Google has announced that it will now give preference to more secure websites in its search engine results.
The firm has revealed that it has already experienced positive results highlighting pages that have HTTPS encryption as default.
Google hopes that the decision will encourage more sites to use encryption, which makes them less vulnerable to hacking.
It is a feature already used by many, but not all, sites to scramble data as it passes between a user’s device and an online service. Any site that displays a small padlock and has a web address beginning HTTPS already uses encryption, however some businesses are put off by the additional time and cost it takes to set up.
“Previously organisations have shied away from encryption due to cost concerns or fears of slowing website response times,” Jason Hart from SafeNet explained to the BBC.
“But there are now high-speed encryption technologies available that mean cost and speed need no longer be an issue.”
Google has said that, for now, whether a site is encrypted or not will not have a major effect on where it is ranked.
“It’s only a very lightweight signal – affecting fewer than one per cent of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content – while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS,” Google said in the blog post.
“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.”
Many larger technology companies have taken a more pro-active stance regarding online security since Edward Snowden’s leaks revealed the extent of spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) and GCHQ.
In 2011, for example, Google introduced HTTPS by default on its Gmail service.