How to change your site from Http to Https

How to change your site from Http to Https

From HTTP to HTTPS

From HTTP to HTTPS

There has been a lot of discussion about how to change a website from http to https and the reasons to do it (i.e. better security, better seo rankings) but, not so much discussion on the steps that are necessary to ensure a successful organic transition. By successful transition I mean one that will not have a negative impact in the organic traffic. Because, by just moving from http to https from a development technical point of view (i.e buying the ssl certificate, switching the website urls to https) is not enough to guarantee the correct transition.

Why? Recently, I had such an experience with one of my clients. Eighty percent (80%) of my client’s website traffic is based on organic search which is equivalent to approx. 1.1million organic sessions per month and 2.2million organic pageviews per month. My client moved successfully to the https from a technical point of view but was not aware of the other steps that had to be made to guarantee that the organic traffic and the reporting tools that he uses to monitor it (Google Analytics, Webmaster tools) would not start illustrating unexpected drops. When he reached me he asked me if I could understand what was causing the big drop. The good thing in this case was that I had already done in the past research on his website so I was able to understand faster the issue. The client did not mentioned to me that he moved to https few days before he contacted me but for me it was one of the first things to cross check. In anycase the details of this story are not important since at the end (a few days later) everything went back to normal. What is important though is what needs to be taken into consideration before a move to https. Below you will find a list with some of my SEO cross checks:

What to do before moving from http to https:

  • Use an SEO crawler to crawl all the website and pay attention to any link related seo errors.
  • Check your website’s backlinks status just to be aware how many they are and from where they are coming.

What to do after a technical move from http to https is done:

Use again the SEO crawler to:

  • Monitor if all the urls in your website have switched to https.
  • Monitor if there are any mentions of your website’s domain as links inside the website’s pages that still point to the http:// version. If there are they need to be switched to https.
  • Check if any 3xx redirects still point first to the http:// version of your website and then to the https:// or even worse only to the http version. If there are any they will need to be changed.
  • Check if there are new 404 errors which will also give a sign that something did not went well.
  • Check if there are any 5xx errors which did not exist before the move. Normally they should not exist in general but if you did not have time to fix them before at least after the move they should not increase.
  • Check your website’s sitemap files to make sure that they point to the https version and not the http.

Http to https SEO steps related to Search Console

After you make all the above cross checks and are sure that the technical part of the transition is ok, you may move to the steps that are only SEO related. These are:

  • Go to the Search console/Webmaster tools and add two new properties for your website. One with https://domainname and one with the https://www.domainname.
  • Verify the ownership of both and set as default the one you prefer.
  • In the one that you will set as default, add also the website’s sitemaps.
  • You could also increase the crawl rate to be higher as the Google bots will crawl this version of the website for the first time and it will be best to crawl as many pages as possible.
  • Fetch all the website as Google and wait for the results.

This will be the end of what needs to be done in search console but there is more that needs to be done in Google analytics.

From http to https SEO steps related to Google analytics:

  • Enter in the GA property for your website and go to the admin pages ->product linking.
  • Unlink GA with the previous http:// version of the website and link it to the https default version you chose earlier.
  • Go to property’s view/s and their settings and choose as default the https version of your website.

This will be the end of what is needed for the correct transition related to GA reporting.

After doing this, I would recommend crawling all the website one last time just to be sure you have double checked everything. The next days monitor the stats both in GA and Search console. Depending on the size of the website it might take several days until you see the expected stats especially in Search console. Monitor, everything (i.e. site traffic, indexed pages, errors etc.) until you are sure that the transition went smoothly.

Last but not list, check if you notice any unexpected changes in the backlinks reports. This is the last cross check!

If you run adwords campaigns, or have indexed your site in other search engines (i.e. yandex, bing etc) you will need to make some adjustments there are well.

My personal advice would be if you are not sure about any of these steps to hire someone professional to do it for you. You need to make sure that everything related to the transition will go smoothly. Otherwise, you might face some really unpleasant situations.

Good Luck!

Sofia Tsenekidou
Sofia Tsenekidou
Twitter: @st0255 ||| SEO & Digital Marketing Consultant who loves to help businesses grow! More about me.

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