HTTP or HTTPS? The SEO Impact of Using SSL

It is important to understand the difference between HTTP and HTTPS, how to switch, and if even making the switch will help with your SEO efforts.

One of the most important functions of SEO is increasing visibility, which means making it easier for prospects to find you when they search for something you have to offer.

This article looks at whether switching from HTTP to HTTPS will help you achieve your search engine optimisation goals.

What are HTTP and HTTPS?

HTTP is short for the Hypertext Transfer Protocol.

While HTTP enables the clients to interact with the servers, it lacks encryption.

HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure.

HTTPS encrypts HTTP requests and responses so an intercepting attacker would only see random characters instead of credit card details, for example.

Without that secure connection, any network that is between the source host and the destination host can change what the destination host gets.

To create a HTTPS version of your site, you'll need a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate.

They are essentially cryptographic protocols to ensure secure transmission of data through the internet.

SSL certificates allow Google to verify the site is secure and that their user's information will be safe.

The absence of the padlock icon indicates that the referred page does not use https protocol, and hence, data transmission isnt secure.

SSL certificates are definitely a necessity when transmission of personal information is under question.

The Benefits to SEO of a Secure Site

If your competitors have a secure site and you do not, there are high chances that your competitor will outrank you.

If Google provides its users with better security, it provides better value and the users will be pleased.

Almost any type of e-commerce platform will require HTTPS encryption throughout the site for the safety of your users, but the requirement also extends to pages that collect private information for other purposes.

Dwell time is an important factor for SEO. If your visitor sees no padlock on the site, they may assume it is insecure and quickly leave. If they're being faced with an ugly Not Secure message, you won't have the chance to show them your awesome content.

The visual indication and confirmation that a site is secure is more than enough to leave a positive impression on visitors who may become life-long customers as a result.

As a site owner, it is your duty to provide a good, secure experience to any visitor.

The Downsides of HTTPS for SEO

Https sites load marginally slower than HTTP sites and page speed has an effect on overall SEO scores.

It is not uncommon for a site to see a temporary dip in rankings after switching to https.

Even if you change your main URL to HTTPS, some static content might stay unsecured. Make sure you address this during the migration.

When you usually switch you also force Google to recrawl and possibly see other issues as well.

301 redirect http links to https links

When you move from an insecure HTTP site to a secure HTTPS site, referral data can get lost.

That means, if some one has linked to the http version of your site and you've switched over to https then the link will have no value, unless you redirect http to https traffic.

If you dont redirect properly, your SEO rankings will drop!

Going forward, even simple static sites, such as personal blogs, may want to invest in getting their site HTTPS secure to avoid possible dips in traffic and high bounce rates.

While SSL encryption may not directly influence the majority of your visitors, and may have no bearing on your search rankings for the time being, if Google thinks its important for you to have then its going to be, sooner or later.

Making the move over to HTTPS can seem daunting, but it will benefit your business in the longer term provided that you work on overcoming the challenges involved.

For a feature that can be enabled with very little hassle, HTTPS is an absolute must, and there are no excuses for not having it enabled.

Although it looks like there are many downsides migrating to HTTPS, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Your site will be safer. Your information will be safer. Your user's information will be safer

And, all in all, that kind of peace of mind is priceless.

SEO Consultant

This article was written by Gaz Hall, a UK based SEO Consultant on 17th October 2016.

Gaz has 20 years experience working on SEO projects large and small, locally and globally across a range of sectors.

If you need any SEO advice or would like him to look at your next project then get in touch to arrange a free consultation.