Are http:// and https:// sites treated differently?

What is http and https? Are http:// and https:// sites treated differently? Before we answer this it might be best to define the differences between a http:// and https:// site. Simply put https:// is a secure version of http://. The everyday user will not see any difference; the difference is all “under the hood”. To give […]

What is http and https?

Are http:// and https:// sites treated differently? Before we answer this it might be best to define the differences between a http:// and https:// site.

Simply put https:// is a secure version of http://. The everyday user will not see any difference; the difference is all “under the hood”. To give a more technical explanation http stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol and is the system for transmitting and receiving data across the internet. It acts as a question and answer system that is standard across all servers. This means that all servers can then easily, quickly and accurately share information with users that are trying to access that information. So a user asks the question and the servers are able to answer that question in a common language.

Sometimes the information that is needed is personal to the user, such as internet transactions, and the communication needs to be made more secure. This is when https is used.

https uses much the same protocols of http, where they differ is how they encrypt the information. Http uses default port 80 while https uses 443. This means that (in theory) the information sent through port 443 can only be read by the user and the end server. There are two types of https encryption, Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), both are common terms that are used instead of https.

Does it make a difference to your rankings?

Not too long ago John Mueller from Google discussed this and said that, “just as there is no inherent disadvantage, there is also no ranking-advantage from using SSL in web-search, so I wouldn’t use it in the vague hope that Google’s algorithms will value the website more.”
However it seems that things have now moved on and in a blog post by Google on the 6th of August 2014 Google announced that “we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal.” Although they added that it is only a minor signal and will only affect fewer then 1% of search queries and will carry less weight then good quality content.

However before you go rush out and demand that your webmaster implement SSL be warned…. if implemented incorrectly changing your site from http to https can damage your site rankings. So you need to ensure that all the redirects are correctly set up as 301s, that you don’t forget about internal links and canonicalization, and that the infrastructure can handle the higher load when using https.

Remember that Google treats that as two completely separate sites so if you are looking about using https make sure your whole site uses it to avoid duplicate content and list the https site in webmaster tools (it’s a different domain).

In short treat it with the same care, attention and caution as you would when moving to a new domain as that is what you are actually doing.

There is more help on how to do this here.

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