In its bid to make the web more secure, Google and other search engines are implementing strict rules that will see every site collecting password and credit card information make use of HTTPS, which is a more secure connection than HTTP.
Though when Mark Cutt made the announcement in 2014, many people kicked against the idea, fast forward to January 2017, Google made it specific that it would be giving special advantage in terms of ranking to sites that use HTTPS. However despite the warning many site owners have failed to migrate their URLS to https.
What you should know before migrating to HTTPS
Before migrating your site to https, you should have it in mind that;
- Though Google announced a ranking advantage to HTTPS users, it does not change anything in your ranking if your site has poor content.
- Migrating to HTTPS is like migrating to an entirely different domain name, or host server.
- It a lightweight ranking signal.
- The https page loads faster than http pages.
- You get more referral as Google sees your site as secure and trustworthy
- You don’t necessarily need it if your site has no business in collecting credit card information.
Things You Should Do Before Migrating
Create a Backup of Your Site
As important as it is, the first thing you should do is create a backup of your website data. This also includes the URLS of the main site, the sub domains, the internal and external links, as well as urls linking to images videos and other Medias.
It is advisable you export the URLS from Google analytics, as this will help in finding pages that the crawler is not able to find. It will also make sure all your URLS redirect to its HTTPS counterpart.
Install and Verify SSL on Your Server
Before installing the SSL on your site, it is recommended you read this Google article on the best SSL you should chose for your site. After that, the first thing you need to do is verify if you host supports http Strict Transport Security (HSTS)( which tells your browser to automatically request for HTTPS if available) and activate it. Instructions on how to purchase and install the SSL certificate varies from host to host (OpenHost and many other hosts do it free of charge).
Change All URLs to Https and Update All Internal Resources to Https
When you have successfully installed your SSL certificate, it is now time to change all your URLs to HTTPS. If you are not using any CMS, you can do a search and replace procedure in your database, or using the appropriate plugins if you are using CMS.
Also make sure that all your internal resources, including images, your java scripts, and CSS files are loaded from the HTTPS server. To verify this, you can use a crawler or SSL Check, to make sure you did not miss out on anything. Failure to do this properly will confuse Googlebot on which version of the page should be ranked.
Create a 301 Redirect
This is probably one of the most important steps in your migration process, as it takes a user you’re your http URL to your HTTPS URL. Creating a 301 redirect can be a bit tricky, which is more reasons you should do it in the htaccess or config file on your server. Doing this will force minimize the number of redirect chain which in turn will speed up your site load and save you the time of redirecting from page to page.
Create an Update of Your Robot.txt and Site Map
You need to ensure that the entire links carrying http in your robot.txt is changed to https in your robot.txt file. Though many people overlook this, the negative impact is that it will return a broken link which may hurt your SEO efforts.
Update Your Google Analytical And Social Share Profile To The New Https URL.
If you already have a google analytical profile, you need to update your profile by changing the http URL to its https counterpart and monitor the https website daily on your Google Webmaster tool. Similarly, all the links to your social media profile should be updated as well to the https URL. This will ensure you don’t get a broken link, though many of them must have benefited from the 301 redirect earlier created.
Update Your Incoming Links and CDN URLs
Updating incoming links is as important as updating internal links. While you may not be able to know all the sites linking to your site, you should contact as many as possible to update their links to your site. Similarly, if you are using any Content Delivery Networks (CDN) make sure you also update all the hard coded links.
Resubmit Your Disavow File
Since you have earlier created a new Google analytics profile, you need to resubmit your Disavow file in your new profile. Failure to do this will force Google not to find your Disavow file when next an algorithm is automatically updated. To do this, you need to use your Google Disavow tool in your http profile, download and re upload in your https profile.
You will definitely encounter some challenges, and some of them if not properly taking care of might hurt your SEO ranking. Also, even if you properly follow these procedures, it will take Google days if not week to properly understand and implement the complex algorithm of your site which will lead to drop in ranking.
The question of whether to migrate from HTTP to HTTPS depends on what you want and what you offer on your site. If your site requires security information, it is highly recommended you switch to HTTPS. Though you might notice a slight drop in ranking, the benefits outweighs the few days of drop in SEO ranking. However if you cannot do it yourself, always get an expert.