Maintaining Your SEO Rankings When Migrating to HTTPS
Tips to preserve your search rankings when moving your website from HTTP to HTTPS
The internet is evolving. Whereas serving your website over the secure HTTPS protocol was once just highly suggested, today initiatives pushed by the browser community are making it mandatory.
That’s right, the browser community wants to see the entire internet encrypted as a baseline for web security. And its pushing for that change in a number of ways, for instance by providing an SEO rankings boost to sites served over HTTPS, by withholding premium features from non-encrypted sites and by making the HTTP/2 protocol – the future of the internet – exclusive to sites with SSL.
In addition, by the start of 2017, Google and other top browsers will begin actively marking sites still being served over HTTP as “Not Secure”.
This all means that now, more than ever, you need to start migrating your website from HTTP to HTTPS.
But that brings a new set of challenges with it, one of which is maintaining your SEO Rankings when moving your site.
Here is a set of tips to help you preserve your search rankings when moving your website from HTTP to HTTPS:
Tips for Migrating to HTTPS
It’s important to keep in mind when migrating your website that a lot can actually go wrong. This is not always a simple process, in fact it’s actually akin to migrating to a new URL structure or even a new domain. If you make enough mistakes Google may actually look at your newly migrated site as being an entirely new entity.
The first thing you’ll need to do is secure an SSL Certificate from a trusted Certificate Authority—one that is capable of fitting your needs. That could mean a single site certificate or a Multi-Domain or Wildcard, depending on your web presence. Once that has been secured, here are some additional SEO considerations:
- Make sure all of your internal links are pointing to the new HTTPS URLs – This is obviously one of the first steps, and one of the most obvious. But still, you would be amazed how easy this can be to overlook. Every single internal link, across all of your pages, needs to be pointed to HTTPS.
- Make sure any external links and social shares are also pointed to HTTPS URLs – Not taking care of this is a great way to confuse Google and hurt your search rankings. If Google sees both HTTP and HTTPS versions for your website, it won’t be able to tell which one is the most authoritative and should be ranked higher. This is going to mitigate any advantages that the new HTTPS version has for your web structure.
- Make sure that all rel=canonical tags point to the new HTTPS version – Similar to our last point, not doing this is a great way to confuse Google, as the Googlebot won’t know which version of the page should be used to rank.
- Make sure to map out the new HTTPS URLs on a page-to-page level – You’re basically trying to duplicate your current URL structure, after all, the only thing that’s really changing about your website is its migrating from the unsecure HTTP protocol to the secured HTTPS protocol. But, any mistakes with this could potentially confuse Google and harm your rankings.
- Make sure to implement a permanent 301 redirect at the page level – Once you’ve made all the previous fixes, start using 301 redirects on a page-by-page basis. DO NOT 301 redirect things at the global level or with a wildcard redirect as this is basically going to tank your search rankings immediately. Don’t make this mistake.
- Make sure your Webmaster Tools are actively monitoring for any issues Google may be having with your new HTTPS website – This is pretty straightforward, but the best way to become aware of, and rectify any issues is by keeping a close eye on your Webmaster Tools.
A Few Other Notes on Migration
Just a few other quick pointers and notes on migrating from HTTP to HTTPS. First, the aforementioned tips give you the best chance to maintain your search rankings, but small fluctuations can still occur. Provided you do things correctly, things should stabilize fairly quickly – and remember you are getting a small boost from serving over HTTPS in the first place – but do expect a small amount of movement.
Also, and we’ll finish with this, if you make the move while you’re under a manual or algorithmic penalty, Google may think you’re trying to escape the penalty and may lose more trust in your website. So if you have any issues with Google, make sure to fix them before migrating.
That’s pretty much it, hopefully this helps to make your transition from HTTP to HTTPS even smoother.