Websites that don’t use HTTPS will be ranked lower in Google Search results, the web giant has announced on Wednesday.
“At Google I/O a few months ago, we called for ‘HTTPS everywhere’ on the web. We’ve also seen more and more webmasters adopting HTTPS (also known as HTTP over TLS, or Transport Layer Security), on their website, which is encouraging,” Zineb Ait Bahajji and Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends Analysts at Google explained in a blog post.
Still, there’s room to improve, they believed, and quietly began testing encrypted connections as a signal in their search ranking algorithms.
“We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it’s only a very lightweight signal—affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content—while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, 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,” they shared.
It has become obvious for quite some time now that Google believes in encryption. Earlier this year the company introduced default encryption for all Gmail users. Google Search has been encrypted by default for years.
In June it unveiled source code for the End-To-End Chrome encryption extension which will helps users encrypt, decrypt, digitally sign, and verify signed messages within the browser using OpenPGP.
At the same time, it added a new section to its Transparency Report, which allowed users to see how much of the communications Gmail deals with is encrypted in transit, and which services support encryption in transit, which spurred Comcast to announce that they will start encrypting email to and from Gmail accounts.
It could be said that Google leads by example, but it also nudges all others in the direction of encryption. Given that many companies out there are dependent on Google Search, I can see this move becoming an effective way to popularize TLS use.