Moving your website from http: to https: is not a simple task for someone without technical aptitude and expertise. But, while moving to https: can be tricky, there are some real benefits to making the change.
Added security, privacy, and speed are the biggest benefits that your website visitors will appreciate. In addition, you’ll be able to collect more referral data, as http sites will not retain referral data for visitors coming from https websites. The last and perhaps biggest reason to make the move is that Google has indicated that they may punish non-secure (http) sites and favor secure (https) sites in search rankings. If you rely on great SEO to get website traffic, switching to https is a must.
So why isn’t everyone serving their site over HTTPS?
SSL certificates aren’t free. Implementing SSL certificates isn’t easy. You may initially lose some ground in search rankings while your new https website is re-crawled and re-indexed by search engines. That said, you should still do it.
Basics of Implementing Your SSL and Launching Your Website on HTTPS
Purchase an SSL
The first step is to purchase an SSL. Commercial SSL certificates are around $99 per year. Make sure you get an SHA2 certificate as SHA1 certificates may still be shown as insecure as they are less secure and some browsers will still show your site as insecure.
More on choosing the right SSL Certificate
Contact your hosting provider or web developer to implement the SSL on your server.
You will want to consider whether you will maintain both an http and https version of your website. This is important because if there are many external links to your website from other sites, search engines, social media, etc you may want to maintain both for some period of time or indefinitely so that your external links are not broken. Alternatively creating 301 redirects for your old hyperlinks will lead users to the new https version of your website.
Make sure all your website’s resources are served via https (plugins you use, media (images, videos, audio), scripts, etc) if resources are not served via https and you transition the rest of your site to https certain parts of the site may not function properly without users manually selecting to load unsafe resources, which few users would choose to do.
When you copy your existing http version over to your new https directory, every url on the website must be updated for a successful transition. This can be difficult depending upon the CMS system you are using. For example, when moving a wordpress website you may have urls included in widgets, page content, theme files, blogs, custom content areas, each may present its own set of challenges for updating all your urls at once. You’ll need to ensure that your efforts have not missed any urls.
Once you’re comfortable that you’ve done it all and you have launched the new https version you will want to thoroughly check your website for anything you might have missed. Check for images not loading, any unique functionality like slideshows, contact forms, etc and ensure everything on the website is working as intended.
Your Site is Loading Great on HTTPS. What’s Next?
Once your site is moved to https your work is not done. You are likely utilizing a number of different tools that will need to be updated to understand that your website url has changed. Some of the most common and important include Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools (Search Console).
Search Console/Google Webmaster Tools
- Create a New Property. (Search console does not include a way to simply update your existing property to https, so you’ll need to add a whole new property.)
- Check your old http version to replicate any settings you might have changed.
- Update your target country (if applicable)
- Add and test your new https xml sitemap to ensure no errors are found and all your pages are identified.
Google Analytics Settings
- Go to Admin>Property Settings and update your Default URL from http to https
- Adjust Search Console – if you’ve already set up your new search console property click on
- Adjust Search Console and connect your analytics property to your new search console property.
- Update each of your Views by going to View Settings and changing your Website’s URL to https.
Don’t forget to update to your new https address for your social media accounts. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Youtube, Instagram, and others are likely displaying your website url. Make sure it’s up to date, these sites won’t change it for you.
Business Listings and Information Websites
Also be sure to update your Google My Business listing with the correct url. Yelp is another important place to update with your new URL. Additionally you may need to update listings on sites like Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, Diamond Certified, BBB, and much more (depending upon the type of business you run and where on the web it is listed).
Test Any Paid Advertising that Directs to Your Website
Whether you’re running TV ads, Google Adwords campaigns, Facebook Ads, Yelp Ads, or anything else, it would be a big mistake not to ensure that the web address that you include in your advertising actually works and gets your potential customers to your website. In some cases it may be a good idea to simply stop your ads as you make the transition to avoid any wasted ad spend until you are certain that your urls are working properly.
We’ve Probably Missed Something in this Brief Overview
There’s certainly details that we haven’t covered here, however most of you that read this are likely to rely upon your hosting provider, IT person, or web developer to execute the bulk of the technical aspects of transitioning to https. This was intended to highlight the general steps involved and raise some of the extra issues that you might not otherwise consider as you make the transition. We hope this helps you knock out some of the oft forgotten additional changes that need to be made for a successful implementation of an SSL.
Need Help Taking Control of Your Online Presence?
If you’re considering implementing an SSL for your website, rebuilding your website, or are interested in taking advantage of social media marketing or online advertising, the SEO Pros at KO Websites are ready to help. Give us a call and find out how we can help you enhance your business with a proven digital marketing strategy.