On August 6, 2014, Google made an interesting announcement about giving prominence to website data security and using HTTPS as a ranking signal. Obviously it started the rush of upgrading websites to HTTPS. And it also led to mistakes and blunders.
More than a year has passed since the announcement, but website owners are still making the HTTPS move incorrectly in terms of SEO. For those who have not yet upgraded to HTTPS, I have created this detail HTTP to HTTPS checklist. Pay attention to following points to get every detail right!
Check duplication of pages
After moving a website to HTTPS, check for duplication of pages. Just place your website URL with HTTPS in the address bar and see if the website loads. Now perform the same with HTTP in the address bar. If the website appears for both, then, it means content duplicity, something that Google search bots hate. However, there’s nothing to worry about if you have added 404 error page or redirected HTTP to HTTPS.
Implement 301 Redirect
If you want to fix duplicity issues, you can go for 301 redirection. This redirection is used when the location of a page is changed permanently. As all links go through HTTPS protocol after your website is upgraded to HTTPS, using 301 redirection becomes a necessity. To implement this perfectly, you must first gather data pertaining to links that require redirection. In addition to webpages, also include links to any type of document and video published on your website.
Re-verify website on Google Webmaster
As HTTP and HTTPS are different protocols, it is necessary to change the old website link in Google and Bing webmaster tools and re-verify the website. If you skip this step, then Search Console will probably show errors. This step is commonly skipped by webmasters who have already added Analytics code into their website as they believe the website has already been verified in Google and Analytics. But re-verifying/updating Analytics code is a must after changing website URL from HTTP to HTTPS.
In the case of Webmaster verification, it is also vital to update the site in Google Analytics for HTTPS. This will ensure that the reported data is for updated website and not for the previous one. Do the same for third party tracking codes like AdWords, Bing Analytics and other remarketing codes.
Not updating codes can lead to a downswing in your Analytics due to wrong reporting (as shown in above picture).
Update Canonical tags
Using canonical tags is essential as it ensures that a website doesn’t get penalized due to similar content on multiple pages. Canonical tags should be added to pages with similar content but all tags should point to the HTTPS version of the links. This is crucial for SEO friendly linking across a website.
Change robots.txt file
Robot.txt is a small text file that can hurt your search presence if not prepared attentively. It contains a small code that tells search engines not to crawl a webpage. Therefore, if you have upgraded website to HTTPS, you also need to update links in the robots.txt files to ensure that search engines crawl and index the right links.
Update all the internal links
It is vital to change all internal links to HTTPS if you employ the link building strategy. Incorporating 301 redirection ensures that links do not return 404 error pages but still it’s great to have neat and direct links in order to reap benefits of optimal SEO strategy.
Only HTTPS links in sitemap
Sitemap is the index of all the links on a website. Webmasters usually employ sitemaps to make sure that search engines properly index a website. Therefore, it is vital to reconfigure sitemap with all URLs pointing to HTTPS and resubmit it to Google as well as Bing.
Resubmit Disavow file
Disavow is a nifty tool from Google that helps webmasters flag irrelevant links pointing to your site. What you are saying is “I don’t think these links conform to Google Quality Guidelines and I have been unable to get rid of these links. So, please ignore them”. While upgrading a site from HTTP to HTTPS, one should resubmit links file to ensure that all the redundant backlinks to new website address are ignored by search bots.
Check used Extension and Plugin for HTTP links
Webmasters use plugins and extensions to enhance site functionality. Sometimes, they change URLs of all the webpages from HTTP to HTTPS but forget to do the same for extensions which use HTTP version (old URL) of the website. This error commonly occurs with social sharing plugins and conflict with functionality. Webmasters are advised to check each extension and plugin to make certain that HTTP version is not in use.
Perform W3C test
The W3C test or better known as the Markup Validation Service allows users to check webpages for well-formed markup. This is an important to ensure technical quality of web pages. After migrating from HTTP to HTTPS, webmaster should perform this test to ensure that all markups on a particular webpage are properly placed.
Migration from HTTP to HTTPS by just buying a SSL certificate seems simple but making the transition successful is certainly not easy. There is more to it from SEO perspective. HTTPS is not like other ranking factors and, if implemented improperly, can do more harm than good.
Moving your entire website to HTTPS involves many aspects which often results in some vital detail being overlooked. Make sure you don’t miss any point from this checklist while upgrading website from HTTP to HTTPS.
Still got questions? Share your query in the comments section and I will answer it right here!