The Next Step in Google’s HTTPS Everywhere Agenda

secure web browsing

It’s no surprise that Google is a big promoter of HTTPS Everywhere. They’ve even promised a ranking boost to HTTPS URLs in search results. Of course, whether this ranking boost exists or not is the subject of much debate. Still, one thing is clear: Google is doubling down on HTTPS.

In addition to the purported ranking boost they’ve promised, yesterday Google announced that they will begin preferentially serving HTTPS versions of HTTP pages whenever possible. Provided they exist. Even if there are no direct links to them.

This means that for every insecure URL (http://www.geonetric.com, for example) Google will attempt to access a secure version of the page (https://www.geonetric.com). If it can find one, and provided there aren’t additional reasons not to do so, Google will begin linking to the secure page in search results. From their announcement:

[…] today we’d like to announce that we’re adjusting our indexing system to look for more HTTPS pages. Specifically, we’ll start crawling HTTPS equivalents of HTTP pages, even when the former are not linked to from any page. When two URLs from the same domain appear to have the same content but are served over different protocol schemes, we’ll typically choose to index the HTTPS URL […]

What’s this mean for you and your website? Well, there are a few things to consider. While there’s no urgency to make any immediate changes, you do need to understand what’s happening and the direction things are going. In other words, a wait-and-see approach is perfectly acceptable for the time being. If you feel passionately about securing all web traffic and protecting the privacy of your site visitors, then this is just one more reason to consider serving all content as HTTPS, all the time. And if you are adamant that securing all web traffic is needless, then nothing in Google’s change actually forces you to reconsider your stance at the moment.

But neither does this mean you can ignore the change. You do need to take a few moments to read the announcement to understand the details of what Google is doing. Particularly, examine the reasons why (and why not) Google may start displaying HTTPS versions of your pages in search results. Understanding this will help you understand any related changes you see in SERPS…and may indicate cleanup or changing the way you treat canonical URLs, links in sitemaps, and more.

In addition, this announcement provides a good opportunity to revisit Google Search Console (formerly called “Webmaster Tools”) to make sure you have your site set up correctly. Google recommends that you set up profiles for both HTTP and HTTPS versions of your sites. Now is the time to double-check that all is in order, as you’ll be able to better understand how Google interacts, understands and indexes your content.

If you do decide to proceed with serving content via HTTPS, be sure to consult with experts from the IT and SEO worlds to build a plan. Getting these changes right from a technical standpoint can mean the difference between improved search visibility and no visibility at all.

Have questions? Get in touch. Geonetric helps hospitals and health systems of all sizes with search engine optimization (SEO), digital and web strategy.

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This entry was posted in Admin Feed, Geo.com Homepage Panel, Search/SEO/PPC by Michael O'Neill. Bookmark the permalink.
Michael O'Neill

About Michael O'Neill

It’s not often you find a communications professional who is an expert writer, understands the power of social media and has the technical capabilities to embed on and contribute to software development teams. But that’s exactly the background Michael brought with him to Geonetric as the technical communications strategist. From writing eBooks to managing Geonetric’s digital presence, Michael uses his software know how and his marketing savvy to help tell Geonetric’s story through a variety of platforms. This former adjunct professor holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Worcester State College in Massachusetts and completed graduate level coursework at the University of Connecticut. In addition, Michael is also a Certified ScrumMaster, a contributing writer at iBusiness Magazine and a member of the Board of Directors at Gems of Hope. This new dad is known for his high coffee standards and has quite the following around the office when he brings in his favorite craft-roasted beans.

2 thoughts on “The Next Step in Google’s HTTPS Everywhere Agenda

  1. Hi Jodi!

    > Do Geo clients need to take action or is this something you’re doing for us behind the scenes?

    Great question! We stay on top of the trends and changes from Google, and make sure VitalSite is built to accommodate and leverage these….without your involvement.

    The larger decision to go HTTPS everywhere really starts with your organization and would involve consultation with your CA. While Google is gradually pulling the world in that direction (towards HTTPS everywhere), right now the strongest motivation to jump on board seems to come from one’s belief in the idea that people’s browsing should always remain encrypted and private. There’s no real search penalty for not going HTTPS everywhere today…and small (if any) tangible benefit in doing so. (Disclaimer: there are passionate advocates on both sides of this issue…and I’m speaking in broad terms to avoid getting caught up in the nuances and details of what can often become a techno-philosophical debate.)

    As to my recommendation to make sure Google Webmaster Tools/Search Console is configured correctly…that’s usually something clients do, but discuss with your CA if you’re unsure. Often it’s something our digital marketing team can help with.

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