If Matt Cutts could have his way, it would be so: apparently the Head of Spam at Google is vying for secure sites (https sites) to receive better rankings than their counterparts (http sites). The reports could be viewed as speculation, but they are based on supposed private conversations that have (maybe) been taking place within Google. The impetus for these conversations? The recent Heartbleed Open SSL debacle. According to Search Engine Land, over half a million websites were impacted by Heartbleed, the bug that has been considered one of the worst Internet catastrophes offering easy access for anyone to sensitive and private information.
Speaking at the Search Marketing Expo (SMX West) in March 2014, Matt Cutts openly said that he would like it if all websites were migrated onto SSL or https, and he would also like it if Google were to openly reward these sites in rankings. While not a confirmation of any change, it certainly could be an indication of things to come, brought to us in true vague and cryptic Google style.
Reconfiguration To HTTPS
Transferring small to medium sites onto SSL or https can be managed quite easily by obtaining a security certificate and migrating the site, but for larger, more complex websites, the job becomes a lot more involved. Another vital consideration is a necessary URL redirect from http to https so as not to lose any valuable rank and to ensure the user experience of the site isn't forfeited. If a change of this calibre was to come into being, one would hope that plenty of prior notice or indication would be given, but for now we have a few whispers in the dark... perhaps that's enough to start investigating the idea.
Barry Schwartz from Search Engine Land suggests that all new sites should be set up to run on https as a precautionary measure as doing this from the get go is simple. Not only will encryption make sites compliant for a potential change in ranking signals, but it also prevents any unwanted eyes gaining access to your personal data. For now? It's another exciting possibility in the ever-changing world of SEO and certainly something to keep an eye on.