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

August 29th, 2014 | Analysis 116 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 (26)

Comments (116)

  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. 2014/09/03

    Very interesting study. It’s good to see an actual data/research rather than speculations although I think it’s a bit to early to tell how strong will the ranking signal of https be.

  4. 2014/09/03

    Hi Tamer,

    Have you 301 redirected all the HTTP URLs to HTTPS? If not, Google will pretend it is a new website, and re-evaluate the rankings…

  5. 2014/09/05

    In one way this is an incentive for Google to actively provide a noticeable (but small) boost for websites utilising HTTPS. Of the three reasons to move from HTTP to HTTPS – security, speed and ranking factors – only security is a tanglible benefit for most websites at present. For the majority of website owners/businesses, the benefits of securing content are not immediately tangible, and hence there is not the impedus to move over to HTTPS.

    Having looked at implementing SPDY, the hosting companies I use don’t have any immediate plans to install it on their servers. Moving hosts would cause too much admin.

    So, come on Google: Give more people a reason to make the switch to HTTPS!

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 2014/09/13

    i Think on Blogs or Websites Https is useless. But on Shops etc its a must have, i wont buy on Sites without Https Sercurity

  9. 2014/10/31

    I guess the big question is, will the benefit from having the SSL outweigh the lost link juice from the 301 redirect? My guess in no. However, one thing you might want to consider is whether your page rank being seen is important to you. Once you go from http to https, people will no longer be able to see your page rank since Google isn’t updating it any longer. However, if you have a newer site or recently changed URLs, implementing the SSL could be a benefit since your page rank will now show “private.”

  10. 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.

  11. 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

  12. 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

  13. 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

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 2015/10/20

    Very interesting! I cannot see any big difference in ranking between HTTP and HTTPS neither this year. Do anyone else has any other conclusions?

  17. 2015/12/11

    A fascinating discussion iis definitely worth
    comment. I believe that you should write more about this issue, it may not bbe a taboo matter but typically people do not talk about these topics.
    To the next! All the best!!

  18. 2015/12/24

    That is a good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.
    Short but very accurate information… Appreciate your sharing this one.
    A must read article!

  19. 2015/12/28

    Wonderful, what a website it is! This weblog presents useful data to us, keep it up.

  20. 2016/01/04

    I think that is one of the such a lot important
    information for me. And i’m satisfied studying your article.
    However want to commentary on some basic things, The site taste is wonderful,
    the articles is really nice : D. Good task,
    cheers

  21. 2016/01/14

    Good analysis. i have switched two of my main web sites from non ssl to SSL but I do not feel any difference in rankings.

  22. 2016/01/19

    Great article and professional analysis. As you mentioned above, the difference between HTTP and HTTPS is not significant at all for Google and doesn’t appear to be a ranking factor. Thanks for nice reading!

  23. 2016/07/21

    I realize the original post is old, but I just recently updated my site from http to https, and the rankings in the SERPs dropped off a cliff. Apparently it will take some time to Google to understand the switch I made. Webmasters beware.

  24. 2016/07/22

    Hi Michael, actually I don’t see a recent big drop in your SEO Visibility. Some ranking volatility is not unusual when moving a domain to https. Just give it some time. Would like to hear back from a in a few weeks!

  25. 2016/09/07

    This is what I like to see! Data and results. Most people just like to come up with theories without testing them out. Great post :)

  26. 2016/09/23

    Personally, I am not going to touch my sites that are already http however, my new sites that I build I will begin to use https from scratch and when it becomes mandatory I might consider switching my older sites to https but as they say if its not broke don’t fix it.

Trackbacks (90)

Comments (116)

  1. 2014/08/30

    […] bel mezzo dei preparativi per le vacanze), e le conseguenze della decisione devono ancora arrivare: secondo Searchmetrics, in particolare, il fattore-HTTPS non è ancora stato […]

  2. 2014/08/31

    […] HTTPS vs. HTTP Analysis: Do Secure Sites Really Get Higher Rankings by Marcus Tober on Search Metric Blog. […]

  3. 2014/08/31

    […] färsk undersökning från Searchmetrics understryker att du inte ska byta till HTTPS av SEO-skäl då undersökningen […]

  4. 2014/09/02

    […] answer according to SearchMetrics is none currently. Marcus Tober of SearchMetrics said there is no data to prove that HTTPS has any […]

  5. 2014/09/02

    […] Although the HTTPS tracking is slower I still advice you to turn the forceSSL function/option on. The tracking call is asynchronous and will not slow down your site. And while you're at it, perhaps think of turning your entire site to HTTPS. It the future it could be a positive SEO factor, although it doesn't looks like Google made this change already according to Searchmetrics. […]

  6. 2014/09/03

    […] laquelle le HTTPS faisait officiellement partie des critères de ranking du moteur de recherche, SearchMetrics annonce qu’aucune donnée ne prouve, pour le moment, que le HTTPS à une incidence sur les […]

  7. 2014/09/03

    […] kurucusu Marcus Tober’e göre durum öyle değil. Kendi blogundaki yazısına göre, HTTPS kullanan ve kullanmayan siteler arasında hiç bir fark edilebilir arama sonucu […]

  8. 2014/09/03

    […] kurucusu Marcus Tober’e göre durum öyle değil. Kendi blogundaki yazısına göre, HTTPS kullanan ve kullanmayan siteler arasında hiç bir fark edilebilir arama sonucu […]

  9. 2014/09/03

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  10. 2014/09/03

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  11. 2014/09/03

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  12. 2014/09/03

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  13. 2014/09/03

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  14. 2014/09/03

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  15. 2014/09/04

    […] about if you run a personal fitness blog, or a fashion website? Does HTTPS affect SEO performance? According to Marcus Tober of SearchMetrics, not enough for anyone to […]

  16. 2014/09/04

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  17. 2014/09/04

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  18. 2014/09/05

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  19. 2014/09/05

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  21. 2014/09/05

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  22. 2014/09/06

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  60. 2014/09/18

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  61. 2014/09/27

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  65. 2014/10/24

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  66. 2014/10/25

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  68. 2014/11/10

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  69. 2014/11/11

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  70. 2014/12/21

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  71. 2014/12/22

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  72. 2015/01/08

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  76. 2015/01/17

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  77. 2015/01/19

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  78. 2015/01/22

    […] och fördelar. Av rena SEO skäl så ser vi inte att det finns skäl nog att byta till HTTPS. Test som gjorts har visat att HTTPS inte påverkar rankningen på Google och vi har själva inte […]

  79. 2015/01/23

    […] Une étude de Searchmetrics a été publiée trois semaines après l’annonce du 8 août 2014. À partir de sa mesure « Visibilité du référencement naturel », l’entreprise a analysé le classement de « centaines de milliers de mots-clés » et n’a noté aucune amélioration importante dans le classement des sites HTTPS/SSL. Elle a conclu que le critère de classement n’était peut-être pas utilisé au moment de l’étude ou que ce critère ne touchait qu’une si faible partie des requêtes qu’aucun changement n’a été enregistré dans les résultats. […]

  80. 2015/02/05

    […] Dopo queste dichiarazioni il mondo SEO si è mosso per richiedere l’installazione di un certificato di sicurezza in tutti i siti, benchè ad oggi non ci siano delle evidenze reali sul ranking, vedi lo studio realizzato da searchmetrics. […]

  81. 2015/02/07

    […] esto puede cambiar en el futuro- que influye en el ranking de páginas web. Un poco después un estudio de Serchmetrics mostró que HTTPs (casi) no tiene ninguna influencia en el […]

  82. 2015/05/02

    […] Google stated last year that they would factor in HTTPS when attributing rank. As late as August last year apparently no difference could be measured between HTTP and HTTPS. […]

  83. 2015/05/16

    […] after the announcement from Google, we already had a look at our data and analyzed whether there are any measurable effects between rankings, HTTP and HTTPS. But in August 2014 we had to deny the question if webmasters could gain a boost in SEO Visibility […]

  84. 2015/05/30

    […] mentioned above, Google already takes into account the use of HTTPS when ranking sites. However, an independent research company Searchmetrics , conducted in late August, found no effect of this factor on the position of resources. Later, […]

  85. 2015/06/13

    […] dat het positieve SEO effect dermate klein is dat dit geen zichtbare stijging oplevert. Een uitgebreide test van Search Metrics laat ook zien dat er geen zichtbaar verschil zichtbaar is in de vindbaarheid […]

  86. 2015/07/09

    […] haben die Analysten von searchmetrics für einzelne Seiten eine Verbesserung in der Suchmaschinen-Sichtbarkeit um bis zu 5 Prozent mit der […]

  87. 2015/10/22

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  88. 2015/12/08

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  89. 2016/07/08

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