The digital landscape experiences rapid change on a continuous basis. This is why it is extremely important to be on top of these changes because something that worked yesterday might not do the same today.
For an SEO, this is extremely challenging because not only they must be aware of these changes but they must also assess whether it will have an impact on Google’s s search algorithms. However, this type of challenge should excite every SEO out there because it gives them an opportunity to be ahead of the curve and take advantage of these changes while most people out there either ignore or are not even aware of them.
If you want to take advantage of the search engines and get higher rankings to increase the amount of traffic that is driven to your website, it is important to account for all of the different factors to determine how much weight should be place on each so the business can experience continuous growth without having to waste resources on factors that don’t bring much or any value to your rankings.
So far, the movement from HTTP to HTTPS has been a low priority in terms of SEO for several years but as this starts becoming a standard for web users, aside from the additional security it provides, this factor will become more and more important as time goes by and will help your website’s search engine results.
Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Security, or in short, HTTPS, is the secured version of HTTP which is simply a passageway from your browser to the website you are accessing. Without this added layer of security, all the information that is being exchanged on the website will not be secured and protected from outside parties.
Whether it is login usernames, passwords, credit cards, etc… there is no guarantee that this information will be protected from individuals with malicious intent and they risk intercepting all of it if they chose and know how to do so.
In order to prevent this from happening, it is highly recommended to install this additional layer of security to your website by having an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or TLS (Transport Layer Security) certificate installed on your domain.
The main difference between both of these security protocols is that TLS uses stronger encryption algorithms and can be integrated on different ports. By installing this on your site, you are ensuring that all confidential information being exchanged on it is encrypted and non-accessible from outside parties.
Does Google think it’s important? And what is the impact on SEO?
Around the month August, Google has been sending out warnings through its Search Console which states the following:
What does this mean? Essentially, you will be getting the following messages when people use Google’s Chrome browser:
Under scenario #2, this is what you will normally see for virtually all websites that do not have and SSL. However, once this change is fully implemented, the “Not secure” warning in red will appear for virtually all sites without an SSL.
With respect to SEO and its impact on rankings, many practitioners such as Matthew Cutts mentioned that it is a ranking factor for Google’s search engine results. Based on our testing and research, we have not seen a direct correlation at the time this article was written.
However, we highly recommend any website owner to install this certificate for security reasons. And as this “Secured” message becomes a standard for web users, not having this message can potentially affect the site’s perception of trust which can ultimately impact its conversion rate thus indirectly impacting its rankings.
The Migration Process
Obtaining and Installing the SSL certificate
There are several hosting platforms that offer the SSL certificate for free such as on Siteground. It is in the cPanel that you will be able to install it to your domain. If this option is not provided in your hosting package, another free alternative would be to use CloudFlare’s SSL certificate.
Even though the free option is an alternative, we would highly recommend website owners to look into a paid version because of the added features, increased security and added SEO benefits. The size of your site should be the determining factor of the package that should be obtained.
Once you have purchased the certification, you will simply have to install it in your hosting platform. The steps that must be followed are determined by the certification package that was purchased, the software obtained and the Content Management System (CMS) that is being used. . Once purchased, these steps should be given by the service provider.
Update Internal Links
If you’ve bought your SSL certificate but the internal links have not been updated, it is extremely important to do so and at the very least, update the header and footer of all pages on your site. However, if you have properly installed the SSL certificate and added the necessary code to automatically redirect the URLS to the HTTPs version, this should normally not be an issue.
Google Search Console and Analytics
Once you have moved your website to HTTPS, you must adjust your settings in Google search console and analytics accordingly. Although it is not much work, it is essential that you fix it in order to Google to account for these new URLS. In the Google Search Console, you need to add the https variant for both the www or non-www version of the domain. With respect to Google Analytics, you must also change the domain so that GA will start registering the traffic going to the new URLs.
Moving your website from HTTP to HTTPS will vary from site to site and what will determine the level of complexity is highly due to the size of your site, your hosting account and your CMS. The steps mentionned above should provide a good framework with respect to what should be addressed throughout this migration process.