HTTPS Is Not A Ranking Signal [Study]

https as a ranking signal

Treat HTTPS As a Ranking Signal Or…

I’m sure you recall the weird search ranking news from Google recently, announcing that they’d be starting to use HTTPS as a ranking factor.

They say that sites that use secure, encrypted connections will get a minor boost in rankings as this factor will be added as a signal in their search ranking algorithms. They did qualify that by saying that HTTP would only be a “very lightweight signal”, but the fact that the search behemoth said that it would a signal, sent SEO experts and tech journalists into a bit of a frenzy.

This was the announcement:


Is This True Or Not?

The Kings at SearchMetrics set out to find out if this was for real. They ran some tests, sorted through their data and analyzed if there were any current effect to this change and of there is any real evidence to suggest that HTTPS sites are in fact getting an advantage in search rankings compared to HTTP websites.

According to this analysis, it turns out HTTPS does not affect search rankings and there is no apparent difference between HTTP and HTTPS.

Is anyone really surprised?

The report said they analyzed the average rankings for both HTTP and HTTPS websites and “calculated the cumulative SEO visibilities and compared the two curves with each other over time.”

“We have looked at the average rankings of http and https – on a URL basis, directories respectively. Ultimately, only certain domain areas can be encrypted and others not. From these rankings, we have calculated cumulative SEO visibilities and compared the two curves with each other over time.

Initially it looked as if there was indeed a boost for encrypted URLs at a certain point in time – although this was not at the time of Google’s announcement but somewhat earlier – in the last week of June and even once in May 2013. The basis for the following graphics are rankings of hundreds of thousands of keywords:”


https as a ranking signal


What About The Outliers?

If you look at this data in the graph, you will actually see that a few domains, or individual directories, were causing the outliers. When you remove this from the equation, the graphs look like this:

No apparent relationship between HTTPS and rankings


You can see the outliers are no longer and each graph seems to have the same pattern.


HTTPS or Stay With HTTP?

From SearchMetrics analysis, it’s clear that no relationship exists between HTTPS and search engine rankings. The report also goes as far as to say “nor are there any differences between HTTP and HTTPS”.

So, was Google just messing with us or have they actually not released this signal for HTTPS to actually be a ranking factor?

It could also be that the SearchMetrics study isn’t accurate because the HTTPS signal really only does affect a very small section of Google’s index.

Have you done any tests on HTTP vs HTTPS? Have you read any other insights on HTTPS being a ranking factor and providing a minor boost in rankings?


I’d be interested in your thoughts and what you had to say. Let me know!


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