Page Experience Matters: HTTPS for Users and Ranking

Did you know that more than 95% of U.S. webpages loaded in Google Chrome are now encrypted? That’s good for websites and users. But not so good for the 5% that have not migrated from HTTP to HTTPS.

This article is part of our series on page experience. It highlights why HTTPS is important for everyone, but especially so you can equip your webpages to qualify for a ranking boost in Google. A secure site is a ranking signal in Google’s page experience update that went live in mid-2021. (Tip: You’ll find more info on the page experience ranking factors at the end of this post.

In this post (and be sure to see the other articles in this series at the end of this one):

What Is HTTPS?

HTTPS, or hypertext transfer protocol secure, secures the data that are exchanged between a web browser (such as Chrome) and a web server (which stores, processes, and delivers your webpages to a user).

What is HTTPS vs. HTTP illustration.
Image credit: “What is https?” by

As the illustration shows, the difference between HTTP and HTTPS is that the data is not encrypted on HTTP. HTTPS helps protect against attacks that can happen while data is in transit.

Examples of attacks could be:

  • A breach of sensitive data like passwords, credit card numbers, and health information
  • Malware installation onto the user’s computer
  • Fake content is served up to the user instead of the content they wanted
  • Studying the overall browsing activities of users to discover a user’s identity ultimately

HTTPS came about in the ‘90s and originally applied to processing credit card information. But as companies like Google began to push for secure web browsing, HTTPS has become a gold standard for websites.

Google’s goal is to achieve 100% encryption across its products and services.

Why Is HTTPS Important?

HTTPS is important because it helps to protect your website and your website visitors from potential bad actors. HTTPS creates a good user experience, helps instill trust in your website, and protects your revenue.

HTTPS is also necessary when pursuing new web platform features, including progressive web apps (for more on what that is, see this article on Medium).

Google announced back in 2014 that sites with HTTPS would receive a ranking boost albeit a small one. In other words, if your site was not secure but a competitor’s was, their website may rank better, all else being equal.

Will HTTPS be a stronger signal in the future? Maybe.

In its 2014 announcement, Google said that “over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.”

But in 2017, Google rep Gary Illyes said they didn’t have plans to make it a stronger signal:

Another announcement coming from Google in 2015 said it would index HTTPS pages by default:

… we’re adjusting our indexing system to look for more HTTPS pages. Specifically, we’ll start crawling HTTPS equivalents of HTTP pages, even when the former are not linked to from any page.

A secure website can also protect website visitors and revenue. When people reach a webpage that is not secure, they may receive a message that labels it as such. This may cause a person to bounce from the site or abandon their cart.

Treatment of http pages, per Google.
Image credit: “A secure web is here to stay,” Google Security Blog

Plus, once you enable HTTPS, you can implement HTTP/2 on your site. This is the first major upgrade to HTTP since its inception, and it can improve page load time. Remember that site speed is a signal in Google’s ranking algorithm .

So it’s a good idea to implement HTTPS for security — and to do it ahead of Google’s page experience ranking update in 2021.

An additional note: I believe HTTPS is a strong trust signal, especially for ecommerce sites. But if everyone is finally HTTPS, then everyone is tied. That means NOT being HTTPS becomes a disqualifier.

How Do You Move to HTTPS?

If you’re ready to move your site to HTTPS, Google offers some good resources to start:

Like any site migration, it’s common to see fluctuations in rankings and traffic for a time. Depending on the size of the site, this can take weeks or more. Traffic should resolve itself after things settle (and you may even see a ranking and traffic boost afterward).

To avoid pitfalls that could impact your site during the migration, make sure that you:

  • Start small by moving a part of the site and testing as you go.
  • Do the migration when website traffic levels are lowest.
  • Monitor your rankings before and after — there will be some flux, but it should work itself out.
  • Don’t block HTTPS with robots.txt.
  • Don’t forget to 301 redirect all the old URLs to the new ones.
  • Make sure your internal links and tags (canonicals, etc.) aren’t referencing the old HTTP URLs.
  • Avoid the noindex meta tag on important pages.
  • Look for excessive redirects that may cause slow page load times.
  • Ensure the content on HTTPS webpages is the same as on HTTP pages.
  • Crawl the site after and make sure you get the 200 status code on all pages.

Google offers its best practices for an HTTP > HTTPS move here.

For more details on the coming update, keep reading our Page Experience series:

  1. What’s the Page Experience Update?
  2. How to Make a Mobile-Friendly Site
  3. Intrusive Interstitials & Why They’re Bad for SEO
  4. HTTPS for Users and Ranking
  5. Core Web Vitals Overview
  6. Core Web Vitals: LCP (Largest Contentful Paint)
  7. Core Web Vitals: FID (First Input Delay)
  8. Core Web Vitals: CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift)
Ebook to download on Page Experience preparation.
Click to download this entire series as a printable ebook.

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FAQ: How does using HTTPS improve website security and user experience?

HTTPS, or hypertext transfer protocol secure, encrypts data exchanged between a user’s web browser and a website’s server. This encryption establishes a secure channel that safeguards sensitive information from malicious actors seeking unauthorized access. HTTPS uses cryptographic protocols to ensure that the data remains confidential and tamper-proof during transmission. Consequently, this added layer of security gives users the confidence to engage with websites, knowing their data remains private and protected.

Beyond fortifying security, HTTPS significantly contributes to an enhanced user experience. In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, website speed is crucial in retaining user engagement. When combined with HTTP/2, HTTPS enables faster loading times, ensuring that users can access content swiftly and without frustration. Google’s ranking algorithm considers website speed, favoring sites that offer seamless experiences. By adopting HTTPS, website owners can cater to user expectations, resulting in decreased bounce rates and improved engagement metrics.

Moreover, the trust factor associated with HTTPS cannot be overstated. Modern internet users are aware of potential security threats and often look for visual cues indicating a website’s safety. The padlock icon in the browser’s address bar and the “Secure” label next to the URL signal to users that the website employs HTTPS. This visual affirmation fosters trust and encourages users to interact freely with the site, whether it’s making a purchase, submitting personal information, or exploring content.

An experiential insight worth noting is that HTTPS enhances user trust and impacts search engine rankings. Search engines like Google prioritize secure websites in their search results, giving them a competitive edge. This ranking boost highlights the importance of HTTPS in the context of search engine optimization. As HTTPS adoption continues to rise, websites prioritizing security and user experience through HTTPS will likely gain an upper hand in the digital arena.

Adopting HTTPS is an essential step toward bolstering website security and user experience. By encrypting data, improving site speed, and building user trust, HTTPS is a robust solution for the challenges posed by the digital landscape. Prioritizing HTTPS implementation is a best practice and a strategic move that can improve security, user engagement, and search engine visibility.

Step-by-Step Procedure: How to Fully Answer the Question “How does using HTTPS improve website security and user experience?”

  1. Introduction to HTTPS: Provide a brief overview of HTTPS and its role in website security and user experience enhancement.
  2. Data Encryption: Explain the data encryption process in HTTPS, detailing how it prevents unauthorized access and data breaches.
  3. User Confidence: Elaborate on how HTTPS contributes to user confidence by protecting personal and sensitive information.
  4. Visual Cues: Discuss the visual indicators of a secure website, such as the padlock icon and “Secure” label, and how they build user trust.
  5. Website Speed: Explain the relationship between HTTPS and website speed, highlighting the benefits of faster loading times.
  6. Search Engine Rankings: Detail how search engines prioritize secure websites in their rankings, emphasizing the SEO advantages of HTTPS.
  7. Adoption Trends: Discuss the increasing adoption of HTTPS across websites and its impact on user expectations.
  8. Migration Process: Provide a concise guide on how website owners can seamlessly migrate from HTTP to HTTPS.
  9. Impact on User Engagement: Explain how HTTPS positively affects user engagement metrics, including reduced bounce rates.
  10. HTTPS and Mobile Devices: Discuss the significance of HTTPS for mobile users and its role in providing a consistent experience.
  11. Security Against Cyberattacks: Detail the protection offered by HTTPS against various cyber threats, such as data interception and tampering.
  12. Google’s Ranking Algorithm: Explore Google’s emphasis on secure websites and how it influences search engine ranking.
  13. HTTPS and E-Commerce: Highlight the importance of HTTPS for e-commerce platforms, where user trust directly impacts sales.
  14. Implementation Tips: Offer practical tips for website owners considering HTTPS implementation, including selecting the right SSL certificate.
  15. SEO Strategy: Explain how incorporating HTTPS into an SEO strategy can improve visibility and organic traffic.
  16. User Expectations: Discuss how HTTPS has become an industry standard and aligns with modern user expectations.
  17. Monitoring and Maintenance: Emphasize the need for ongoing monitoring and maintenance to ensure SSL certificates remain valid.
  18. Case Studies: Provide real-world examples of websites that experienced enhanced security and user experience after implementing HTTPS.
  19. Future of HTTPS: Touch on the evolving role of HTTPS in future web technologies and its continued significance.
  20. Conclusion: Summarize the key takeaways from the procedure, reinforcing the crucial role of HTTPS in improving website security and user experience.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (20)
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20 Replies to “Page Experience Matters: HTTPS for Users and Ranking”

Thanks for providing great information about websites, SSL certificate is important for website security purposes..

Wow! This is one of the most useful blogs we have ever read on page experience.

It is now common and everyone is now using an SSL certificate to secure their website from hackers.

Very nice content for readers. This will help in ranking websites.

Thanks to such great content, using HTTPS becomes essential for any secure website.

In HTTPS “S” hold so much significance the concept in itself is a separate thing to talk about. In layman’s terms, it’s the security that S stands for and has a positive effect on site indexing with serch engines.

Damn, I didn’t listened to that SEO guy. But now I think, it is not a hoax. Thanks for posting.

ssl certificate is important for website security purposes

Thanks, I finally understood how http differs from https. There is a realy big difference actually. Also, I absolutely agree that page experience still matters.

It also helps in ranking a website

As far as I know, the HTTPS request is very important not only for the safety of the user and his data on the site, but is very much taken into account by Google. Therefore, if you want to improve the rankings of your site, use a secure connection.

yes, these days HTTPS connection is a must-have thing for all websites. If not then Google would show a warning message to all visitors and this would hurt not only the site rankings but also the user experience. It is important to ensure that all the URLs on a website including the image links, internal links, etc are using https. I’m using the Cloudflare SSL for my wordpress blog. And it has been quite awesome and straightforward to use.

Trying to explain that a clients website isn’t showing up to potential clients is very difficult to articulate when the owner see’s his website perfectly on his end. I wish Google would make it clear to site owners that their sites aren’t protected better.

Thanks for the entry, Google recommends that all websites use the “https: //” protocol whenever possible.

Jennifer Rodriguez

Hi Bruce,
I appreciate your timing. I was trying to explain this to someone the other day…you do a much better job.

BTW, recently I have seen some non secure sites that won’t load at all. An error message indicates the site is not secure and you are not allowed to proceed.

… we’re adjusting our indexing system to look for more HTTPS pages. Specifically, we’ll start crawling HTTPS equivalents of HTTP pages, even when the former are not linked to from any page.


Google gives more search engine indexing priority to websites having HTTPS in their domian.

Hello Bruce !
I agree with your point that HTTPS is a very effective tool in protecting the visitors on your site . Your content has helped me acquire the concept of HTTPS more brief and elaborate . Hope that HTTPS be a stronger signal in future . Also thanks for adding photos for better understanding .

I think HTTPS is a mandatory requirement for any website today. However, the cost to implement this is keeping people away. Where can a website owner go to get low cost SSL if they don’t have it.

Another point to concider is security to avoid hackers etc.


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