How to Migrate your Website from HTTP To HTTPS Without Losing Your SEO Rankings

Migrating your website from HTTP To HTTPS Without Losing Your SEO Rankings

Despite the numerous benefits and even the warnings of switching to HTTPS, many SEOs and website owners have not done so. Google treats migrating from HTTP to HTTPS as a “site move with a URL change,” meaning Google will treat the HTTPS URL structure as a new site. So, a proper preparation, implementation, and monitoring are required to mitigate any negative effects. It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that Google and many others want the web to be more secure.

Moving your website from HTTP to HTTPS is very much like migrating your website to a new URL structure, or even moving to a brand new domain. Past experience has told us that there’s so much that can go wrong if things aren’t implemented correctly. Google has given some guidelines on moving to HTTPS which can be found here.

There are also a few other SEO aspects that you should take into consideration before you commit to moving your website to HTTPS. Firstly, you need to choose the right level of certification (you must install minimum of 2048-bit key SSL certificate) from an accredited/trusted provider like Godaddy.

Once you’ve completed this step, here is a checklist below will help you navigate through the migration and avoid many pitfalls that could cause your site’s traffic to decline and SEO considerations that will be important to migrating successfully:


The Ultimate HTTP to HTTPS Migration Checklist (SEO Friendly version)

Stage 1: Preparation

  1. Select an SSL certificate

  2. Crawl your existing website to obtain a list of all URLs

    • Understand current state of your site

    • Crawl data will be used for comparison

  1. Obtain access with sufficient privileges to all applicable accounts

    • Website Access

    • Google Analytics

    • Search Console

    • AdWords

    • Facebook

    • Twitter

    • Instagram

    • Pinterest

    • Google My Business

    • YouTube

  1. Download a list of all 301 redirects currently in place

    • Update the 301 map with new HTTPS URLs to have ready to go upon launch

  1. Download and update disavow file

  2. Download any URL removal requests

    • If using a test server, you can update all absolute links to HTTPS prior to going live

Stage 2: Launch

  1. Install SSL Certificate

  2. Update .htaccess file to force https (be sure to specify 301)

  3. Replace all absolute links

    • Page URLs

    • Images

    • Stylesheets

    • Scripts

    • CDNs

    • Canonicals

    • Hreflang

    • Plugins

Stage 3: Post-Launch

  1. Import updated 301 redirects

  2. Search Console:

    • Verify HTTPS versions of the website (www & non-www)

    • Submit new sitemap with HTTPS URLs

    • Update robots to include HTTPS sitemap location

  1. Ensure that robots is not blocking any HTTPS content

    • Verify and set preferred domain

    • Submit updated sitemap with HTTPS URLs

    • Associate Google Analytics with preferred domain and annotate the switch

    • Fetch, render, and submit URLs for indexing

    • Resubmit disavow file (if applicable)

    • Resubmit URL removal requests (if applicable)

  1. Update Google Analytics to HTTPS version

  2. Update the old URLs (if applicable):

    • Structured data markup

    • PPC

    • Email campaigns

    • Additional scripts

  1. Update URLs on all Social Media accounts

  2. Check RSS feed is working (if applicable)

  3. Run an HTTPS Validation Check

  4. Crawl HTTPS version of site (Making sure nothing is broken and all links are working)

  1. Re-crawling the list of old URLs and monitoring rankings, Search Console, and Analytics over the next several weeks (all the URLs should all be 301 redirecting)

Common problems with HTTPS migrations

If its done without careful planning like the above, there will be some things that can go wrong while and after migrating from HTTP to HTTPs including:

  1. Preventing Google from crawling the old version of (HTTP version) he site, or preventing site crawls in general (usually happens because of failure to update the test server to allow search engine bots);

  2. Content duplication issues, with both HTTPS and HTTP versions of the pages showing; and

  3. Different versions of the page showing on HTTP and HTTPS which would hurt your SEO rankings badly.

Most of the common problems with HTTPS migrations are the result of improperly implemented redirects. (We’ve also had quite a number of enquiries regarding cleaning up websites that changed their entire structure/design while making the switch to HTTPS.)

Final Tips on SEO Friendly HTTP to HTTPS Migrations

Simply put, HTTPS is not going away. HTTP/2, Google’s AMP network (Google’s CDN network for Mobile devices) and Google’s QUIC protocol (It will give your site a ‘NOT SECURE’ mark on Chrome browsers from the beginning of July 2018) all require secure connections for browsers to use them. The fact remains that HTTPS is being pushed hard by the powers that be, and it’s time to make the switch before it’s too late.

On the other hand, most of the HTTPS migration problems that we see are due to these 3 factors:

  1. Poor planning

  2. Poor implementation

  3. Poor testing and tracking

If you follow the steps we outlined above, you should have little or no trouble when migrating from HTTP to HTTPS.

Our last, but not the least comment on the subject is coming from Google’s famous Gary Illyes, that what Gary said in one of his tweet, back in 2015:

If you’re an SEO and you’re recommending against going HTTPS, you’re wrong and you should feel bad.”

– Gary Illyes –  (Google Webmaster Trends Analyst)

So, please let us know your experiences with your HTTPS migration, any questions you might have or if you require any help with securing your website in 2018 down below in the comments or via email.

Brighton UK based Freelance Digital Marketing Specialist with over 10 years experience (working in-house & in agency as an SEO & PPC Consultant) in building up thriving online brands, creating sales and increasing revenue for small & enterprise companies via using SEO and paid search advertising methods.

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