Google the puppetmaster?

HTTPS, SEO and Traffic

Google the puppetmaster?

Sometimes Google does things that both help and hinder the web. Yesterday on Webcology Jim Hedger and I discussed Google’s proposing to add a function tot eh Chrome browser that would pop up a warning that a site is unsecured if it does not send the user to HTTPS. Essentially this would create an environment where unsecured sites would be penalized whether security is required for them or not. Let’s imagine this scenario:

My son builds a small site dedicated to whatever Anime tickles his fancy at the time. The site is simply built to talk about some of the pages, characters, plots, etc. and at no time requires the user to enter any information at all, let alone information that would be deemed confidential. This site would trigger the warning.

The discussion now arises, what purpose does this serve and is this a case of Google overstepping their “rights”. Valid argument.

One has to dig deeper and imagine why Google would do this. Google is not in the habit of throwing development dollars at something just to see what it’ll do so one has to conclude that there’s a reason. Let’s look at what a couple of those might me:

  1. Google Cares About Security – there is the possibility that Google just really really cares about security to the point where they’re willing to jettison content from unsecured sites (that don’t need to be secured) just to make sure.  While we do know that security is a concern for Google, this is unlikely as there will be a lot of collateral damage (though with a year between Penguin updates that doesn’t seem to be a bit concern on their part).
  2. Google Loves Brands – obviously rewarding sites that are secure is going to reward brands.  My son’s imaginary site discussed above would be unsecure, Amazon’s page selling the Anime itself will be.  Reward to ecommerce sites and brands who have the technical know-how to secure their entire site and penalty for small bloggers and site developers who either don’t know how or don’t have the money to fork over for the certificate.
  3. Google Hates Affiliates – By this I’m not referring to affiliates in a “I’m recommending a book on my site so I might as well use the affiliate links” scenario but rather the blasting out of multiple sites in hopes one will rise and capture search traffic.  Add the cost and time of securing the sites and suddenly the pump-and-dump of the more grey-and-black of affiliate site marketing loses it’s allure.
  4. Google Is About To Give Away Free Certificates – Also possible in that Google may be planning on giving away free security certificates.  This would give them yet another hold on your site and insure that they can collect even more information on what’s going on and how it’s configured.
  5. Google Is A Puppetmaster – There is also the possibility that Google simply wants to reward folks that listen to them.  Create arbitrary rules that are unnecessary and see who follows.  Those that do are more likely listening to your other rules.

I’m sure there are many other possible reasons.  You’re welcome to add your thoughts into the comments below.

Here’s a big positive however, we were informed back in August that HTTPS was a ranking signal.  This pushes it past just a signal and into a necessary conversion function.  Essentially this force webmasters, SEOs and website owners to take advantage of this signal and get the site secured.  Whether you need it or not.

2 Comments

  1. Terrance says:

    I have my doubts against Google because all they do is hoard data, but this is a great article very informative.

  2. Dave Davies says:

    Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂