computer keys advocating information protectionThis post is a quick break on my series reviewing website options for law firms in 2015. One of the criteria by which I’ve been evaluating those options is how well companies adapt to changes in web technologies and search standards. This last week Google continued its steps towards favoring encrypted websites over non-encrypted sites. Getting your website encrypted is something you should be having your webmaster work on sooner, rather than later, as doing so is going to give your firm a leg up in search. Let’s take a minute to discuss why Google cares about encryption, how this is going to impact your search marketing, and steps you can take to stay on the right track.

Websites are encrypted through use of https technology. In layperson terms, https helps to ensure that websites can be viewed or accessed without hackers monitoring your web activity. There are a host of other benefits which I won’t go into here. Due to the increasing security issues on the net (it seems like we can’t go a week without hearing about a high profile hack) Google made the use of https a ranking factor in August of 20141.

Google’s recent test version of its Chrome Browser shows that the search engine is taking steps to push webmasters/site owners further towards using https. The test browser includes a feature which allows users to be warned when they are viewing an unsecure web page. This is the opposite of what browsers do currently; today browsers typically show some type of a green lock or security symbol in the address bar while non-secure sites have no accompanying symbol. Google’s new version of Chrome shows the company moving in a direction where users are alerted that sites are not encrypted. It goes without saying that if someone visits a site and there’s a red warning sign in the address bar then people will be less willing to spend time on that site. This new feature in Chrome currently has to be turned on by the user but it’s essentially a given that in the near future it will be turned on by default. Mozilla (maker of the Firefox browser) is also supporting methods of pushing people towards encrypted sites2.

There are a few things to consider when migrating your site to https. The big one is the extent to which you deploy https across your site. A web page can display secure and unsecure elements simultaneously. It’s possible, for example, to have the text on a page to be served over https but for the photos on that page to be served over good ol’ http (the current unsecured standard by which most pages are viewed). An important factor in deciding how far to deploy https is the speed of your website. I’ve written before on how the speed of a website matters in search. The use of https can make a website run more slowly. So what you have is a situation where Google will rank a site, in part, on the basis of its speed while also considering the use of https when considering rank. It’s important to balance this as much as possible and to not overly sacrifice speed when implementing the right security measures. Having a web developer who can do this is key.

If you haven’t purchased an SSL certificate, which is needed to serve your site through https, then you can do so through our website services store. What are your thoughts on Google pushing for an encrypted web? Chime in through the comment form below.

References:
1 Google Webmaster Central Blog – HTTPS as a ranking signal; accessed at: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2014/08/https-as-ranking-signal.html

2 Cnet – Be Warned: Google enlists Chrome in push for encrypted web; accessed at: http://www.cnet.com/news/chrome-becoming-tool-in-googles-push-for-encrypted-web/