Will Switching Your Website To HTTPS Lead To Higher Search Rankings?

switching your website to https

Yes, it will. Google released an announcement in 2017 saying that it will incentivize websites that use HTTPS. Although it has no direct impact on rankings, it will eventually come to that. 

In this article, I want to dissect the anatomy of this issue. We will go through the Chrome update and explain how your website’s SSL status indirectly affects your rankings. 

The Chrome Update

Google made an update in Chrome where the browser warns a user whether or not a website is secure. If your website does not have SSL, the browser will issue a warning like this: 

Concerning this, representatives of Google advocated the use of SSL. They said that HTTPS has to be a requirement. They also said that it is imperative to have SSL to ensure that the world wide web is secure. Furthermore, they emphasized that the future of the web is a secure one. 

Does SSL have a direct impact on your ranking? 

No, it does not matter for now. According to studies by Neil Patel, SSL has no direct impact on websites as of now. He said that HTTPS in itself is not a huge ranking factor. If at all, however, it can be a tie-breaker. 

What does this mean?

It means that as far as rankings are concerned, Google is not really taking into account SSL as a primary ranking factor. The SSL only becomes an issue if two web pages from different domains are tied for a spot in the search engine results pages. 

If this happens, Google will check which of these two web pages have SSL and then give ranking preferential to the one with SSL.

Why bother with SSL if it is not a direct factor? 

My take on the matter is simple. Even if you rank high on the SERPs without an SSL, do you think a user will bother going through the warning? 

If a user has Chrome for a browser and sees the encryption error, what happens? He will press the back button and click on a new link.

Google will record this event, either in your bounce rate or session duration. As more and more people refuse to continue to your site, the algorithm will naturally mark it as a website that does not provide a positive user experience.

Over time, the algorithm will de-rank your page. As a result, you will get lower and lower in the rankings until that ranking disappears. 

In addition to this, Google will think that your website is spammy. Google has a massive campaign to make the internet a safe place.

Today, Google issues warnings to users, and here are some examples: 

  • The site contains malware
  • The site is deceptive and might be a phishing site
  • The site is suspicious and may not be safe
  • The site contains malicious programs

If the Google algorithm decides to brand your site as such, it really has no reason to rank it at the top of the SERP. It may not even index your website. 

What should you do? 

Google is moving forward with better technology every day. If you want to be ahead, all it takes is to understand Google’s goals. What Google wants is to create a safe and useful web browsing experience. As such, part of this is ensuring that the websites they recommend to the users are safe. 

The best thing to do now is to buy an SSL. Understand, however, that this will have an impact on indexing. Google will take some time to re-assess your pages and then decide which is a duplicate. It is a long process, but Google will eventually index your HTTPS URLs and forego the unsecured ones. 

Steps to make SSL transition right

Now that you have decided to shift, I want to give you some steps that will help you make smooth changes to your SEO via SSL. 

Get relevant SSL

The first thing you have to do is to get the relevant SSL for your website. My suggestion is that you buy it from your hosting provider.

Essentially, there are three kinds of SSL. These are called Extended Validation, Organization Validation, and Domain Validation.

  • Extended Validation – good for e-commerce and sites collecting personal information. This SSL is used by big companies like banks and social media. 
  • Organization Validation – good for e-commerce and but this is for government entities.
  • Domain Validation – use it for internal sites and testing sites. It is the most affordable and the most commonly used for blogs. 

If you are operating a big e-commerce website, you need to get the Extended Validation. Bloggers and small e-commerce businesses will do well with Domain Validation.

Update all links with 301 redirects

Since you are changing your URL structure, all your web pages have duplicates.

Here is an example: https://bloggingkarma.com/ will change to https://bloggingkarma.com/

Because of this, Google will get confused. The fastest route to making your web pages get indexed is to make the HTTPS versions canonical. 

Also, you want to retire links that have no SSL and then redirect these URLs to the new one. The solution to this is setting up a 301 redirect. This means that every time a user tries to access https://bloggingkarma.com/, the server will redirect it to HTTPS://bloggingkarma.com/.

You cannot do this manually, especially if you already have hundreds of pages on your website. What I strongly recommend is that you use a plug-in to do the transition in bulk. 

Update your HTTPS in webmaster tools

The next thing you have to do is to update your domain in several key areas.

Here are some examples:

The same thing goes with your Google Search Console. All these updates will tell machines what to do. You are essentially telling them to recognize your new URLs. You will have to do the same thing for your social media links, email autoresponders, and other tools. 

The last step that you have to do is to do a quick test. Once your SSL is up and running, you certainly want to see how it looks on a search engine. Go to Chrome and then type your new URL with HTTPS. See what happens.

Ideally, Chrome will no longer issue a warning. Also, you have to try the URL without HTTPS. If your 301 redirects are working, Chrome must not issue a warning. Instead, it simply has to route the user to the new URL with HTTPS on it. 

These steps are a lot to take, I know. But you have to do it now if you do not want to have problems later on. I will not be surprised if Google will one day make SSL a basic requirement to get ranked. 

Summary: Will Switching Your Website to HTTPS Lead to Higher Search Rankings?

Although HTTPS has no direct impact on rankings, the activity that Google records with how users react to your website do affect your standings. 

Google is advancing the principle of a safe internet, and HTTPS is one of the ways to make it happen. Google gives preferential status to web pages that are secure over those that are not. 

Switch to HTTPS and now and wait for Google to do its thing. It will take some time for it to re-index your new URLs with HTTPS. The long wait is worth it.   

John Kilmerstone

I'm an Aussie living in Japan who enjoys traveling, photography, and blogging. Please visit this website and explore the wonderful world of blogging. Discover how to turn your passions and pastimes into an online business.

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