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    Posted August 19, 2014 by
    Charlotte, North Carolina
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    Google Makes Rare Announcement About Search Ranking Algorithm

    Earlier this month Google made an announcement about a change to its search engine ranking algorithm, a rare event from a company that usually maintains a veil of secrecy regarding ranking factors. Google always stresses that it is constantly working to improve the search experience for its users and this recent announcement relates to improving security, a hot point considering the many online security breaches over the past year.

    Google announced that it was starting to use HTTPS as a ranking factor after months of experimentation with using secure, encrypted connections as a signal in search ranking algorithms. HTTPS sites need an SSL certificate, which is generally obtained from a website’s hosting company.

    Google’s announcement came in the form of a post on Google’s Webmaster Central Blog by Google’s Webmaster trends analysts Zineb Ait Bahaji and Gary Illyes. In the blog post Bahaji and Illyes said, “We’ve seen positive results [in our testing], so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal in our search ranking algorithms. For now it’s only a very lightweight signal – affecting fewer that 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.” They continued, “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.”

    Switching from an HTTP to an HTTPS site has to be carefully considered, since the change is really a change of url address. Google addresses the matter with a link on its blog, explaining that specific instructions need to be followed or the site can suffer a significant reduction in traffic. Another potential problem is that some applications, even certain applications from Google, do not function properly with HTTPS sites.

    The general direction of Google’s concern for security is clear; however, there does not seem to be enough of an impact to search results to immediately make a change to an HTTPS site. Based on Google’s concern for overall security and their revelations over the past weeks, it is likely there will be continued guidance from Google over the following months, which will clarify the need for a change.
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