Gary Illyes, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, championed HTTPS as a ranking signal back August 2014 — today he celebrated a milestone for HTTPS and web security.
The top ten verified sites in Google Search Console, according to search impressions, are now all HTTPS.
There’s no doubt this represents how far HTTPS migration has come along since Google declared it a ranking signal last year.
At the same time it’s important to ask, how much did HTTPS have to do with those sites getting the most search impressions?
Is Google rewarding sites for going HTTPS, leading to an increase in search impressions for those sites?
Not necessarily, although that’s a conclusion that could be drawn.
This is could be a case of correlation does not equal causation.
It could also be due to the fact that some of the most dominant sites in search have recently migrated over to HTTPS.
For example, Wikipedia recently migrated to HTTPS, a move so significant that its shakeups made headlines.
Another site often seen on the first page, Reddit recently announced that at the end of June it would only be available over HTTPS.
The US government recently mandated the use of HTTPS on all of its public websites by the end of 2016.
As more high authority websites move to HTTPS it only makes sense that more of the top sites getting the most search impressions are going to be HTTPS.
Is HTTPS strong enough of a ranking signal to lead to a gain in search impressions?
According to data published in March 2015 by Searchmetrics, in a study called HTTPS Encryption – What is the impact of TLS/SSL on Rankings?, it stated:
“Since the Google-announcement regarding HTTPS as a ranking signal, we can state that encrypted websites could gain in visibility, if they have already a bit of visibility. A growth of a few percentage points in visibility is possible, but not guaranteed.”
That goes back to my other point about the fact that more sites that already have search visibility are going HTTPS. As a result, more of the sites getting the most search impressions are going to be HTTPS.
While it’s interesting that the top sites with the most search impressions are all HTTPS, it’s likely more to do with the top sites moving to HTTPS than an HTTPS boost leading to more search impressions.
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