Weekly SEO news: 19 August 2014
Welcome to the latest issue of the Search Engine Facts newsletter.

Last week, Google announced HTTPS as a ranking signal. According to Google, websites that use HTTPS might get a small ranking boost. Is this ranking boost relevant and what do you have to do to benefit from this change?

In the news: the latest search engine statistics, Google's response to extortion emails, no more real exact match for Google AdWords, and more.

Table of contents:

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Andre Voget, Johannes Selbach, Axandra CEO

1. Is HTTPS really necessary to get high rankings on Google?
Last week, Google announced HTTPS as a ranking signal. According to Google, websites that use HTTPS might get a small ranking boost. Is this ranking boost relevant and what do you have to do to benefit from this change?

Google and HTTPS

What exactly did Google say?
Here's the exact text of the announcement:

"We're starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it's only a very lightweight signal — affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content."
What exactly is HTTPS?
HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure)  is a communications protocol for secure communication over a computer network.

The main motivation for HTTPS is to prevent wiretapping and man-in-the-middle attacks.

Why does Google give HTTPS websites a ranking boost?

There's no obvious reason why HTTPS websites should get a ranking boost. Websites with low quality content and bad backlinks remain what they are even if the use HTTPS.

Normally, HTTPS only makes sense for web pages on which users enter sensible information (payment data, address data, etc.). For all other pages, HTTPS does not add any benefit to the user experience.

A bad website with HTTPS won't get high rankings

Google says that HTTPS is only a very lightweight signal at this time. That means that there are many other things that are much more important.

For example, the content of your web pages is a very important factor. The keywords for which you want to get high rankings should appear in the right elements on your pages.

Your web pages should also have good backlinks from other sites. Without good backlinks, your pages won't get high rankings.

At this time, adding HTTPS to your website might move your pages from position 798 to position 763. You won't get to the first result page with that change. If you want to find out what you have to do to get your web pages on Google's first results page, use the tools in SEOprofiler:

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2. Search engine news and articles of the week
July 2014 U.S. search engine rankings (Yahoo slightly up)
"Google Sites led the U.S. explicit core search market in July with 67.4 percent market share, followed by Microsoft Sites with 19.3 percent (up 0.1 percentage points) and Yahoo Sites with 10 percent (up 0.2 percentage points).

Ask Network accounted for 2 percent of explicit core searches, followed by AOL, Inc. with 1.3 percent."


GoogleGoogle responds to mass negative SEO extortion emails

"The emails are claiming that an evil SEO will ruin the site’s ranking in Google and other search engines if they do not come up and wire $1,500 to the evil SEO. [...]

Google’s stance on negative SEO has changed throughout the years, previously stating there is 'almost nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index,' to now saying 'Google works hard to prevent other webmasters from being able to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index.'"


Google AdWords going to use close variant matching for all keywords

"Starting in late September, we’re applying close variant keyword matching, an intuitive way to connect people with the businesses they’re searching for, to all exact and phrase match keywords."

Editor's note: the change means that 'pure' exact match is no longer available. Related: Google does not care what you think


John MuellerGoogle’s John Mueller: another Penguin update will happen soon

"In a video on YouTube, Google’s John Mueller announced that Google’s engineers are working on another Penguin update.

According to John Mueller, Google updates the Panda update more regularly. He said that the next Penguin update will happen soon but not this morning."

Google's Feedburner doesn't like HTTPS source URLs

"When I migrated those sites, I tried to update the source URL of my feed in Feedburner settings but Google's Feedburner did not like the URL and spit back at 'Received HTTP error code 400 while fetching source feed' error."

Search engine newslets
  • Google penalizes two European link networks.
  • USA Today: 10 awesome Google features you should be using.
  • Tablets = desktops, and other Google fibs.
  • Google on finding entities: a tale of two Michael Jacksons.
  • Yahoo purchases ad security startup.
  • Google: introducing website call conversions.
3. Recommended resources

Everything you need

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4. Previous articles
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