Google To Start Giving Search Ranking Boost To Encrypted Websites

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
In an attempt to help protect Web surfers stay away from hackers, Google has adopted a new algorithm that will reward encrypted websites by placing them higher in their search results, various media outlets reported Thursday.
According to Rolfe Winkler of the Wall Street Journal, the search engine is looking to reward websites that are more secure by giving “bonus points” to encrypted pages in its ranking algorithm. The company hopes the move will encourage website developers to utilize technology which helps protect their websites and the personal data of their users.
“Over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms,” webmaster trends analysts Zineb Ait Bahajji and Gary Illyes explained in an August 6 blog post. “We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal.”
“For now it’s only a very lightweight signal – affecting fewer than one percent 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 added. “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.”
VentureBeat’s Ruth Reader said that the move was significant, and predicted that it would encourage websites concerned with their search rankings to improve their encryption and security protocols.
Likewise, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) principal technologist Christopher Soghoian told the Wall Street Journal that the move was “a huge deal,” calling it “the ultimate carrot for websites” to start using encryption.
“Developers compete fiercely with each other and tweak every small aspect of their websites to get a top search ranking. With Google making web encryption a factor in ranking, many would likely make their websites more secure for visitors,” explained Reuters reporter Supantha Mukherjee.
Winkler explained that encrypting data which is transmitted over the Internet creates an additional barrier keeping those attempting to snoop on or swipe the data of Web surfers or online shoppers. This extra layer of security can help keep user data safe, even on unsecured wireless networks like those found in airports or restaurants.
“The encrypted network often garners complaints of slower service—an issue Google believes it has addressed to a point where it no longer makes sense to allow HTTP connections, a company spokeswoman said earlier this year,” added Stephanie Mlot of PC Magazine, pointing out that the search engine defaults to HTTPS in its search results, Gmail and Drive.
In addition to announcing the algorithm changes, Google also revealed that it would be crafting a series of informational blog posts to help websites become more encryption-savvy and to prevent developers from falling victim to common mistakes.
Bahajji and Illyes also shared some basic tips to get webmasters started, telling them to determine whether or not they needed a single, multi-domain, or wildcard certificate and advising them to use 2048-bit key certificates. They also recommended using relative URLs for resources residing on the same secure domain and protocol relative URLs for all other domains, and allowing search engines to index pages whenever possible.
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