HTTP to HTTPS Migration Process: Everything you need to know

Being an SEO can be very challenging. With an ever-changing landscape, you have to deal with everyday changes. There’s really no way around it. A tactic may seem to produce the best results today but tomorrow its completely overtaken by a new one. Google ranks website according to certain algorithms. These algorithm keeps changing every day, hour or minute. For this reason, an SEO expert has to stay updated in case of any change in order to keep up with the pace.

All these challenges make Search Engine Optimization a dynamic area to be in. We are constantly presented with opportunities to help us diversify our ranking creativity and knowledge.

For a website to be ranked in the first pages and of any Search Engine, be it Google, Yahoo or Bing, several factors must be considered. Google for instance often changes its search algorithms and it is this changes that determine which website appears on the top pages.

Recently, there has been an update where Websites that have incorporated HTTPS are receiving a better ranking priority. This has resulted to many sites shifting from HTTP to HTTPS.

What is HTTPS

HTTPS stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Security. It is a protocol that enhances a secure communication between computer networks. It is the method in which data moves through the web from the browser to the site that a user accesses and back.

All websites on the “World Wide Web” users either HTTP or HTTPS.

Information passing through HTTP is not secure. When sending or receiving sensitive information such as passwords, there’s no guarantee that they will travel safely. There are cases of interception and when such information falls into malicious hands, they might use such information to their advantage to manipulate the users.

This can be prevented by installing an additional security layer to the existing one. These can either be the Transport Layer Security [TLS] or the Secure Socket Layer [SSL].

The function of these layers is to encrypt the information as it travels to and from the users and decrypt it once it reaches the destination.

Besides securing the information, HTTPS also ensures that the users access the right site through authenticating and certifying the sites. It is also able to retain data integrity which ensures that information remains as is without getting an unauthorized modification.

Benefits of Shifting your Site to HTTPS for SEO

The fact the HTTPS has an added security feature is reason enough to shift your site from HTTP to HTTPS. However, some people are more concerned with building their website traffic and tend to be reluctant on the security and safety benefits of HTTPS.

Today, the SEO field is getting diversified at a rapid rate. For this reason, more and more people are getting smarter and shifting to HTTPS, a new development which will pay greatly in return.

The benefit of shifting to HTTPS was not clear as it was regarded as a low-ranking factor until  Matt Cutts wrote a blog post about it in 2014. With HTTPS, the referral data that you get from Google Analytics is accurate and reliable. Although HTTP or HTTPS is a tool required for all website owners, Google has gone a step further and made it as one of the best SEO ranking tools. For instance, with HTTP your site goes viral from an online promotion site, it will not be visible from Google Analytics and instead, all the referral traffics will appear as direct one.

This problem is eliminated by transitioning to HTTPS as it enhances data referral. HTTPS will include your website traffic data which will ultimately lead to better and informed marketing decisions.

Trust is the key and the most significant incentive that HTTPS provides. When customers come across similar products one from an HTTP online store and the other from a HTTPS, they tend to choose the latter. The reason behind this is obvious. The HTTPS site is more secure and trustworthy.

How to Migrate from HTTPS to HTTPS

The migration process is technical and time-consuming and therefore requires a lot of commitment and patience.

Acquiring SSL certification.

There are sites in the market that provide the SSL certification. Some like Let’s Encrypt offers it for free. As long as your hosting provider has the option available, you can install it from a cPanel without any difficulty. If you make the switch to Site Ground you can get  Free SSL certificate. 

If your hosting provider doesn’t have this choice, you can opt to use Cloud’s Flare’s Free Shared SSL certification by simply signing up for a cloud Flare free plan, enter your domain and select “flexible” under SSL in the Crypto settings.

Everyone loves free and cheap products. I also do, but at most times they are not always the best. Quality is proportional to price. Scott Helme compares Cloud Flares flexible SSL to an illusion of security being presented to website visitors. The Cloud Flare’s Full SSL and Full SSL [strict] is considered a better option but it requires a monthly subscription of at least 20$ in order to activate your SSL certification.

For website owners who are only interested in SSL certification, GoGetSSL will be an excellent choice. You can secure your site with as low as 4$ and still take your SEO game to another level.

Smaller sites with minimal data can work great with Domain validation which is simple, cheap and it requires no paperwork.

The Business Validation is also an excellent choice as it can verify more details apart from general characters like the name and address of a company. The level of authenticity of the information presented online can increase sales as well as boost trust in online customers.

The Installation Process

After acquiring your SSL certificate, the next step is installing it on your hosting. This process differs with different types hosting providers available as well as the software and the SSL certificate acquired.

Each SSL Certification will require you to refer from its official site or any other official documentation for installation instructions as each of them are completely different from each other.

After following all the installation instructions, there’s need to check whether the certificate has been properly installed. Use a SSL Server Test by Qualys. Negative results indicate that you need to reinstall the certificate while positive results mean that the certificate has been successfully installed.

 

Editing all the internal links to HTTPS

Changing all the links of your site that use “HTTP” in the URL to use “https” can be a nightmare especially when there are hundreds of links to edit. When manually done, it can result in errors that might be costly to the site.

This process is easier and less complicated for people using WordPress. WordPress has multiple tools that break down the migration process.

For example, using  Search Replace DB version 3.1. allows you to update the links in your database in coded form. This step-by-step guide illustrates how the tool works for better performance.

On the other hand, misusing these scripts might be risky and could result in fatal errors. In order to reduce the risk and the negative effects that come with it, it is imperative that you first run a backup copy version of your site. A professional developer could also be of great use in case you are not comfortable in doing this by yourself.

When this fails, you can opt to install the  Really Simple SSL  plugin which is simple to install. It will deal with any unresolved issues and also handle the redirecting of requests to HTTPS. The better part of it is that you can make the changes directly from the plugins without interfering with the site.

Internal Redirects

Adding 301 redirects is arguably one of the most important steps in an HTTP to HTTPS migration. This is permanent redirects which pass 90-99% of link juice to the redirected page. The absence of 301 redirects may lower your SEO rankings massively and practically drop out of SERPs overnight.

Whichever website you are using, it is not advisable to use the plugin for such bulky migration. Instead, it’s simpler to implement 301 redirects from the server level and Nginx config.

Add the following in your platforms

NGINX

server {
listen 80;
server_name domain.com www.domain.com;
return 301 https://domain.com$request_uri;
}

Apache

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
RewriteRule (.*) https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [R=301,L]

Updating your robots.txt File

Update any blocking rules or hard coded links in your robot’s txt that might still be pointing to HTTP directories and turn them into HTTPS.

Install SSL certificate on your CDN

This step is not critical if you are not using content delivery like the MaxCDN and KeyCDN. However, this option could be incorporated for a fast and more efficient delivering site. The above CDNs are affordable even for small business and young entrepreneurs. MaxCDN has a subscription of less than 10$ a month while KeyCDN costs at least 4$ a month for each 100GB bandwidth.

Installing SSL certification on your CDN ensures that the encryption process is faster hence no delays when delivering content to your customers.

The installation guidelines will differ from the CDN that you are using and the SSL certificate that you acquired. They are however more or less similar but all of them will require you to open a zone to edit your URL from HTTP to HTTPS.

After the Migration Process

The above steps are a detailed process of HTTP to HTTPS migration which is crucial if you want to strengthen your SEO rankings. After completing the above process, you also need to make external changes which will also boost your SEO performance.

The need to update your Google properties

Updating your Google entries from HTTP to HTTPS will ensure that you continue tracking your site with the help of Google Analytics and Search Console. The initial original settings are only able to track the HTTP version so making these will be of benefit to your site.

With Google Analytics, you will need to change existing URL to HTTPS while Search Console requires you to add a new site using HTTPS in the address like you are starting from the initial stage.

Social media links

Links on your social media profile helps direct your fans to the right channel even though they are no follow. Updating them will, therefore, be of great benefit. Updating each of them might be time-consuming but eventually, it will pay off massively.

Conclusion

As you can see, there is a lot that goes in the HTTP to HTTPS migration. A successful migration, therefore, depends on factors such as SSL certificate acquired, hosting provider that one is using among others.

The process is a challenging one but if you followed the above guide you should be in a good position and enjoy the benefits from both the increased HTTPS performance while taking the advantage of better SEO ranking not forgetting the security advantage that comes with the migration.

 

Let me know if you have any questions. Cheers

S