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.