Common Problems To Be Avoided When Switching From HTTP To HTTPS

It’s no secret that Google takes online security and personal protection quite seriously these days. So much so, that simply switching from HTTP to HTTPS is enough to provide a small yet significantly noticeable boost to SEO ranking positions for those who have made the transition.

The inclusion of HTTPS as a weak, yet by no means insignificant, SEO ranking factor back in August 2014 has seen the number of websites using HTTPS protection increase from just 7% of page one results just before the initial announcement was made, to just over a third of those now appearing on the first page of the search results (at the time of writing) – and it is estimated that this will increase to over 50% of page one results within the next 15 to 16 months.

Unfortunately, for some webmasters, updating a website from HTTP to HTTPS has created more problems than it has solved and instead of improving search positions, the changes they have made seem to be having the reverse effect. The aim of this post is to find out why and how this is happening, whilst helping readers avoid any potential teething problems from the outset.

Post HTTPS Migration Problems

If you have recently migrated to HTTPS and you still have the old version of your website up and running, then you need to let Google know that the HTTPS one is the preferred version of your site. However, Google have said that in situations where two version of the same site exist, the secure version would take priority and be indexed by default – but this still leaves other issues which need to be addressed:

  • The existence of duplicate content
    If the new, secure version of your website contains verbatim copy from the HTTP version, then this will automatically be classed as duplicate content and this should definitely be avoided from an SEO perspective
    In some cases, we have even seen direct copies of websites up and running in which the HTTPS version even has site-wide links to the original HTTP version, even in the sitemap – as even sitemap links have been copied directly from the original domain!
  • Dilution of Links
    By having two versions of the same site running, a HTTP version and a HTTPS clone, the strength of any links can be seriously weakened. Even if you make use of canonical tags, linking to two different websites which are basically the same can reduce the power of those links by half as the external links will be shared between two URLs as opposed to a single page.
  • Search Engine Issues
    If you have gone live with a HTTPS version of your site – without taking the relevant steps to redirect the search engines to your new site from the old version – then the search spiders will end up crawling and caching both copies and this can cause serious problems all round.

    The easiest solution here is to use 301 Redirects on the old site which point to the new HTTPS pages and these should be in place on every single page of the HTTP website. Also, remember that 301 Redirects are permanent, whereas 302 Redirects provide a temporary solution which should be avoided entirely. Stick with 301s and everything should be fine.

Our Essential Tips For SEO Success When Updating To HTTPS:

  • Make sure that you update to the HTTPS version of your website in Google Webmaster Tools under the Search Console settings. Also, remember to add both www and non-www versions of your site and set the HTTPS domain as the preferred version. The same applies for Bing Webmaster Tools.
  • Use 301 Redirects from your original HTTP URLs so that search engines and people who have bookmarked your site go to the right pages. This should be done across the entire HTTP domain.
  • Make sure, and double-check, that all of the internal links on the HTTPS website are working correctly and that they point to your other HTTPS pages and not the old HTTP pages.
  • Likewise, all canonical links should also be verified so that they point to your HTTPS pages.
  • The XML Sitemap: Another simple mistake that is easily made (and easily avoided) – again, make sure that the page links on your sitemap point to your HTTPS pages!
  • External Links: Make sure that any external links to your site are updated to reflect your migration to HTTPS – including any links from Social Media pages such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages.

By following the above steps, you should find that transitioning from HTTP to HTTPS is a relatively painless experience which requires little more than some basic SEO knowledge and a bit of common sense. You should also find that your search positions remain intact whilst you provide an extra level of safety and reassurance for your visitors.