HTTP vs. HTTPS: SEO considerations for moving to a secure website
August 12, 2014 - SEO
Recently, Google announced that they would begin giving a rankings boost for sites that were secured (https/SSL). That’s great, and it makes a lot of sense, but the majority of sites are currently non-secure. Moving these sites to secure isn’t just a technical investment, but site owners also have to be sure they are doing right by SEO.
Webpage Load Time:
With a switch over to HTTPS, the main SEO concern is the load speed of the site. Adding security to the site also adds extra server load / precious milliseconds to our website’s load time. A discovery by Amazon.com, with an increase in 100ms .in latency = 1% loss in sales.
Duplicate Content + 301 Redirects
Despite the same content, secure webpages (https) are considered entirely different than the non-secure version so we have to ensure that we don’t have duplicate webpages when the site is moved. We can avoid duplicate content using 301 redirects and proper page mapping. If for some reason there is a consideration for keeping both versions of a particular page — duplicate content and page authority will impact its search visibility.
Update all internal links, Sitemaps, Files, etc.
It’s important that we update all site links (navigation, in-content links, etc.) to point directly to the new HTTPS versions. Doing this, along with proper refresh of sitemaps (XML and HTML) and robots.txt files to reflect new secure reality will ensure that the search engines will index the secure site and position it accordingly.
Impact on Rankings
Though secure sites will ultimately see a ranking boost on Google, I caution that in the immediate weeks following, sites may see ranking fluctuations due to the switch / recognition of our redirect notices. It may seem like nothing has changed content-wise, but historically, a move like this is viewed by the search engines similar to changing domain names. Since Google came out to support sites moving over to HTTPS, we assume they’ll more easily recognize the changeover in their algorithm. Bing and Yahoo may see longer times in the search sandbox.
Staying On Top of Your SSL Certificates
Make sure to have all your SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates updated. With expired SSLs, it will interrupt the user experience, and ultimately affect your SEO.
Search Analytics and Reporting Tools
As mentioned, search engines see HTTPS and HTTP as different sites, so may be some analytic and reporting tools. In these cases, there may be hiccups in reporting during the transition period.