Do Secure Websites Rank Higher?

Most people understand that it is important to keep your website safe from hacking or unwanted intrusions, but many people question whether safety measures affect your website rankings.  Do Google and other web browsers give preference to more secure websites when returning search engine results?  The question is complicated, and there is not always a perfectly clear answer.  There may be some credit given to websites that the crawlers perceive as offering better security for visitors, although there is no hard evidence that this is true.  However, securing your website is good practice no matter what the ultimate effect on your website’s ranking in the search engine results.

How Web Crawlers Perceive Site Security

Google SEO Office Hours recently addressed the issue of the impact of security headers on ranking influence in a chat session.  According to Google, the HSTS header does not impact search engine rankings.

HSTS is a header or a response that the server provides to a web crawler to signal what is happening when information is requested from the site.  Some of the most well-recognized headers are error responses like the 404 error code, which tells the web crawler that the web page is not sending or receiving signals.  The most common ranking signal is the HTTPS signal, which sends metadata to the crawlers.

HSTS is a security header, which means it is in a slightly different classification of headers.  It is designed to enforce protocols that prevent malicious attacks on the website.  It tells the browser that the website should only be accessed by HTTPS rather than HTTP, which is a more secure way of accessing information.

However, Google has made it clear that the search engine does not give preference to websites that utilize the HSTS protocol.  According to Google, the crawlers use a practice known as canonicalization, which means they pick the most appropriate version of the page to index, regardless of security headers.  However, they do advise that, for user security, companies utilize HSTS.

Does this mean that companies should not invest the time and effort to change to HSTS if they are not already using it?

Technically, changing from HTTPS to HSTS will not affect your search engine rankings.  However, what it may do is give your users a better and safer browsing experience.  That alone makes it worth the work needed to make the switch.  If users are certain that their information is safe and that their security is a top priority for a company, they are much more likely to visit a website and to stay loyal to a brand.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can improve your website’s safety and make your site better for visitors, give Caldiatech a call.  We work with a wide range of businesses to help them improve website functionality and security, and we can help you, too!  Call today to get started with your website analysis and refresh, and find out how much better your business website can be!