Transferring To HTTPS Without Losing SEO Value

SSL certificates and SEO


Despite being around for some time now and having numerous benefits, many SEO experts and website owners still haven’t switched to HTTPS. Google has been adamant with its resolve to make HTTPS a standard, running a dedicated campaign and announcing that their algorithm favors secure pages over less secure and unsecured ones. It's even issued a guide which offers an in-depth explanation regarding the advantages of using HTTPS and details on how to properly install the SSL certificate and migrate your pages from HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) to HTTPS.

What are SSL and HTTPS?

SSL or Secure Socket Layer represents a security protocol which encrypts the communication between the browser and the server. What this means is that all the information transmitted between your browser and the server, such as usernames, passwords or credit card information is completely encrypted and secure. Without SSL, all this information is sent as plain text, which makes it a lot easier for hackers to intercept and access it. Websites with SSL certificates installed are accessed via a secure connection, or HTTPS, instead of using the traditional and in no means secure connection, HTTP.

The advantages of using HTTPS

Google has identified several important reasons why you should switch to HTTPS. The three most important ones are:

- Authentication

- Data integrity

- Encryption

Authentication proves that users are communicating with the actual website they intended to and offers protection against 'man in the middle' attacks. Data integrity ensures that the transferred data cannot be corrupted or modified, unintentionally or otherwise, without avoiding detection. Encryption is used to safeguard and secure your data from eavesdroppers, making it impossible for them to track your activities and steal your information.

Is HTTPS a ranking signal?

The short answer is yes. The long answer demands a little more explanation. As a part of its 'HTTPS everywhere' initiative, Google has made all their searches secure and made the announcement that HTTPS is a 'lightweight ranking signal'. This means that it affects less than 1% of all global queries and carries less weight when compared to a high-ranking signal such as quality content. That said, HTTPS pages do have a slight advantage over HTTP pages and generally rank higher in the search engine results page.

Transferring your website from HTTP to HTTPS

The first step making your website more secure using HTTPS is to purchase an SSL certificate. The average cost for an SSL certificate is around $50 per year, but most hosting providers offer SSL as a part of their hosting solution. Simply contact your hosting provider and check if they can install the certificate on your web server. Once you’ve acquired a certificate, you need to install it on the web server and test if it’s working by accessing your website via HTTPS.

Changing your website’s default URL

This is a pretty straightforward process, especially for WordPress websites. First, you need to log into the WordPress dashboard and find the 'General' menu. If you’re having troubles finding it, it’s located below the Settings option. Once there, change both the WordPress Address and Site Address, so they no longer start with HTTP and instead with HTTPS. When you’ve finished making these changes, click on 'Save Changes' button, which is found at the very bottom of the page. Doing this will log you out of your WordPress website, and you’ll have to log back in.

Adding a 301 Redirect

After you’ve installed the SSL certificate and changed the URLs to HTTPS, you have to configure your website to redirect all HTTP requests to HTTPS. This makes all your post URLs start with HTTPS. There are a couple of ways of doing this, but the simplest solution is to edit the .htaccess file by adding the following lines of code:

- # HTTPS redirect

- <IfModule mod_rewrite.c>

- RewriteEngine On

- RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off

- RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} !FeedBurner [NC]

- RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} !FeedValidator [NC]

- RewriteRule (.*) https://%{HTTP_HOST}/ [R=301,L]

- </IfModule>

Just make sure to test the redirect by accessing an HTTP URL and watching whether it will successfully redirect to an HTTPS URL.

Fixing the internal links

Any internal links you might have on your pages need to start with HTTPS. If you don’t do this, you risk getting mixed content warnings and having your website shown as insecure. You could do this manually, but fortunately, there’s an excellent plugin which automatically does this called Better Search Replace. It’s completely free and the installation process is the same as with any WordPress plugin. Just don’t forget to make a Database backup before running it. Once you install it, simply navigate to search and replace the portion of the settings, enter your domain name in the search for, as well as replace with boxes. Click on the 'select all tables' tab and finally, click on the 'Do search and replace'.

Replacing broken and non-https links

This is done by accessing your web pages and checking whether they start with HTTPS. You can do this by using Chrome browser’s developer tools. Simply right click on any part of the page and select the inspect option. Then navigate to the Console tab, find any URL that might be causing an issue and change it to HTTPS. Broken links, on the other hand, are bad for SEO whether they start with HTTP or HTTPS claim experts from Sydney SEO company. You can do it by hand, but there are some free tools available which do this kind of work automatically, just google broken link checker.

Submitting your website and its XML sitemap to Google

In order to maintain current ranking position in Google, you have to inform it that the website is, in fact, HTTPS and add the variations in the search console. This should be done not only for Google but also for Bing and Yahoo. While in the search console, you should also update the XML sitemap. Before submitting the website, you should check the robots.txt file to make sure that your website is accessible to the search engines. Finally, navigate to the 'Fetch as Google' section and click on the Fetch and Render option.

All that’s left to do now is to monitor the traffic using Google Analytics and make sure your website is ranked properly. As you can see, transferring your website from HTTP to HTTPS is really not that hard. The whole process usually doesn’t take longer than a few hours. Have in mind that all SSL certificates need to be renewed every year, so make sure you don’t forget to do it or else your visitors will be greeted with a warning from Google regarding the insecurity of your website.

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