Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) just gave a nod to more-secure websites. The Mountain View, California, company said that encrypted websites that use HTTPS will get a boost in its ranking algorithm in a bid to encourage developers to adopt technology that protects against hackers.

Initially, fewer than 1 percent of global queries will be affected, Google said, but plans are to boost that weighting over time. Google's algorithm rewards sites with high-quality content a higher ranking in its search results, so the company has the power to spur Web developers into action. Google said developers will be given time to make the shift to HTTPS.

"This is a huge deal," Christopher Soghoian, a principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Wall Street Journal. "This is the ultimate carrot for websites" to use encryption. The newspaper reported in April that Google executives were discussing taking encryption into account in Web rankings.

Encrypted data adds a barrier between Web users and anyone snooping or seeking to steal their personal information. Google has stepped up its efforts to help make the Internet more secure in the wake of disclosures about Internet snooping by the National Security Agency. Yahoo Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) said in November that it planned to encrypt its data center traffic.

“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 said in a blog entry Wednesday.

Google plans to publish a series of best practices around adding more secure encryption to websites, including tips on what certificate type is needed, how to use relevant URLs for resources on the same secure domain and best practices for allowing site indexing.

If a website currently uses HTTPS encryption, administrators can test its security using Qualys SSL Labs' online tool, Google said, or they can contact Google’s webmaster forum for further help.