Google now uses HTTPS encryption a ranking signal, as confirmed in a Webmaster Central blog post yesterday.
HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) is an extra-secure communications protocol, created by layering the Transport Layer Security (TLS) cryptographic protocol over the standard HTTP protocol used by the majority of websites.
Google is keen for sites to transition to the HTTPS protocol in order to provide additionally security for web users. The news follows Google's call for 'HTTPS everywhere' at its I/O conference, as well as its adoption of encrypted searches for all users of its search engine.
The decision to favour secure HTTPS websites will be seen as an incentive for SEO-savvy webmasters to make the switch. In the post announcing the change, Google states "We'd like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web"
However, the post also states the signal will initially be "very lightweight - affecting fewer than one per cent of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content." Though Google has reserved the right to strengthen the signal in future.
Google will soon be publishing best practice guides for webmasters who want to adopt the secure protocol.
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