Google Will Rank Encrypted Sites Higher

In the cyber age, no website is completely secure and our data is open for everyone to pry upon. Whether it’s a hacking incident or the case of the NSA snooping on our mails – nothing is confidential. In such an era, it just makes sense to build a more secure Web.

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Photo: isak55 / Shutterstock

There have been voices demanding more security on the Internet. Now Google has joined the movement by announcing that its search results would give a higher ranking to the sites using HTTPS as a part of their algorithm.

These encrypted algorithms are the most useful for people using unsecured Wi-Fi connections. Although it forms a barrier between the attackers and confidential data, websites have been hesitant in using it due to the costs involved.

Google hopes that this step would force companies to opt for HTTPS, which is a much more secure option than the orthodox HTTP. Ever since the NSA’s snooping episode came into the limelight, this is the firmest step the company has taken.

According to Christopher Soghoian, technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, companies could benefit from HTTPS, as just by opting for encryption, they can make serious gains in Google (and other search engine) rankings.

In simple terms, the HTTPS algorithm creates a wall between users and the hacker, thereby making the data much more secure, even if a user is on an unsecured Wi-Fi connection at a public place.

Critical information, when sent through a secured connection, is much more reliable. Encrypted websites ensure that the data submitted by the user is not leaked to an unauthorized attacker.

Considering that every developer wants a higher Google ranking for their website, this move by Google could be a boon for the cyber industry. Google uses almost 200 parameters to rate websites and decide their ranks. For example, a slow loading website is given a lower search ranking than the website that loads up quickly.

Although Google does not reveal its process, it has now openly announced that the encryption parameter has been a part of the algorithm to rate websites for the past couple of months. The company now plans to enhance the weight of this factor in search rankings from the existing one percent.

The major deterrents that keep developers from encrypting their websites are the cost and enhanced loading time. But with the latest announcement from Google, many developers would be forced to use encryption, thereby ensuring a dramatic improvement in cyber security all around the world.

In another announcement, Google said that it would also initiate a number of blogs to assist the developers in creating encrypted websites without falling for the common errors. This would give SEO analysts an insight into the search giant’s algorithms.

And Google is not alone in trying to make the Web more secure. Yahoo has also joined the movement and announced plans to encrypt its email setup to ensure that its network becomes nearly impossible for governments or hackers to intercept. All these news reports are seen as a major turn of events ever since Edward Snowden undisclosed the snooping done by the NSA.

When implemented, these changes have the capability to enhance the privacy technology to reach consumer service. All these major steps are in contrast to the past, where Yahoo didn’t even employ any C-level executive for information security, until February.

With Google’s Gmail and Yahoo Mail handling over 425 million and 110 million users respectively, these announcements are seen as major game changers. Google’s plans of coming up with a spy-proof email is another major news in this series.

Microsoft isn’t too far behind. It has already started working on inducting sophisticated encryption technologies into Hotmail.

The HTTPS technology is favored by both Google and Soghoian. The encrypted websites serve users by making it almost impossible for the ISP to find out which website a user is logged in to. With cases of espionage on an ever increasing trend, this comes as a major relief to the general public. With almost all developers following Google’s instructions religiously to garner a good search ranking, steps like these show a bright future for cyber security.

Since Google algorithms have always been private, SEO analysts and developers generally take guesses and act according to what Google wants. Now that Google has openly said that HTTPS is an important factor for site ranking, it is expected that soon many websites will follow encryption.

According to Soghoian, this step is ‘the ultimate carrot’ that would force the developers to encrypt their websites. Let’s see how quickly the websites adapt to these changes and gain from Google’s new search algorithm.