Migrating Your Site to HTTPS: How-To, Why-To & Avoiding Pitfalls Along the Way (Part 2)

Last time we discussed the SEO benefits (in addition to user benefits) of deploying a secure (HTTPS) version of your website. Sounds good, right? All you have to do is set that up per the steps we talked about in that post, and you’re good. Not so fast – several wrinkles can crop up when setting up HTTPS and the main issue that can derail your SEO efforts is duplicate content. Let’s examine why this happens and how to fix it.

Defining HTTP & HTTPS Duplicate Content

It’s likely that you’ve heard that search engines, especially Google, punish sites with duplicate content. That stands to reason; the search engines want to provide the best user experience possible, and that means delivering diverse and relevant search results. There are multiple forms of duplicate content, and the particular kind created when HTTP and HTTPS versions of a site are both indexed can cause a variety of ranking, link attribution, and crawling problems for search engines. First of all, if both an HTTP and HTTPS version of your site are live, the search engines see these as two different websites. That is a red flag – you want to consolidate all of the search engines’ attention on one version of your site; the HTTPS (secure) version. If both the HTTP and HTTPS version are indexed, you’ll face a number of issues. Let’s take a closer look at these.

More Issues with Duplicate Content: Problems With Linking

If you have duplicate content issues, and two versions of the site are up online, soon other people will link to both of them, diluting your link efforts, and dampening your rankings potential. Example: if someone is blogging and wants to link to a page on your site, that person will not discern whether they are linking to the HTTP or HTTPS version of the site; they’ll just grab a link to your page and insert it into their article. Let’s say by chance the writer selects your HTTPS page about racing cars. If another author comes along and writes an article about racing cars, but cites your page on the HTTP site, you can see how now the search engines will see two duplicate pages with different URLs linking out. You won’t get the same amount of link value that you would get if you had just an HTTPS site indexed, and both articles linked to your HTTPS page.

Make it Easy for Search Engines to Find Your Most Important Pages

There’s a topic in the digital marketing industry that actually should get discussed more and we’re glad to have the opportunity to do so, here. Search engines won’t usually spend a lot of time crawling your website unless you are a big site or a news site with frequently changing content. In the case of an SMB site, many of your pages may only get crawled every few weeks. If both HTTP and HTTPS versions of your site exist online, you’re effectively splitting the allotted time search engines have to crawl – thereby potentially ensuring that some of your pages don’t get crawled at all, during a specified time period. It’s important to make crawling as easy as possible for search engines. If they have to split crawl time over two versions of your site, that can derail your digital marketing efforts.

Let’s say you spent hours writing a detailed technical guide and you’ve uploaded it to your website. You’ve done a great job creating this content, and you’re excited to see how much new traffic it attracts to your site from search engines. If that guide is present on both an HTTP and HTTPS version of your site, there is no guarantee it will be crawled at all. Google and other search engines may spend so much time crawling a large number of duplicate pages, they may leave, and not get around to crawling your new guide. Then you would have to wait until the search engine bots came back; sometimes this take weeks. This is why it’s important to only have the HTTPS version of the site live!

Here are two important steps to accomplish that:

>> 301 redirect all your HTTP URLs to their associated HTTPS pages

>> Use the canonical tag where HTTP URLs canonicalize to HTTPS page versions

There are a number of other issues you’ll want to check to ensure you’re getting all the SEO value from your HTTPS site. You can also work with Engine-IUS Marketing to help you navigate these technical issues.

How to Get HTTP/HTTPS Under Control

Some of these activities can get a bit tricky. Check with Engine-IUS Marketing – we can set all of this up for you and we will run a check of your site to ensure no duplicate content issues exist. Give your site visitors what they want – a secure way of doing business with you – plus get all the SEO benefits from HTTPS. Contact Engine-IUS Marketing today!

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