After many months of pushing for wider adoption of HTTPS online, Google has gone some way to making it a necessity for sites that want to optimise their sites for solid search performance, by making it a ranking signal that its algorithms will now take into consideration when formulating SERPs.

HTTPS adds Transport Layer Security (TLS) to the mix, to ensure that sites are able to better protect visitors, according to WebProNews.

In an official blog post from the search giant, the status of HTTPS as the latest ranking signal to be weighed by Google was confirmed. Webmasters were also reassured that they should have more than enough time to migrate over to this new standard before they really start to see their site’s rankings negatively impacted.

Upon first initiating this new signal, Google estimates that less than one per cent of queries should feel any affect. But this is just a sort of soft launch for its favouring of HTTPS, because further down the line, it is intending to ratchet up the weighting that the signal is given, to make sure that there is a real incentive for webmasters to play ball.

Of course, Google was characteristically vague when talking about the extent to which this signal will be used to determine rankings, failing to commit to a timeframe for the increasing of its import. It also made a point of stating that things like the quality of the content on a site will remain far more relevant to rank for the foreseeable future, even if further changes and tweaks are made to how a site’s worthiness is assessed.

The reason for Google’s reticence over explicitly outlining the relative power of any ranking signal is that it does not want to overly influence webmasters in the ways they pursue SEO.

From time to time, there are flurries of activity when it is discovered that the algorithms may be looking out for particular assets and this might be one of them. But, hopefully it will not require especially dramatic changes, nor cause site owners to lose focus on the other areas of optimisation, which are still highly relevant and weighted more heavily than HTTPS.

Google spokesperson, John Mueller, explained that the need to protect private information belonging to site users should be a top priority for webmasters, which is one of the reasons that it has decided to start taking HTTPS into account when calculating page rank. The encryption and authentication features which are part and parcel of this standard are the icing on the cake.

For sites that have already implemented HTTPS, Google recommends the use of a tool from Qualys Lab, which can help to determine the resilience of the security measures that are in place.

Many site owners will obviously be keen to keep track of any developments relating to this new search ranking signal, as if it does suddenly become more influential, as Google suggests it might, then changes may need to be made.