How to Convert HTTP to HTTPS with SEO in Mind

Author Larry Engel - SEO Director at OuterBox
by Jared Heller
Updated May 29, 2018

Having a secure domain is an essential factor to building trust with your website visitors and customers in the online world of today.

You not only need to know how to convert HTTP to HTTPS, but also have to make the switch without hindering any search ranking authority that your site has built up since its inception.


Why Should You Convert from HTTP to HTTPS?

Unlike non-secure HTTP domains, secure domains use an encrypted code on an SSL (secure sockets layer) server to scramble the information sent from a user's computer to the website they are accessing. Outside sources cannot decipher this language as a result. Secure URLs allow for your customers personal and payment information to remain safe and secure from hackers looking to steal their identity. Secure domains have become standard practice across the web as a result.

While you want to keep your customer's information secure, your rankings and domain authority can be equally important. When you switch from HTTP to HTTPS, you need to make sure that everything is setup correctly from a technical standpoint to maintain your site's SEO value. This guide will help you keep your search engine marketing efforts in-tact while you are moving from HTTP to HTTPS.


HTTPS Google Ranking Factor for Search Results

Google first announced HTTPS as a minor positive ranking signal back in August 2014. Google's search algorithm is setup to display the best results first in regards to the relevancy of keywords searched. Google's top priority is security and having a secure HTTPS domain encryption is essential to establishing your website as a trustworthy domain to display in organic search results.

Email services have run off of SSL servers to keep messages secure since as early as 1994. As the internet and web commerce grew, the need to secure personal and payment information online also increased in demand. With Google's recent stance favoring (even slightly) HTTPS domains over non-secure domains, more and more websites continue to make the switch. Mozilla reported that these encrypted domains now make up more than half of all web traffic as of early 2017.


Redirect All Site Pages When Moving from HTTP to HTTPS

When you convert your website to secure encryption, it is essential to redirect the old non-secure HTTP pages to their corresponding secure HTTPS pages when the switch is made. If you leave both versions live, search engines can view this as duplicate content when crawling your site. This is a big red flag in the eyes of Google and can potentially lead to a rankings penalty.

Even if you do not receive a significant sitewide penalty from Google, having multiple versions of the same page can split the authority between the two. Your rankings can drop off, and your competitors will leapfrog you in search position.

Backlinks are another key reason why it is essential to redirect the entire site from HTTP to HTTPS. Any backlinks that you have going into this process will be pointing to the old non-secure HTTP version of your web URLs. Redirecting your pages will reroute them to the proper secure URL to establish its authority.

Additionally, having both a secure and non-secure domain address can lead to user confusion and tracking issues. Users could be less likely to submit their personal information if one portion of the site is non-secure while other parts of it are secure. HTTP and HTTPS versions of the same page could also be viewed separately in some analytics and tracking programs. If users are accessing both pages, this could lead to discrepancies in comparisons to previous data and not show an accurate picture of what is happening on your site.

Before you make the switch from HTTP to HTTPS, be sure to have a redirection plan in place. This can be changed sitewide through programming your .htaccess file to point all HTTP non-secure web addresses to their HTTPS secure versions. An experienced front-end web development team would be highly recommended for a site wide switch to ensure that all your bases are covered when the changeover happens.


Inform Search Engines of Your Move from HTTP to HTTPS

So you have moved your website to a secure domain and properly implemented redirects, now what? The most important thing to do next is to notify Google and other search engines of the change. For Google, this can be completed through Google Search Console.

Google Search Console treats both HTTP and HTTPS versions of the site as entirely separate properties within its dashboard. As a result, you will need to set up a new property with the secure version of your site.

You will also need to recreate a new XML sitemap that includes the HTTPS URL versions. It is almost impossible for any webpage to rank in Google if it does not have a page linking to it. Creating a new XML sitemap ensures this necessary link is established even if the page is not linked to from anywhere else. Add the updated version of your sitemap to your robots.txt file to notify all search engines of the change.

Once your XML sitemap is live on the site, you can also submit it to Google through Search Console for indexing. This will further inform Google of the change, and you should be able to establish rankings for the new secure HTTPS web pages faster. Other search engines will identify the difference in your sitemap as well. You can also submit your new sitemap to Bing Webmaster Tools and potentially other search engines as necessary.


Updated HTTP References in Links and Site Markup

After you have moved from HTTP to HTTPS, you need to update any references on your site that still contain the old HTTP format. This update will mainly involve updating internal links from HTTP to HTTPS, as well as any other references within your site's HTML markup and templates. It is never best to have an internal link redirect, even if a permanent 301 redirect is established. Even though it is only a slight difference, any internal link pointing to HTTP on a secure site will still be viewed as a redirect when it takes visitors to the HTTPS version of the page.

You will want to make crawling the site as easy as possible for search engines, thus updating all internal links from HTTP to HTTPS is essential for SEO. Once again an experienced programmer or front-end team would be our recommendation for this task. Depending on your configuration, programming may be able to make the switch sitewide to save a lot of manual work. If not, each link would need to be changed individually which could take significant time to complete.

Updating backlinks on external sites is a little trickier and more time-consuming. As we mentioned previously, it is essential to redirect your entire site from HTTP to HTTPS to properly reroute any external links to the proper secure page. However, if these backlinks pointed directly to the new HTTPS version of web pages the transfer of authority would be more direct in the eyes of search engines. You can submit these changes for any links that you have built yourself through online directories and other citations. Additionally, you can identify other references to your site through search console or another backlink identifying tool. If possible, you can contact the webmaster of each of these sites to request the change.


Advantages of Moving from HTTP to HTTPS

All-in-all there are many advantages of moving your website from HTTP to HTTPS. You establish trust with your customer's information which can lead to more online sales, form submissions, and other conversions. Your site is viewed as a more authoritative domain in the eyes of search engines, which can lead to higher rankings and more relevant organic traffic to your site.

If you are looking for an experienced agency to convert your site from HTTP to HTTPS we can help! OuterBox has a wide range of talented SEO experts as well as a full in-house front-end team to ensure your conversion to a secure domain is a smooth one. Get a free quote by filling out our online form or give us a call now at 1-866-647-9218.

 

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