Google’s HTTPS update: another hit for small businesses?

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If you keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the world of SEO, you might have heard that Google has recently started prioritising HTTPS secured websites in search results. HTTPS or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure uses extra layers of authentication, data integrity checks and encryption to safeguard the transfer of information and communication on websites.

Earlier this month, Google added HTTPS to their 2,000+ ranking signals and has called for the secure protocol to be used everywhere on the web. Following the recent Heartbleed security breach and Russian cyber attacks resulting in the theft of over 1.2 billion usernames and passwords, it’s no surprise Google is making data security more of a priority. But what does this mean for small businesses?

Webmasters have criticised this recent algorithm update as yet another attempt by Google to push large corporations to the top of search results, leaving small-time content creators and SMEs struggling to gain visibility in an increasingly competitive digital space.

We’re quick to blame Google for favouring the big players but it’s important to remember that their ultimate goal is to serve us information that is as relevant, valuable and trustworthy as possible. It’s what keeps them in business and what’s made them our go-to index for all the information on the planet. Users have demanded more security and Google has responded by rewarding sites that keep our information safe.

This update was not designed to leave less established domains in the dust – so don’t be discouraged, be proactive.

Google is giving webmasters time to make the transition and has provided an extensive collection of best practices to help get you there. If you’re worried about undertaking a complicated data migration, check out this video from Google’s 2014 I/O conference. It’s a bit long but offers a fantastic walk-through for developers, including information on the cost of security certificates and how to make your HTTPS sites search-friendly.

If you don’t have the time or resources to implement HTTPS right now, don’t panic. Google has confirmed that at present, this is a “very lightweight signal” impacting less than 1% of search queries globally and that high-quality content is still far more important to maintaining a healthy search presence.

Without a doubt, data security is becoming more important and we have every reason to expect that secured websites will be the norm in the future. Do start taking steps to ensure your website complies with the HTTPS update, especially if you collect sensitive customer information like payment details but rest assured that secure protocol won’t be overruling high-quality, useful content as a ranking signal overnight.


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