2017 is shaping up to be the year of website security. HTTPS has come sharply into focus as of late, although Google has been pushing for a more secure web since 2014. However, HTTPS affects more than simply your site’s security — it plays a vital role in your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts. Let’s take a look at how HTTPS & SEO work together.
HTTPS & SEO go hand-in-hand
While Google’s guidelines are certainly a reason to make the switch to HTTPS, your visitors are important, too. After all, a site that lacks trust will see its traffic figures drop. This means that switching to HTTPS is important, as long as you’re mindful of the benefits and drawbacks it provides.
In this post, we’ll begin by looking at what HTTPS is and explaining why it’s likely to be a part of your future. We’ll then sum up the impact HTTPS will have on your SEO before discussing how to monitor your site’s SEO performance. Let’s get started!
What is HTTPS (and why does it matter)
HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) determines how data is transferred across the web. It works within an encrypted Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connection to ensure that data is protected from interceptions along the way. In short, you can’t have HTTPS without an SSL.
In contrast, HTTP is the unsecured version of the protocol. It works similarly to HTTPS, but doesn’t include encryption. There are a number of benefits to using HTTPS you’ll want to consider:
- If you deal with personal customer data, you want that information to be as secure as possible when moving from server to server.
- HTTPS offers a trust indicator to visitors through the common green padlock symbol. Not only does this tell users they’re safe when browsing your site, but it can also put them at ease — a desirable scenario if you deal in eCommerce, for example.
- HTTPS could provide your website with a search engine ranking boost (more on this below).
In short, making the switch to HTTPS is desirable for many websites. Let’s take a closer look at why by considering how HTTPS & SEO work together to potentially increase your ranking.
How HTTPS impacts your SEO
Let’s cut to the chase: Making the jump to HTTPS definitely does help with your SEO. However, while this technology has been around for a while, you previously needed a large budget to get onboard.
However, because this trend is so recent, there’s not much hard data yet to clearly show the benefit to your search rankings. Even so, we’ve already gleaned that HTTPS impacts SEO in a few crucial ways:
- Google gives secure sites a minor ranking boost. There might be a slight dip in your rankings as Google re-crawls your site’s pages after the switch, but it should recover within a few weeks.
- There’s a definite speed increase, as proven by the HTTP vs. HTTPS website. This can result in a secondary effect on SEO, as site speed is definitely a ranking factor.
- HTTPS also combats the loss of referral data that can happen when a site switches from an unsecure to a secure connection. In short, this means your analytics tools can continue to accurately report traffic numbers.
- Finally, due to the visible increase in security indicators on display, visitors might feel more comfortable using your site. This will obviously affect your traffic levels, which will offer a boost to your SEO.
If you haven’t guessed by now, we feel confident that HTTPS can benefit all sites, regardless of your niche or visitor base. What’s more, getting onboard involves less hassle than ever before.
Pro tip: Assess your own site’s SEO performance before, during and after the switch to monitor results as they happen. That way, you’ll be able to keep an eye on the effects for yourself.
How to monitor your site’s SEO performance
While you could use a tool such as Google Analytics to monitor your SEO, you’ll get more mileage from a dedicated solution (or even by combining approaches).
There are a number of tools that can help you monitor your SEO performance (such as Neil Patel’s SEO Analyzer and Moz Pro’s Rank Tracker). However, given our focus on improving your search rankings, it’s worth considering solutions from the two major search engines — Google’s Search Console and Bing’s SEO Analyzer.
Google Search Console (and its closely related cousin, Google Analytics) is the industry standard for analytical insight about your website and its visitors. It’s incredibly easy to use for gauging your SEO performance, offers you insight into how your site is viewed by real users, and can also help you meet Google’s (largely secret) requirements for ranking highly.
In contrast, Bing’s SEO Analyzer helps you rank well on its respective search engine and works by creating a report listing SEO concerns about your site. While it’s a different beast from Google’s solution, it’s no harder to use and will be necessary to make sure you’re found, regardless of your users’ preferred search engines.
Given their search engine dominance, whenever Google has an opinion on SEO, it’s important to listen. The talk in 2017 has been of the impact HTTPS has on SEO. While Google has been championing the switch for years, many sites are just starting to come around.
In this piece, we’ve talked about HTTPS and its relevance, then discussed whether HTTPS has an impact on your SEO and what to expect after the switch. To wrap things up, we looked at how to keep tabs on your site’s SEO performance. And the takeaway is clear — it’s advantageous to make the switch now, as a delay could see your page rankings plummet beyond repair.
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Also published on Medium.