I am sitting here on a Friday at 4.23PM in…
Everyone enjoys their privacy. But nowadays internet privacy is not so much a commodity to be enjoyed but rather a standard that should be universally adopted and taken very seriously. Google has always strived to make the web a safe place by securing its entire website and ensuring their services use industry-leading security. Now they are taking it a step further. Early last month Google called for “HTTPS Everywhere.”
HTTPS, which stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, makes it more difficult for hackers to track users. The protocol makes sure the data isn’t being transmitted in plain-text format, which is much easier to eavesdrop on. It’s easy to spot whether or not a site is using the system: a URL that begins with https:// versus one that begins with http://.
So far, only about 25% of the web uses the protocol. By giving sites that use the encryption a higher rank in its search algorithms and penalizing those that don’t with decreased traffic, Google is hoping to increase the percentage of websites that are secured with HTTPS.
What does this mean for website owners?
For now, Google is using the ranking signal as “only a very lightweight signal – affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content.” According to them, the quality of your content, user experience, and the speed of your website should remain primary focuses, however, the announcement alludes to the fact that the level of impact of secure, encrypted connections on search ranking will likely increase in the future.
“…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,” the company stated in its blog post. The company has already posted best practices as a guide for site owners to implement the suggested security measures.
Why is this a good thing?
Web traffic is really only protected when all intended parties to a communication are encrypting it, so there’s a collective benefit to expanding the use of encryption. The more people using it, the safer we all become. Considering the above mentioned statistic that only 25% of the web is currently using the HTTPS protocol, there is an obvious collective-action problem in getting everyone to act together on its implementation. It’s only logical that Google would (and should) intervene. By favoring sites that encrypt their traffic in its search results, Google is subtly forcing websites to apply these security measures or face traffic–loss consequences over time.
Bravo, Google. Bravo.