The Effects of Using SSL/TLS on SEO
The transition of a site from a HTTP to HTTPS version offers a plethora of benefits to the website besides the obvious security appeal. However, effectively using force HTTPS techniques to force your visitors to the HTTPS version is a bit of a hassle in the world of efficient web design.
With the recent advent of free SSL and TLS certificates. Getting your hands on an SSL certificate is no longer that big of an issue. Nonetheless, effectively using an SSL Certificate and understanding the benefits of an HTTP to HTTPS conversion and their benefits to your overall SEO environment is quite important for a webmaster.
For instance did you know that; using some sort of SSL (or TLS) on your site, gives you a SERP boost according to the Google algorithms.
More Detailed Referrals Data
With each transition from an HTTPS to an HTTP site, in your Links network, referral data gets stripped away. Instead of showing referrer details, all traffic gets shown as ‘Direct Traffic’.
In simpler words, if your site uses HTTP, all traffic from an HTTPS referrer will be truncated and you won’t be able to see where the traffic is coming from.
As more and more sites make the switch from HTTP to HTTPS, this becomes increasingly important .
HTTPS is a Rankings Boost Signal
Google has confirmed the ranking boost of HTTPS. However, with over 200 ranking factors, the effect of adding an SSL to a site’s SEO is possibly quite small. Not a lot of data is available to determine the exact weightage of using SSL but it is a positive ranking signal nonetheless.
Security Benefits of using HTTPS
Force HTTPS to not only receive security benefits when you are using passwords or sensitive financial data. You can benefit from an HTTP to HTTPS conversion even if your site uses simple marketing material and content.
SSL Encryption improves security in a number of ways:
- An SSL certificate validates your identity as the web server that the client visitor is supposed to be listening to
- Since it is encrypted (encoded by a specific key), it prevents Man-in-the-middle attacks, compromises of data leaks. An SSL certificate can help you secure your website from hackers.
- HTTPS encrypts all communications such as session details, credit card transactions, URLs and user identifying information.
Problems That Still Need To Be Fixed After HTTPS
Make Room for Mistakes
Effectively force HTTPS is a quite tedious process and it is easy to muddle up some important tasks.
- Did you just block important URLs through robots.txt?
- Are you canonical tags pointing at the wrong (HTTP) URL?
- Are visitors being frightened away by display warnings initiated by browser bars?
These may sound like trivial details that a webmaster cannot possibly overlook. Be warned. Human beings make mistakes. Stuff happens.
Fixing these problems is quite easy but it was worth a mention.
Speed Issues When You Force HTTPS
Since HTTPS needs to undertake extra communication “handshakes” between the client and the hosting server, it can increase the average time until a client gets to see your site.
And since speed is a Google ranking factor. No points for your site!
When you Force HTTPS on your site, keep in mind that all best practices are used. And ensure that your site is fast enough to handle HTTPS network demands. In fact, there are tools like SPDY that can help you speed up your website through simple steps to cope with an HTTP to HTTPS transition.
Usually webmasters have to pay an amount between 70-165 pounds a year for SSL certificates, that’s a lot of money for a simple content website that wishes to stay ahead of the curve. Fortunately, there are some alternative option.
Get a Free SSL Certificate with Lets Encrypt, an open source initiative that aims to make the web a more Safe, Secure and Encrypted space.
Limited Support for SSL/TLS
HTTPS is still a relatively newer standard. Older web Application might have trouble with HTTPS URLs as well as mobile browsers and online tools. In fact even the Google Webmaster Tool does not support HTTPS migration, let alone alone let the webmasters implement techniques to force HTTPS on their sites effectively and seamlessly.
However, that soon might change as we move towards a more SSL/TLS accepting world.
How to Fix Links and Implement Redirects after Installing HTTPS/SSL?
Once you have learned the benefits of having SSL encryption on your site and how to install an SSL/TLS certificate; you need to effectively implement redirects and SEO best practices. Ensure that the addition of ‘HTTPS’ on each URL does not derail your SEO efforts. With the addition of an ‘S’ the whole linking network is thrown off-balance since crawlers find themselves facing duplicate content and the webmaster is unaware of the problem since all the site visitors are being redirected automatically.
This is a more common occurrence than you might think. When the URL changes from HTTP to HTTPS, a number of errors can occur. A universally agreed upon resolution to these errors is to implement proper Landing Page redirects (for Human Visitors) as well as canonical links (to ensure flow of Page-rank and other ‘Link Juice’). But how do you do that while ensuring complete efficiency of an HTTPS page?
There are two effective ways to force HTTPS for your visitors.
Hint: Both of them involve creating a page rule.
Use a rule with the option to “Always use HTTPS”. This method automatically redirects all HTTP requests to HTTPS versions of the pattern. This is the simplest method and all it takes is one rule to match your entire website and lets you force HTTPS serving to all your visitors.
With this rule, all resources on your domain will automatically be served through an HTTPS, like always, you can apply this rule to limited parts of your website.
You could also choose the more granular and specific rule instead of “Always use HTTPS”. You can try “301- Redirect” from an HTTP to HTTPS webpage. This can help you redirect site visitors from the HTTP to HTTPS version as well as from one place to another on your website.
http://domain.xyz/* — 301 redirect –> https://www.domain.xyz /$1
NOTE: $1 will replace the first * in your pattern (a $2 would replace a potential second *)
Possible Complications Caused Due to Using Force HTTPS
The most common issues that may arise due to force HTTPS include ‘redirect loops’ (i.e infinite or high number of redirects) and ‘mixed content’ (serving of insecure HTTP content along with secure HTTPS content)
The redirect loop issue is not as grave as it sounds for the client browser. The modern browsers have a detection system that can detect the problem and display an error message. However, it can be avoided if you ensure that you have clearly specified “HTTP” in your redirection rule and that your hosting rules are not contradicting any specifications on your web-server.
Contact a professional web maintenance service provider for effortless installation of SSL and redirection on your website.