Switching to HTTPS: SEO Guide

Things to consider when moving your site to HTTPS

February 11, 2018

Google has been using HTTPS as a ranking signal for years, and now there’s a browser penalty in Chrome and Firefox if your site isn’t secure. Starting in July, Chrome will be marking ALL sites without HTTPS as Not Secure in the address bar. Even if you’re not taking payments or collecting personal information.

So if you haven’t done it already, now is the time to switch to HTTPS. Most web hosts have one-click installation of a free security certificate. You can also get one directly from Let’s Encrypt, and setup will depend on your host.

Here’s a quick guide on the things you need to consider when moving your site to HTTPS.

301 Redirects

When you switch from HTTP to HTTPS, Google considers this the same as a site move with URL changes. Use 301 redirects, which are permanent, to pass up to 99% of the ranking power (aka link juice).

This is the most important thing you can do to prevent a drop in your organic search positions.

Mixed Content

Once your site is using HTTPS, you can’t load assets from a non-secure address. So make sure to update all your stylesheets, images, and scripts.

Here’s a helpful tool to check your website for non-secure content.

Google Search Console & Analytics

Add the HTTPS version of your site to Google Search Console and set it as your preferred domain. This way Google knows you want this domain to be indexed in search results.

If you’re using Google Analytics, update the default website URL.

Sitemap

Update your sitemap and then tell the search engines to start crawling. Use Google’s fetch tool to get started.

Don’t have a sitemap? Install SEO Framework if you’re using WordPress.

Canonical Tags

Change your canonical tags if it isn’t done automatically by your website’s software. If you’re using WordPress and an SEO plugin, this should happen automatically when you change your site URL in the settings.

Backlinks & Citations

Check your backlinks and update them to HTTPS everywhere you can. While 301 redirects help, it’s better to have your backlinks pointing to your preferred domain.

If you’re a business that uses citation listings like Yelp, Google My Business, etc. make sure to update your website address.

After the Move

After you’ve made the switch to HTTPS and followed the above guide, watch your ranking positions, analytics, and check Google Search Console. If you missed anything, you might see a drop-off in your organic search, and you’ll likely have errors in GSC. Don’t worry too much because if you catch problems early, they’re easy to fix.

If all this seems scary or you want some help, give me a shout and we’ll make sure it’s done right.