HTTPS and SEO: a Match Made in Heaven

Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure, or HTTPS, is not exactly a new concept on the World Wide Web. A secure alternative to HTTP, the standard protocol through which data is sent between your browser and a website, HTTPS has been favored by Google since 2014. The push to see a universal switch started in June at the I/O conference with webinars and talks by Google continuing into 2016.

To this point, HTTPS has been strongly encouraged yet not required, but all that is about to change. Starting in October 2017, Google will begin displaying “not secure” warning labels on all HTTP sites when data is entered or sites are visited in incognito mode. For hard-working webmasters, this alert can be a devastation to SEO efforts, leaving users wary of what your site has to offer.

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The Differences in HTTP and HTTPS

HTTP has long been the gold standard in web protocols, opening up a simple connection between a browser and a site. As an application layer protocol, it is able to provide information to a web user no matter what channel is needed to do so. It is also stateless, so it utilizes less data by forgetting web sessions after a short period of time. HTTPS functions in roughly the same manner, but uses an extra layer of security called Secure Sockets Layer when transferring data, keeping personal info private. Information is kept secure in one of three ways:

  • Encryption: Data is encrypted by SSL before transmission to make it harder to access
  • Data Integrity: SSL prevents data from being altered or corrupted during transmission
  • Authentication: Users must be authenticated before communicating with website data

HTTPS and SEO

It’s no secret that Google has favored HTTPS for some time now, but the use of a secure protocol hasn’t been a heavily weighted factor in SEO. However, this is starting to change. If you’ve seriously considered switching, or have ever so much as pondered the idea, it’s time to make that happen. HTTPS offers numerous SEO benefits, including:

Increased Rankings
As Google continues to push the transition to HTTPS, it’s certain to show in their algorithms. Sites that insist on staying with HTTP will be ranked lower and users will be warned when using them, while HTTPS sites will rise to the top.

Direct Referral Data
As a part of Google’s changes, data passing through referral sources can be classified as direct traffic when using Google Analytics, preserving the referring domain. This makes tracking traffic easier, allowing you to hone marketing techniques accordingly.

Better Security
Security is at the root of HTTPS, and a large number of web users understand the strengths in HTTPS and prefer these safer sites. As HTTPS becomes even more wide-spread, even a high ranking site with strong correlation to keywords used will be ignored in favor of a protected alternative.

Implementation Tips and Tricks

Switching from HTTP to HTTPS should have little, if any, impact on SEO rankings, but an improperly-managed shift may have consequences. In order to see smooth, clean results, Google offers limited guidance on dos and don’ts.

  • Maintain a current SSL certificate
  • Use relative URLs for resources on the same secure domain
  • Update robots.txt so that HTTPS pages can be crawled
  • Avoid irrelevant redirects
  • Provide any errors that may appear for merged or deleted content
  • Verify Google Search Console settings

The landscape of digital marketing is always changing, and that includes web protocols. With the changes to Google’s preferences, it’s now more important than ever to transition to HTTPS. Your SEO – and your users! – will thank you.

Need assistance or simply want to learn more? Get in touch with RivalMind today to boost your SEO strategies!

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