Having asked us all to make our websites mobile friendly (ahem, one day I must update OUR website to catch up with that – “Cobblers’ shoes” and all that); Google’s next big ask is that we make our websites “serve over https“.
What does that mean and why are they asking us to do this?
What this means is setting up your website so that the traffic between a visitor’s browser and your website is encrypted. This stops people listening in to the information going back and forth (it’s exactly what is used to encrypt pages when you enter your bank details).
So who cares if the web pages from your website get seen by somebody else – unless they are carrying financial information? Well, there’s another property of secure transmission of information that is more important here, and that is that in ‘going secure’ you need to obtain a secure certificate which proves that you are who you say you are. With ever increasing spamming/hacking sophistication this provides a means for people (and Google) to be confident that your website is who it says it is.
To encourage people along this route Google are offering small (initially but probably growing) uplifts in the search engine ranking results if you have a secure site. Who can turn down a free ranking boost (no matter how tiny)?
The process is relatively straightforward (honest):
- Buy a secure certificate from your host (who should install it for you) – about £50
- Setup your website CMS to be https://xx.co.uk instead of http://xx.co.uk
- Put redirects in place to map the latter to the former (a key SEO point since Google will (madly, but technically correctly) see the http site as a DIFFERENT site to the https one unless you do this.)
- Check that no images or content in the page are embedded insecurely (if so visitors’ browsers will complain about mixed content which puts people off)
- Re-set up Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster tools to function on the new domain names (with https)
So, maybe it’s not quite straightforward but it doesn’t mean throwing out your old website and creating a new one; it just needs a little attention to detail and a little technical help.
When to do it? There’s no burning rush to do it NOW. Maybe on your next seasonally quiet period, maybe the next time you do a bit of a website refresh. But this isn’t going to go away, the great Google have spoken and resistance is futile…