Back in 2014, Google announced that all websites that would migrate to the HTTPS protocol would earn a minor ranking boost. Starting in October of 2017, all sites that collected any type of user information were showed as not secure if they were still using an HTTP protocol. Eventually, in July 2018 even those sites who did not collect private information were eventually showed as not secure, warning all visitors who browsed them. So it would seem that there are no reasons not to migrate to an HTTPS protocol, right? Well, case in point, some argued that switching protocols actually negatively affected their Google rankings, and damaged their SEO efforts. So what’s the truth and what are the effects of HTTP / HTTPS on SEO?
Understanding the differences between HTTP and HTTPS
Migrating to an HTPPS protocol means adding an SSL 2048-bit key certificate to your site. Trusted encryption is necessary to ensure that all your private data transmitted to a website (including cookies) is safely stored. A Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is a system used to transmit information from a user to a website and vice versa every time a visitor accesses an HTML page. To ensure that all information exchanges were kept confidential, a secure hypertext transfer protocol (HTTPS) was later developed to protect all the data with an SSL. In other words, an HTTPS is just a more secure version of an HTTP.
HTTPS and SEO – The benefits
It’s quite obvious why Google favors websites that are encrypted, secure, and trusted. According to the developers, Google uses HTTPS as a ranking signal and gives a small boost to all HTTPS links, which are slightly more “potent” at affecting rankings than their HTTP counterparts. Websites that are protected by an SSL certificate enjoy a slightly better ranking, although in most instances this change is somewhat negligible (but will slowly grow over time). However, an HTTPS-based website is beneficial for SEO since its value, and the value of any backlink it may provide is increased.
People who see a big “not secure” warning may also decide to leave the website or simply never access it, so traffic will also be positively affected. This is particularly important if your website is, for example, an e-commerce since the vast majority of users would abandon a purchase if they must send their data over an insecure connection
HTTPS and SEO – The risks
Changing from HTTP to HTTPS is usually beneficial for most websites. However, this process must be done with great care to avoid incurring in some issues which may damage your site rankings. Issues such as a wrong domain level canonicalization, failing to redirect all the URLs properly or to update all the internal links may negatively affect your traffic and wreak havoc to your sitemap. Google provided some guidelines with the correct procedures to move from an HTTP to an HTTPS protocol, and we strongly suggest to follow them as closely as possible.