John ElstadWritten by

Is Your Career Site on HTTPS? Google Thinks It Should Be

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Sometimes, technological innovation requires a little bit of force to get people on board. Remember when Apple started to remove the disc drive from their MacBooks? That is something we can’t forget. What seems like forever ago, Steve Jobs gave a keynote speech about how their new MacBook Air didn’t have an optical drive. Many people were not ready for it yet since we can all attest to still listening CDs and watching DVDs back in 2008 when Jobs made the decision to remove the disc drive.

So why did Apple get rid of the optical drive? The biggest reason was that music, movie, and software content was in the early stages of moving to the cloud. Wifi connections started to become much more prevalent, and the future was no longer in data saved to optical discs. Sure, Apple stood to gain from doing this in terms of iTunes and the App Store, but removing this disc drive from their machines hastened the move to cloud based content for everyone. Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and others have benefited from this, as users started streaming instead of carrying books of CDs and DVDs everywhere they went. Let’s not forget that Netflix used to mail out DVDs before streaming was ever an option.

This type of “forced adoption of innovation” takes place in other areas as well, and one that we know so well: the move to secure websites on https:// domains. Google moved to SSL encryption for users in 2011, and completed the transition to secure search in 2013. These were infamous dates in the SEO world, since this move to secure search took away the vast majority of organic search engine keyword data available to analyze. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a positive move as marketers, digital specialists, and other SEO experts preferred to have this type of data available, ensuring that visitors were finding content in the way that we wanted them to. While it disappointed many website managers, recently, Google started to return a portion of this keyword data in their Search Console section of the Analytics account. A significant development for SEO, this will help collect more organic data once again, with the helpful resource of other measurement tools.

Historically, Google treated http:// and https:// as equivalent, but separate, versions of a website. That changed in August 2014, when Google announced that they would begin using https:// as an algorithmic ranking signal. They said rather cryptically at that time, “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 — while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But 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.” Google had a clear intention to strengthen their signal over time, including mobile, what had an impact on recruitment marketing. There was a clear advantage to responsively designed sites back then, so it’s safe to say that if Google announces a specific ranking factor, it will strengthen over time. In this case, the incentive for action comes in the form of potentially higher Google rankings.

Most importantly, the move to https:// allowed Google to focus on security, especially with identity theft and corporate hacking becoming the norm. Web users are used to seeing the comforting green lock image next to the word ‘secure’ in their browser bars all across the web when shopping, banking, sharing, reading, etc. The goal should be to give that same user experience for job seekers consuming job related content and applying for jobs on your career site. On the flipside, the harsh exclamation point entrapped in a triangle next to the phrase ‘not secure’ makes users click the back arrow as fast as they can. That ideal candidate will feel more comfortable taking that next step to submit their resume if they’re confident that their personal information is secure. The boost in SEO is a great motivator to move to https://, but the user experience and security are part of the bigger picture.

Some key points to keep in mind for HTTPS://

  • Make sure that you don’t have BOTH http:// and https:// versions of your site live side by side, as they are treated as two separate websites. Establish a 301 redirect from http:// to https://, to reduce duplicate content and inbound link dilution.
  • Verify the https:// version of your career site with Google and Bing’s Webmaster Tools, submit XML Sitemaps.
  • Don’t block search engines from crawling the https:// version of your site, via robots.txt files or noindex/nofollow Meta Tags.
  • Ensure that you’re linking to the HTTPS:// version of the site from corporate sites, social media profiles, etc. Metrics tracking issues are common if you don’t establish a clear link to the https:// version.

If your career site isn’t on an https:// domain, it’s time to start making plans to make sure it is. It’s also important to stay on top of these innovations, even if adoption of them is somewhat forced (or at the very least incentivized). Jumping on these trends early on can lead to improved SEO performance, especially if your competitors are slow to implement these practices. The great thing about innovation is that it never really stops, and it’s best to have an advocate on your side consulting along the way.

Would Webmasters have moved quickly towards https:// if there wasn’t an incentive to rank higher for desired keyword phrases? Probably not. Then again, we would all be relying on CDs and DVDs for much longer if Apple hadn’t removed their MacBook optical drives.

John Elstad

About John Elstad

John Elstad is SEO Director for TMP Worldwide. He’s experienced a lot in his 10+ years of online marketing, but still has a passion to learn something new every day. When John isn’t trying to move up the organic search rankings or distilling analytics, he’s usually on the golf course or enjoying a tea party with his two little girls.

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