At Crescent Digital, we are regularly called in to perform website audits following a drop in visitors. Over the past 18 months, we have seen more sites moving towards using HTTPS encryption following Google’s announcement of using HTTPS as a ranking signal (1).
However, when adopting HTTPS incorrectly, you will likely see your search traffic suffer.
Clients are absolutely correct to adopt https for their websites as although the ranking increase may be relatively minor, the reassurance to clients that your website is safe and secure will help increase engagement.
Why Mixing Your HTTP & HTTPS is a Bad Thing To Do
According to Google (2), technically all of the following urls and domains are different:
Your website’s domain will have earned trust & authority which will directly affect where it appears within the organic search results. However, your new https prefixed domain will likely have none, meaning a big drop in search engine trust, authority, rankings and ultimately traffic following the change. In addition, the search engines will not know which version of your site to show in the results when users are searching because they will be seen as duplicates.
What To Do
Having established that Google sees www, non-www, http & https versions of websites as separate domains, diluting any search authority, it is critical to configure your site correctly and there are several critical factors configurations to consider:
- Set-up permanent redirects to redirect any visitors and search engine spiders towards your one preferred domain.
- Set-up permanent redirects to redirect any old pages (particularly those with a large volume of links & social shares) to the corresponding pages on the new domain / site. This will likely be achieved using the htaccess file if using Apache web server.
- Configure Google Search Console in order to set your preferred domain.
What Not To Do
Please do not use the URL Removal Tool to remove old web pages or domains as you can end up removing your whole domain for 6 months. With redirections configured correctly, the search engines will understand and within time start to show the appropriate results.
HTTPS as a ranking signal https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2014/08/https-as-ranking-signal.html
Matt Cutts: Gadgets, Google, and SEO – https://www.mattcutts.com/blog/seo-advice-url-canonicalization/