HTTPS vs. HTTP – analysis: Do secure sites really get higher rankings?

August 29th, 2014 | Analysis 74 comments

Google recently announced that it would use https as a ranking signal. Reason enough for us to look at our data and analyze whether there are any current effects – and whether it is already evident that https sits could have a ranking advantage over http-URLs.

The news was not entirely unexpected as Google has for some time being doing a lot of high profile work for more security in the web. I do not want to comment on what may lay behind this. I have my own opinion on this issue. In any case, we have not only compared a few data points, but also performed a time series analysis to set the PR-effective statement by Google in context with historical data.

Searchmetrics Analysis: https vs http

Actually, we had already considered https as feature for this year’s ranking factors study, but we eventually left it out due to the not especially informative results and for reasons of space. And even if Google now says that https is a rather lightweight signal, which currently affects just around 1% of worldwide search queries, we have taken this opportunity to conduct a couple of more fundamental analyses of our data.

If you would like to read a short introduction to the area and some tips on changing over to SSL/HTTPS for website operators, please follow this link: HTTPS as ranking factor – how to handle it.

Yes, no, maybe? On the way to the right data

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 vs http - searchmetrics1

Some outliers – care required with interpretation

However, it is clear that a handful of domains or individual directories, respectively, were responsible for these outliers (for example play.google.com/ or games.yahoo.com/). If these are discounted, the following picture is obtained:

https vs http - searchmetrics2

In this case, the – previously very prominent – outliers have disappeared. The curves follow each other very smoothly.

Focus on differences between HTTPS and HTTP

In this graphic, everything has been reduced to the differences between the two curves:

Differences: https vs http - searchmetrics

A difference in the vicinity of the value “2” on the Y axis could be considered as significant, however the actual fluctuations rarely exceed a value of 0.2.

Clear conclusion: HTTPS – to date no relation with rankings

In a nutshell: No relationships have been discernible to date from the data analyzed by us between HTTPS and rankings nor are there any differences between HTTP and HTTPS. In my opinion therefore, Google has not yet rolled out this ranking factor – and/or this factor only affects such a small section of the index to date that it was not possible to identify it with our data.

On the subject of ranking factors! This year’s study is just about ready for release. Those who just can’t wait, can preregister here.

This year’s study is twice as big as last year’s, because we have included several important new factors in the analysis. How SEO develops depends on the interplay of many factors and we want to make this clear.

Have you recently conducted your own analyses or a migration to HTTPS and already have results?  Perhaps some of our subscribers have been using HTTPS for some time and have noticed recent changes in rankings? I am always happy to get your feedback and hear about your experience – and of course your opinion of our analyses. Subjectively speaking, I consider https as important and believe that much will change in this area in the future. Objectively speaking, there is no evidence for this trend yet.

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Who’s writing this stuff? My name is Marcus Tober and I’m the founder of Searchmetrics. Because we really love to analyze every kind of online data, we can give you more insights than any other company in SEO, SEM and Social Media. It’s not a job, it’s passion. You can find me also on Google+ .
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Comments (10)

Comments (74)

  1. 2014/08/30

    Really interesting findings. I can’t wait for your 2014 ranking factors. I had few my customer’s websites going up after HTTPS was implemented, but there was many other factors that could have influence rankings.

  2. 2014/09/01

    Hi Marcus,

    Thank you for nice article. I tried to use HTTPS, my website: tamerimran.com it being slowly and my links was dropped between overnight. After i restored HTTP again, my website in the search results returned as it was.

  3. 2014/09/08

    I think HTTPS is a paid extra service for e.g. Weebly. I guess that after Google’s announcement many people will consider going for https just to be safe..

    After reading your survey, I guess it is just one of those 200 ranking factors and we don’t know how heavy it is.

  4. 2014/09/10

    I agree with Tamer. after i implemented SSL my site rankings have actually dropped. To tell you i have a very good amount of traffic on daily basis of around 3000 visitors on my site. this is pretty much a strange thing for me

  5. 2014/12/26

    I think we heard lots of things on this topic. I have never seen any kind of benefits in ranking to move to HTTP to HTTPS. Some people are still finding answers HTTPS is a signal for HIGH SERP in google. I think after reading this post, they have to realize that there is no connection between ranking and HTTPS.

  6. 2015/02/02

    Hey Tober,

    Man you guys go into awesome detail and analysis. I know a lot of seo’s called out https immediately as not worth while but I wonder how well it affects conversions?

    Sites with added security in place may perhaps seem more legitimate?

    Its all theory of course, would need testing with sites that have changed over, but as 2015 is upon us, and more and more people are looking to optimise their traffic then before, it may be a great factor to consider?

    I’m merely spit balling ideas of course

    What are your thoughts? (External to a ranking factor but a sales/conversion factor)

    Thanks again Tober,

    Daniel Daines-Hutt

  7. 2015/02/10

    I have installed SSL for one of my site punnamada.com and now I am affected with Low traffic and bounce rate. while moving to SSL we have to consider lot of facts:

    1) All outgoing URLs must be HTTPS, if there is a mix of http and https URLs your entire efforts will go in vain
    2) You need to mention other site admins to change incoming URLs to your site to https
    3) CSS and Js
    4) Redirection

  8. 2015/04/11

    Having observed that most web sites using HTTPS less effect on the order position in the search engines, which won depending on the content and backlinks owned :D

  9. 2015/05/21

    I tried different strategies using HTTPS site and I definitely see a worse ranking compared to HTTP. This in an interesting article because Google prefers as much security as possible.

  10. 2015/05/25

    m think to start using an own ssl but cloud flare has an SSL support with their certificate, if you want to use your own certificate you need to buy the premium plan.

Trackbacks (64)

Comments (74)

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