HTTPS for SEO

Does Migrating To HTTPS Affect SEO?

Nithin David
Nithin David/February 17, 2020

Security is something that often gets overlooked.

You invest lots of money in designing an incredible website and work hard for a great advertising campaign – all you need now is maximum customer conversion. Well, you might have implemented all the effective measures to ensure the success of your newly created website, but you may have forgotten an important factor: website security.

Just think about the personal data, login details, product catalogue and prices, credit/debit card information saved in your website. Now you understand that your website is always at a risk of being hacked!?

Customers want “safety first”, so they like to spend money on business which they can trust.

So the problem is you want to provide your customers with a safe, secure environment on your website.

Here comes the importance of HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) – it is just the secure version of HTTP.

It is not just about ensuring security, improving user experience and gaining trust with your audience but HTTPS also helps you increase the ranking of your website.

To secure the data on your website and leverage the SEO benefits of HTTPS, you need to install an SSL certificate on your website.

What is an SSL certificate?

SSL (Secure Socket Layer) means when you visit a site, a secure link is created between the website and visitor’s browser. It’s actually a set of data files added to your server to prevent hackers from hijacking private information such as name, address and payment details from your website. Visitors can find a green padlock website URL that indicates your website is secure.

Usually, data such as security codes, credit card details and login credentials sent between browsers and web servers are in the form of plain text. Hackers can easily trap and use all these data sent between the browser and a web server.

How does the SSL certificate work?

  • A browser or server connected to a website secured with SSL. The browser/ server requests that the server identify itself.
  • The web server sends a copy of its SSL certificate to the browser.
  • The browser tests to find whether or not it trusts the SSL certificate. If the browser trusts the certificate, it creates and sends back a message to the web browser.
  • The web server decrypts the message and sends back an acknowledgement to begin the SSL encrypted session.
  • Encrypted data is shared between the browser/server and the webserver.

SSL as a Google ranking factor 

Should you shift your website to https? Of course, you have to do it now. There is no doubt that a safe and secure website enhance the website ranking.

Let’s see why?

Increased rankings

Google has confirmed that a secured website with an SSL certificate would rank better in search results. But don’t expect an SSL certificate to skyrocket your website ranking because it only has a very small ranking boost. As the company is investing a lot to keep everyone safe on the web, they would encourage all the website owners to change from HTTP to HTTPS. Over time, this could be a stronger signal in SEO.

Build trust

Would you open up your secrets to someone you don’t trust? Same happens with website security. Having SSL on your website means users can establish a secure connection and data transmitted between server and browsers is private. By protecting users personal information from the third-party sites or people, you are building trust in them.

Improve website load time and performance

Users always care about the speed of a page. They don’t want to wait more than 5 seconds to load a page. SSL never leaves your visitors to hang for a long time as your secure site loads faster. This will ensure positive user experience and customer retention.

Increases dwell time

The time between when a visitor clicks on Google’s search result and come back to SERPs is called ‘dwell time’. If your website is not secure enough to remain, they will leave. Websites without an SSL certificate will be having a lower dwell time.

How to move your website from HTTP to HTTPS?

Follow these steps when moving your website from HTTP to HTTPS

1. Update site address

Once you install the SSL certificate, go to the Google search console and implement the HTTPS version as the default URL of your website. Google Analytics or any other web analytics software you’re using should be able to track HTTPS.

2. Set up 301 redirects

So far, you have changed the default WordPress URL to https. Next step is to make sure the HTTP version of your site redirects to HTTPS. Your website needs to be configured to use 301 redirects when visitors landed on non-secure HTTP websites.

3. Fix the broken links

Make sure that you don’t have any broken links either on HTTP or HTTPS. Broken redirects either generate errors or point to a wrong place (pages that return 404 status). Broken links do nothing than ruining the user experience and forcing them to leave the page. So try to get rid of them as soon as possible.

4. Add HTTPS version of URL to search console

Google Search Console helps you to maintain, monitor and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google Search results. Not only that, GSC is a key factor in improving your SEO performance. So when you’re switching to HTTPS, you’ll need to add the new URL to Google Search Console.

5. Update your XML map and submit to Google

An XML sitemap enables Google and other search engines to crawl your site better. So it’s a good practice to update your XML sitemap and convert all the links to HTTPS and re-submit it to Google.

6. Check Robots.txt

Now test whether your robots.txt file blocks Google web crawlers from specific URLs on your site. While logging in to Google Search Console, you can select  robots.txt Tester right under crawl. Click the Test button and you will see a GREEN bar with the term ALLOWED.

7. Monitor traffic and rankings

It is highly recommended that you monitor your website traffic in Google Analytics. Also, check the ranking positions using your favourite keyword research tools. Check for bugs and fix any immediately.

Have you not switched to HTTPS yet?

Changing your website from HTTP to HTTPS is not a complicated task to worry. All you need to do is just follow the steps described above. While small websites take a few hours, old and big websites take days to complete the migration perfectly. So, are you ready for HTTPS migration? Encourage your contacts on social media to replace old HTTP with new HTTPS version.

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