Should you switch to HTTPS for SEO purposes?

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In recent months there have been a lot of articles and posts written about the advantages of moving your site to a secure server.  Many people claim search engines (Google in particular) will favor your site if you are using HTTPS. While there have been some evidence of this, there are steps you need to take should you decide to make this change.

What is HTTPS?

Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the secure version of HTTP, the protocol over which data is sent between your browser and the website that you are connected to. The ‘S’ at the end of HTTPS stands for ‘Secure’. It means all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted. Banks, Search Engines, and most eCommerce sites (like Amazon, OVerstock.com, etc) have used this protocol since the beginning of the Internet.

How can you tell if it’s HTTPS?

The address bar in your browser will show a padlock icon in the bar indicating it’s a secure site. The web address will also start with an ‘https://’ instead of ‘http://’

Advantages of HTTPS and SEO

Google announced back in August, 2014 that a site hosted with HTTPS 2048-bit key certificates were given a little boost in rankings but not a huge jump compared to sites that still have quality content. Over time, this could change and Google (as well as Bing and YAHOO!) may favor sites that use encryption.

Many large hosting companies have started to push their customers to this hosting upgrade advising their customers that by moving their site to a secured server, their rankings would improve in the search engines.

What you should know! 

  • Cost– the cost to upgrade can be expensive. It’s not a simple few dollars more a month or year. You will have to purchase an SSL certificate which typically needs to be renewed every year in addition to your hosting.
  • Types of Encryption- There are different levels available. Google mentioned 2048-bit key certificates. Most hosting companies will ‘upgrade’ you with 128-bit encryption.. one of the lowest levels of security… so it may not be worth the added expense.
  • SEO- When you upgrade to an HTTPS server, you are essentially changing your web site address. Search engines view http:// differently then if it was https://. You will have to make sure all your SEO modifications are in place including redirects, sitemaps, images, even Analytics are updated and in place BEFORE you make this switch. If you do not plan in advance, your site can drop in rankings rather quickly!

Should you switch?

Before agreeing to your hosting company suggestions or your SEO Agency, consider everything ahead of time. Do you have someone who can make sure your site redirects correctly? Price shop your hosting options. Just about every hosting company on the planet offers this service.