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

August 29th, 2014 | Analysis 52 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 (4)

Comments (52)

  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

Trackbacks (48)

Comments (52)

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    [...] 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. [...]

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  31. 2014/09/12

    [...] to recent analysis by digital marketing software and services provider Searchmetrics, HTTPS does not impact rankings, [...]

  32. 2014/09/12

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  33. 2014/09/15

    [...] Desde luego, con todo lo que hemos visto en los párrafos anteriores, la polémica está servida. Por ello, me gustaría compartir con vosotros un estudio realizado por el proveedor de servicios digitales Searchmetrics (haz clic aquí para leer el artículo original). [...]

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  38. 2014/09/17

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  39. 2014/09/17

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  40. 2014/09/18

    [...] signals the impact from the start is usually hazy and minimal. Studies such as Search Metrics 'HTTPS vs. HTTP – analysis: Do secure sites really get higher rankings?' have already concluded that there’s currently no impact of HTTPS on ranking. However, it could [...]

  41. 2014/09/27

    [...] they would give a small ranking boost to HTTPS with the new HTTPS ranking factor. However, according to SearchMetrics, data did not reveal any ranking improvement. These findings and discernible effects will continue [...]

  42. 2014/10/02

    [...] moins proche. A l’heure actuelle, l’éventuel bénéfice SEO est quasi inexistant (cf. l’étude Search Metrics sur ce point) et l’annonce ressemble plus à de la com’ qu’autre [...]

  43. 2014/10/04

    [...] ya lo se, todo esto es un conjunto de desvaríos del que suscribe, pero es que searchmetrics se curro un estudio del copón para ver si había fluctuaciones en las serps para webs con http y [...]

  44. 2014/10/22

    [...] The part I am missing, which I believe SearchMetrics team did not have “time” to include is the http vs https relevance to search, but you can find their opinion here. [...]

  45. 2014/10/24

    [...] del rank, la spinta confermata da Mountain View non sembra poi così eccessiva. Stando a quanto pubblicato da Metrics, l’utilizzo dell’HTTPS non sortirebbe alcun vantaggio rilevabile. I migliori [...]

  46. 2014/10/25

    [...] hecho, un estudio reciente de la búsqueda Métricas mostró ninguna ventaja perceptible a los sitios que usan [...]

  47. 2014/11/11

    [...] a trusted SEO resource, has recently published the results of research it carried out into the impact of HTTPS on SEO. Their conclusion was that, to date, there has been no discernible correlation between the switch [...]

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