In a recent post, Google announced that they are now using HTTPS as a ranking signal. Although not a strong signal, it is a signal, and in this competitive market of rankings every signal within your control counts. Google also went on to say that they may “decide to strengthen” the HTTPS ranking signal “over time” to “give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS.”
In March this year, Matt Cutts from Google, indicated that he’d like to see HTTPS as a ranking signal via his tweet. Obviously Matt is a man of much influence.
So what does this mean to your rankings?
- Google will be giving a ranking advantage to sites where HTTPS is used rather than HTTP
- Google is looking at how seriously webmasters treat security on their websites
- Google is holding open the possibility of providing further incentives for sites to comply with this change
What does this mean to your site?
If you don’t use SSL, enabling your site to support SSL will increase your operating cost. For those on a budget who are used to paying $10/month for hosting, the increase may surprise you.
Furthermore, SSL also carries additional overhead in traffic, so your site will load slower over SSL, due to the encryption overhead. It will be interesting to understand the net effect on overall rankings – augmenting the SSL signal, while diminishing the Page Speed signal.
SSL Certificate Cost
You will need to purchase an SSL certificate and the costs vary anywhere from $20 to $500 per year based on the type of certificate required. For many webmasters the process and task of configuring an SSL can be quite complex and time consuming. You may have to pay someone to configure and install your certificate.
Dedicated IP Address
Based on the security requirements, you may have to have a dedicated IP address for your SSL certificate. Some hosting companies support SNI technology which means you can install your SSL certificate on a shared IP address. Furthermore, not every browser supports SNI and some companies do not consider using shared addresses strictly compliant. SSL Certificates need to be purchased annually, and they cost anywhere from $22 to $200 per year.
The world is running short of IP addresses and they are hard to come by, so they come at an extra cost. In many cases hosting companies will not issue you a dedicated IP addresses without justification. For justification you have to prove that you technically require a dedicated IP address. If you run an e-commerce site, it is fairly easy to justify but anything outside that and you will most likely be denied. I doubt that Google have even considered this, as they have no budget restrictions when it comes to purchasing IP address space. Dedicated IP Address typically cost $60 per year.
So from a cost point of view, you would be looking at anywhere between $100 to $500 per year with the added layer of security to your site.
My prediction is that this change will trigger a substantial boom in SSL certificate sales. Many webmasters are at the bleeding edge in the rankings game. If you believe in implementing best practice for your website, you will have to consider meeting Google’s ‘incentives/demands’ by switching to HTTPS.