“When we switch from HTTP to HTTPS, does it affect the organic traffic?” – As a leading digital marketing agency in Dubai, we have faced this question from many of our clients. When Google made it mandatory for every website to serve the pages over the HTTPS to avoid warnings on the Chrome browser, most webmasters were forced to switch to HTTPS. While most of our large websites were already on HTTPS, we still retained many small sites on the non-secure version for various reasons including performance issues.
The short answer is, YES, but only if you don’t do it right.
Many webmasters and even several of our clients think that switching to HTTPS is as easy as installing an SSL certificate and configuring the web server to serve pages over the SSL. Well, that’s enough if you don’t care about search engine traffic to your website.
Installing SSL certificate is only a small part of work. To avoid severe impact on your organic traffic, you need to take care of a lot of things. I have outlined many tips below to help you migrate to HTTPS version of your website without losing organic traffic and search engine ranking.
Do you need help in migrating your website to SSL without losing traffic? SpiderWorks can help you. Get in touch with us today.
If you take care of the following guidelines, you can avoid losing traffic when you install secure layer protocol (SSL) for your website:
1. Purchase a good SSL certificate from a trusted certificate authority. Avoid free SSL certificates.
2. Make sure all sections and URLs of your website are served with SSL. Don’t leave some URLs unsecure.
3. Redirect all non-https URLs to the corresponding https version of the URLs using 301-redirect.
4. Set the HTTPS version as the canonical URL in every page
5. Submit the https site in the Google search console, Bing Webmaster Tools and any other Webmaster Tools you work with.
6. Update all internal links to point to their new secure version.
7. Update your Sitemap files to use the new version of the URLs
8. If you have access to edit and change some of the external links pointing to your website, get them changed. If you can’t get it done, don’t worry, you are still okay.
9. Check all CSS, Script files, images and every other link used in your site and make sure they are all updated to link to the https versions.
10. Update your Robots.txt file and replace the URLs with the new URLs
11. Check your Analytics file and if you are using a default URL with the HTTP version, replace it with the new version.
12. If you are running Google Ads, make sure your landing page URLs are updated.
13. Check your social media channels and update all website addresses and all possible post URLs to the new secure version.
14. Check the profiles you have created at various websites like Clutch, Goodfirms and other directories. Update the URLs.
Do you have any other tips to share for those who who are changing their website to HTTPS? Let me know by posting a comment below and I will be happy to include them in my list to make this more useful to our readers.
Even though there were many comments from Google indicating its algorithm updates favouring the websites that are served on SSL, we didn’t really notice any traffic improvement on any of the websites that we moved to HTTPS. Over the past 2 years, we moved several websites (small and large) and none of them show any strong signs of ranking and traffic improvement.
However, Google has indicated that in future, it will ranking boost to websites which are on SSL.
Even if there is no ranking improvement, you still have reasons to switch. First and fore most, Google Chrome browser shows a warning sign to visitors to the websites which are not on HTTPS, which may result in scaring some of your visitors away from your website.
If your website handles sensitive data like passwords, credit card processing etc, then SSL is mandatory to ensure all sensitive data is encrypted before it is sent over the internet.
In the initial stages, we were a bit worried that our ranking will be lost and organic traffic may be severely impacted. However, after following all best practices listed above, we were able to migrate several websites without any lose in organic traffic. After migration, we closely monitored the organic traffic and found out that there was no reduction in overall organic traffic. Google quickly switched the organic traffic to the new pages when it recrawled the pages.
Overall, the traffic remained unaffected after the migration to the HTTPS version.