Have you ever considered switching your business website from http and moving to https? If you haven’t, now might be the time to at least start thinking about it, as Google recently announced a new search algorithm that gives a boost to sites using https over other, unsecured sites (although later it was suggested that this boost was minor — and possibly of more benefit in the future than right now).
The only difference between sites that use https and those using the older http in their urls is the security of the server. So the traffic is encrypted and people visiting your site can be more confident that their information will be kept confidential. Since today’s consumers are increasingly tech savvy and concerned with privacy, more and more businesses are moving to https.
But even with the Google ranking update, there are still some important steps you need to take when switching to a secure server, so as not to lose any traffic. Below are some tips on moving to https from website and SEO experts that will help you make a smooth transition.
Understand What Moving to https Means
The first step when making any change to your business should be doing some research. Talk to your hosting company or your web developer to see what would be involved for your business in moving to https from http with your website.
Much of the process will depend on what type of business you run and how complex your website is. The more pages and content you have on your site, the more complicated the switch can be. So don’t expect to just press a button and be done with it.
Consider if It’s Right for Your Business
While some experts suggest that every kind of online business can benefit from moving to https, others argue that’s not always the case. In fact, Aaron Wall of SEO Book actually doesn’t advise small businesses to shift toward https at this point. He said in an email interview with Small Business Trends:
“I think it adds a layer of complexity to their site, perhaps making various plugins and image calls and similar [things] that need to be checked to verify it doesn’t kick an error message. Then it is one more thing which needs to be regularly checked to ensure errors don’t later pop up.”
So if you aren’t prepared for the added work and maintenance that goes along with moving to https and switching to a secure server, it could be beneficial to hold off on making the switch.
Run Some Tests
Although Google is starting to weigh secure sites more heavily than unsecured ones, moving to https can still have a negative impact on search rankings thanks to slower site speeds. Google takes load times into account when ranking websites. Since sites running on a secure server have to encrypt their data, more information is being passed back and forth between the server and client. That means it takes longer for the site to load.
That’s why Stoney deGeyter, CEO of Pole Position Marketing, suggests that anyone considering moving to https should first run some site speed tests. If your site is already complex and takes a long time to load, you might need to make some changes or just hold off on moving to https at this point.
Improve Your Site Speed
If your site doesn’t load as quickly as you’d like, but you still want to switch to a secure server, there are some things you can do to improve load times pre-transition. DeGeyter suggests going through your entire site and making small changes that make the site less complex.
For example, if your site includes a bunch of images, combining them into one image could improve speeds. In addition, streamlining code, using CSS in place of HTML when possible, and using external files rather than keeping everything on the page can all contribute to a faster site.
Work With a Professional
Once you’ve done your research and are ready to actually make the switch, deGeyter suggests you work with a professional Web developer. Or at least seek guidance from your Web host, on the actual mechanics of making the switch and moving to https. A professional can help ensure that all your content switches over to the secure server without broken links or other issues.
Redirect Your Old Site to Your New One
Once you have the site set up on the secure server, you’ll need to redirect your old domain to your new one. To do this, go into your domain account and have all of the http pages redirect to the new https pages. So when someone goes to visit your main site or any individual pages from an old link on another website, they’ll still be able to reach your new, secure site.
Change All Your Internal Links
But within your own site, you can go through and change all the links that go between different pages of your website. Make sure that they are all updated to the new https links. Don’t just rely on the old links to redirect.
Check for Broken Links
You’ll then need to go through your site and check for any broken or outdated links. Links that don’t work can damage search rankings and provide a poor user experience. There are plenty of online tools and plugins that you can use to check for broken links. Then go through and update the links so that they work properly.
Run Speed Checks
After the transition, you’ll still need to run speed checks to make sure the secure server isn’t slowing your load times too much. If your site runs too slowly, you might need to make some more minor changes. For example, see the ones mentioned in the fourth step above, to improve your load times. Again, consult you Web developer to figure out the best ways to do this for your particular site.
Track Your Stats
To be sure that moving to https doesn’t cause you to lose traffic, you’ll need to actually track your traffic over time. DeGeyter suggest using Google Webmaster Tools to track your site’s traffic and make sure that everything runs smoothly after the transition.
Don’t Rush the Transition
While moving to https can certainly be beneficial to some online businesses, there’s a lot that goes into it. Google’s new algorithm won’t likely make a big impact on rankings just yet. So don’t feel pressured to jump into it right away. Take some time to research and talk to professionals about what it could actually mean for your site.
In addition, Google’s algorithm could continue to change, which could make it more beneficial for sites to make the switch in the future. DeGeyter said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends:
“In some cases you have to choose whether you want your site to be faster or more secure. Depending on the type of business, right now I would say it’s better to be fast, at least in terms of SEO. But that could definitely change in the future.”
Start With https for New Sites
If you already run an http site, moving to https can be pretty complicated. Even though over time, the benefits should outweigh the risks. But if you’re starting a brand new website or venture, starting with https in the first place will prevent you from having to make the switch later.
Be sure you keep these tips in mind when considering moving to https. If you are just starting a website for your business, be sure to consider the benefits of an https site right from the start.
https Photo via Shutterstock