If you look at the web address of any financial site and most e-commerce sites, you’ll find the letters “HTTPS” in front of the site name. HTTP, which is on all websites, stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol and S stands for “Secure.”
The simplest way to describe HTTPS is that it encrypts the data between the browser and the site, which protects the security and privacy of anything you do on that site. It’s not perfect, but it is a lot more secure than sites that don’t have that “s.”
In a presentation at this year’s Google I/O developers’ conference (scroll down to watch it) Ilya Grigorik, a Google advocate for the Chrome team, told developers that HTTPS matters on all sites. “While it seems like individually the metadata you can gather by looking at these unencrypted sites is benign, when you actually put it all together it reveals a lot about my intent, it can actually compromise my privacy.”
(Disclosure: Google provides financial support to ConnectSafely.org, a non-profit Internet safety organization where I serve as co-director.)
In a blog post, Google said that it is trying to make sure “that websites people access from Google are secure.” The company has resources for webmasters to help prevent and fix security breaches and it has long put up warnings about sites that it thinks may have been hacked.
But Google is taking a step further by increasing those all-important search rankings for sites that use the HTTPS protocol. For the past few months, the company has experimented by “taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms,” and according to the post, has seen positive results.
For now, it’s just a “lightweight signal that will affect “fewer than 1% of global queries and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content” But that could change over time as Google strives to “encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.”
Power of Google
This is one more example of the power of Google’s ranking system. While Google doesn’t control content on the web, its search is by far the most effective way for content to be found so anything a webmaster can do to increase a Google ranking equates to more visitors and, in many cases, more revenue.
This post first appeared on Forbes.com