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Protect Your Rankings when Switching to HTTPS

by Mark Pitt | 17.07.2015
In recent times, you may have spotted more and more website URLs displayed as HTTPS rather than HTTP:


HTTPS supplies webmasters with a securer data transfer protocol, more accurate analytics data, and a potential ranking boost in search engines, but there are several SEO dangers that need to be avoided when making the switch.

HTTPS stands for Hyper TextTransfer Protocol Secure. It is a more secure version of HTTP, which is the protocol from which data is transferred between a web browser and the website being viewed. HTTPS adds an extra layer of security to this protocol, meaning that communications between a browser and website are encrypted, preventing outside parties from monitoring the communication.

It is quite common for HTTPS protocols to be used for password protected pages, product payment pages, and financially sensitive data.


Switching to HTTPS can provide webmasters with the following benefits:

More Referrer Data
Sites without HTTPS sometimes cannot view accurate referral data in Google Analytics. If traffic passes from an HTTPS site to an HTTP site, the referral data is lost, and this traffic then appears in Google Analytics as “Direct”.

Extra Security
HTTPS makes a website more secure for visitors by encrypting all communications, ensuring that things like browsing history and credit card details are secure.

Potential Ranking Boost
Whilst the impact is said not to be hugely significant, Google have announced that sites using HTTPS will be rewarded with a boost in search rankings.

“over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now it’s only a very lightweight signal — affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content — while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.” – Google Webmaster Central blog.


Unfortunately, there are several risks from an SEO perspective when it comes to switching over to HTTPS, which could result in a loss of search rankings.

Many aspects of a websites HTML code may still point to HTTP URLs rather than HTTPS URLs. This may be found in canonical tags, images, CSS and Javascript files.

Heavy loading sites may also have to be weary of negative effects on page speed, as extra communications are needed between servers after switching to HTTPS.

To ensure against SEO errors from occurring, the following checklist of actions should be completed:

  • Update your sitemap to reflect the new URLS your site will contain after switching to HTTPS
  • Submit the new sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools
  • Update Robots.txt with the new sitemaps
  • Ensure all elements of your site use HTTPS – including images, CSS, javascript and canonical tags