Is it possible that websites with better security will be rewarded by Google? Possibly. Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, has shared with some individuals that he would like to see sites be rewarded for having increased security on their site. In fact, at SMX West, Cutts admitted that he would like to see sites work over SSL and make this part of the ranking algorithm.
At this time, secure websites do not have an edge over others (aside from the obvious benefit of being more protected), and this is not part of the ranking algorithm. It may never be part of the ranking algorithm. But the fact that someone like Cutts is considering rewarding sites for increased security means that it may be coming in the near future. When seeing the impact that security exploits can have on vulnerable websites, it’s understandable why enhanced security should be recognized.
For small websites, making the site run over HTTPS or SSL would be fairly easy, which is good news for small businesses that often seem to get the short end of the stick. For large websites, though, getting it to run over HTTPS or SSL would require a lot of reconfiguration and testing, especially for older sites that are being migrated into a new URL structure. Fortunately, security certificates aren’t too expensive these days, and there are dozens of reputable security companies to rely on.
There is another hiccup to think about, too. When migrating all URLs from HTTP to HTTPS, Google may knock the site down in rankings if the redirects are not set up properly. This would most likely only cause a short-term decrease, but it can still be enough to affect traffic and sales. Still, sites large and small may find that running their site over HTTPS is better for them and better for Google, especially with minimal costs and effort in setting this up.
So, where we stand today is that sites with enhanced security don’t have better rankings, but we may be looking at a new trend in the near future. For new sites, however, going HTTPS by default is the best option.