Since Google announced that using HTTPS encryption for all website pages is an important factor in SEO ranking, demand for SSL certificates to enable website security has increased even more.
Many webmasters and website owners remain confused about what actions are required to move their websites from HTTP to HTTPS without difficulty.
In August 2014, we moved SSLs.com to HTTPS and saw no negative effect on website traffic or rankings. During the migration, we learned some important things. We’ve prepared a list of tips and suggestions that we hope you will find helpful.
HTTPS to-do list
- First of all, buy and activate an SSL certificate if you haven’t already. You’ll find trusted SSL certificates at SSLs.com at prices as low as $5.88/year.
- Before activating the SSL, make sure you have all the essential items to use your new certificate.
- Configure your server. The Mozilla SSL Config Generator can help create a sample configuration file for various servers.
- Use this handy SSL Server Test to determine whether your server has been configured correctly.
- Prepare a list of URLs, mapping them from the current HTTP structure to corresponding locations on the HTTPS website.
- Investigate and verify that all external scripts and images work well with HTTPS. If they don’t, it might be a good idea to download such files to your server to guarantee HTTPS access to them.
- Once your HTTPS mapping is ready, set up 301 redirects on your server from the old HTTP URLs to the new HTTPS URLs, as indicated in your mapping. Alternatively, you may implement this within the .htaccess if your website is hosted on a server running Apache, or with the appropriate tool on your server. Also, if your site is created with any programming language, developers may implement the same redirection within the site’s code.
- Ensure that all “rel=canonical” tags within your HTML point to HTTPS pages.
- Update robots.txt and sitemap.xml with corresponding HTTPS links.
- Update your website URL in social networks, Google Analytics, and any other tracking tools.
- Create a new HTTPS entity in Google Webmaster Tools. Remember that Google Webmaster Tools treats HTTP and HTTPS websites as two different entities in WMT.
- Try to update valuable external links on websites linking to your content.
- Make sure Google can index and serve your content under your new URLs. Read the Google guidelines for more info on this topic.
- Monitor the HTTPS website daily with Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics to find any issues Google may be having.
Keep in mind that switching from HTTP to HTTPS may cause fluctuations in traffic and rankings, as a 301 redirect passes between 90-99% of the link juice. The loss of external links that point to your old HTTP version may also cause a temporary decrease in traffic and rankings.
However, our experience definitely shows positive results. A few months moving to HTTPS, traffic and rankings for SSLs.com are back up to the same levels observed before the move.