Google to demote HTTPS-less websites in search results

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Google has confirmed sites that employ the HTTPS communications protocol by default will receive higher search listings than those that don't.

The HTTPS protocol is used to prevent wiretapping and man-in-the-middle-type cyber attacks by allowing users to securely communicate online.

The company has embarked on the move to help ensure the sites people access through its search listings are secure, having banged the drum for HTTPS to be deployed more widely across the web during its Google I/O conference back in June.

Google said in a blog post that it has already run tests that take into account whether a site has HTTPs deployed when compiling its search listings.

"We've seen positive results, so we're starting to use HTTPs as a ranking signal," the blog post confirms.

"For now it's only a very lightweight signal affecting fewer than one per cent of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS," it adds.

Google said it might increase the weighting of HTTPs on search results as time goes on, as part of its bid to encourage wider take-up of the protocol across the web.

To help website owners through the transition, Google has outlined a number of steps in the blog they should take to make sure they've implemented HTTPs properly.

"If your website is already serving on HTTPS, you can test its security level and configuration with the Qualys Lab tool," the blog continues.

"We hope to see more websites using HTTPS in the future. Let's all make the web more secure," it concludes.

The move has been welcomed by Jason Hart, vice president of Cloud Solutions at data encryption specialist SafeNet.

"It's great to see Google taking steps to increase the use of encryption. It's a smart move and one that's likely to have a significant impact on the way organisations secure their website," he said.

"Every company wants to rank favourably on Google, so it's in their best interest to ensure web pages are encrypted."

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.