Impact of HTTPS Chrome warningon SEO: 2018 vs. 2014

You probably know already: Google Chrome will punish you for not serving your site securely, by explicitly telling it to your visitors, as of July 2018.

But is that also a -new- SEO issue, if serving over HTTPS has been a ranking factor since 2014?
Will Chrome displaying an insecure HTTP site warning somehow change that?

The answer is "yes" and the reason behind it probably isn't one of those you might have already read about.

HTTPS encryption has been a ranking factor since 2014

Post "HTTPS as a ranking signal" posted in August 2014 on Google's Webmaster Central Blog clearly states why encryption is a must. One of the reasons is it became a ranking factor.
So says this HTTPS Everywhere Youtube video from Google I/O posted earlier the same year, elaborating on the subject.

Reasons to migrate to HTTPS, and risks of not doing so, are nothing new,..

.. but we still get reminded of its' importance. In the past years, many articles covering the topic have been written. No further re-iteration needed, here is a sample:

The last of three articles above sums it up:

  • HTTPS protects the integrity of your website
  • HTTPS protects the privacy and security of your users
  • HTTPS is the future of the web
  • HTTPS is required for new browser features, esp. those needed for progressive web apps

Nothing new, right? The thing is, if you haven't migrated to HTTPS yet, it has already influenced your rankings in the past years.

The real news: A "Not secure" Chrome warning scaring users off HTTP sites

You probably know this already, so just a quick info: Chrome browser version 68, due July 2018, will show a "Not secure" warning for an insecure HTTP address next to it. The primary source of this information on Googleblog and some more reading:

Should you start caring in 2018, if you haven't before? Besides bounce rates, can this impact SEO and rankings?

As written above, HTTPS impacts your ranking already and no changes are announced. So can a warning inside the browser impact positions even more? It turns out, it can:

A typical user knows that when submitting credit card details inside an e-shop or logging into a bank, the green lock should be in place, because it prevents a hacker breaking in. He is unaware of your SSLs, TLSs and 256-bit whatevers, not mentioning eavesdropping techniques or man-in-the-middle attacks. But the sites he was happy to visit will suddenly become a threat. Although nothing has, in fact, changed, an unencrypted site will now be "Not secure". A good reason to leave.

This will lead to less visitors from organic traffic:

Higher bounce rates - users leaving your site prematurely - is a clear message to Google that they are unhappy with it. In this case users going back to search results, after a second or two, to find a safer site. Knowing this, Google will gladly leave your position to a competitor who provides a better experience.

tl;dr:

Bounce rates impacting rankings is nothing new, but let this post remind you, before an organic traffic decline due to Chrome's insecure warning does.

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