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Is Switching to SSL SEO Suicide? Site Tanks After Switching To SSL

     
1:18 pm on Apr 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I've run SSL on my site for many years (10+), but only on secure form pages. The rest of my site used HTTP://
Late last year I switched my site to Wordpress and set the base URL to HTTPS://
I have all http://pages redirecting to https://
My sitemap is now https://

Google seems to be indexing me properly as all URL's now show up as HTTPS://
However, it's looks like all my established HTTP:// history is toast.

My traffic is dropping like a rock. Even Bing's link explorer reports two different results for each version.
Was switching to SSL tantamount to jumping off an SEO cliff?
Has anyone had any success with this?
Good intention, bad results.

[edited by: aakk9999 at 1:28 pm (utc) on Apr 9, 2015]
[edit reason] Unlinked example [/edit]

1:38 pm on Apr 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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If I do a "site:domain.com" command, I get about 2030 pages all https:// protocol.
1:41 pm on Apr 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I switched our secondary site to SSL a number of months ago, and the change had no impact on our search traffic.
1:54 pm on Apr 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Are you sure that you do not have some other technical issues with the site since you have at the same time moved your site to Wordpress?

Is the 2030 pages about the right number of pages for your site?
1:58 pm on Apr 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The effect I am seeing is like none of the page rank followed the change. Almost like the site is starting over from scratch.
In Screaming Frog when I simply enter "domain.com", the first request 301's from http:://domain.com to https:://domain.com then the next 301's it to the canonically correct https:://www.domain.com which then returns a 200 status code. (I intentionally added the extra :to hobble those links)

@aakk999 - glad to see you respond! yes that's about the right number of pages. I think something with the redirection may be wrong...but it works.
2:09 pm on Apr 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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How long ago did you switch to https? It took my site about three weeks to normalize after the switch.
2:27 pm on Apr 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It was switched December of 2014. Since then traffic has been much lower than normal, April 1st it dropped off the cliff. Oddly, Google shows an upward trend in pages indexed, Bing shows the opposite.
3:00 pm on Apr 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Most likely a hit of the Pigeon update on Dec 22 2014 To: Mon Dec 22 2014

If you use Google Analytics use barracuda-digital.co.uk/panguin-tool/ and report back.
3:22 pm on Apr 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I would type in (paste) a few old URLs and check the headers to be sure the redirect is flawless.
http://example.com/page
http://www.example.com/page
[example.com...]
[example.com...]
3:24 pm on Apr 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I've seen several reports of drops after switching to SSL from other webmasters here: [webmasters.stackexchange.com...]

Nothing as dramatic as "like starting over from scratch" but certainly "traffic is down significantly."
3:30 pm on Apr 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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almost none of my search results involve local results. It was headed downhill before that. The remaining traffic into 2015 was almost sustainable, but since April 1st 2015, it's has been switched OFF. It's daytime here in the states and there have been zero visitors for over 30 minutes. That has NEVER happened. It's a 15 year old site that should have plenty of traction. Now it's like the vehicle got jacked and is up on blocks.

Traffic patterns seem like nobody is coming through the front door, just testing odd low grade pages. No natural flow that you'd expect from a human visitor.

Once or twice an hour a real human visitor will come in and you can easily tell that they are not a bot or mobile zombie.
3:34 pm on Apr 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I've switched over a dozen sites to SSL, never noticed any impact either way, either short or long term. Either you got hit by an unrelated update/algorithm at about the same time, or there is something technically screwed up with your implementation which affecting indexing.
3:43 pm on Apr 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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^^^ This would be my first thought too. I would make sure there are no other technical problems and that Wordpress did not generate many duplicate pages (tags/categories etc, it is known to have issues in this area).

the first request 301's from http://domain.com to https://domain.com then the next 301's it to the canonically correct https://www.domain.com which then returns a 200 status code

This goes via redirect chain. Ideally you should redirect directly to https www version of the page.
4:16 pm on Apr 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@olenoides - I regularly comb through WMT (daily) and I see no indications whatsoever of indexing issues. No messages either on a huge decline, even though a huge decline is whats happening. As far as an algo update, I must be the .0000001% affected (again) because I hear very little barking in the forums. Maybe everyone is "barked out".

@aakk999 - Maybe I phrased that wrong, I'm just reciting what SF is showing line by line. If I do type "domain.com", it takes me directly (or so it appears) to https:://www.domain.com . I see there are several online checks for redirects, but some give goofy results. If you know of anything reliable, feel free to pass that along.

I realize I'm probably just grabbing at straws, but after seeing what Bing is reporting, I figured it might be worth a re-visit to be sure it's not some stupid canonical or redirect mistake.
6:26 pm on Apr 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@samwest We'd have to see your site to be able to tell you. It may be something to do with an on page quality assessment and any of Google's quality factors. It's unfortunate it happened to you after you switched to SSL.

One thing, considering that you have over 2k pages, I'm guessing some of those pages won't be strong in content and won't have many (if any) external links. By doing a 301 you're technically losing some PR (although how Google treats a 301 from http to https is something we don't know) and thus any little PR that could have flown from internal linking has dissipated from the 301. Thus, those pages tank or at least drop several places in the SERPs. If you had many of these pages, then the drop could be notable. Imagine if you had 500 of those pages bringing in 1 visitor per day from long tails, that's 500 less visitors a day you're now getting.

Just a thought wrt 301 to https as I've heard of other webmasters losing traffic. Then again I've heard of others keeping the same traffic and even gaining traffic after the switch.
7:54 pm on Apr 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I also switched and have more traffic then ever.

Did you keep the old sitemap with http links and made a new with https links?

Did you keep the old http site in WMT?
9:22 pm on Apr 9, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I'm just reciting what SF is showing line by line. If I do type "domain.com", it takes me directly (or so it appears) to https:://www.domain.com . I see there are several online checks for redirects, but some give goofy results.

You don't need anything fancy. Just use LiveHeaders in Firefox for a few randomly selected pages; there may be equivalents for other browsers. Don't rely on your CMS to handle the redirect. Code it yourself, immediately before the WP section of your htaccess file. In fact it can be done as part of your existing domain-name-canonicalization redirect. Just add a RewriteCond with [OR] delimiter so it says "If the domain name isn't in my preferred form, OR the request is http instead of https, then redirect".

That's assuming Apache WP. I'm told there is also an IIS version which would, of course, require different wording.

Did you keep the old http site in WMT?

Does wmt now recognize http and https as separate sites, the way it distinguishes between with- and without-www? Last time this came up, there wasn't any mechanism to specify a protocol.
12:23 am on Apr 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Lots to digest here...
At first I was doing some of the redirect in .htaccess, but they weren't working, probably because of the hierarchy as I had them in the last part of the file.
So, I am using "redirection" plugin by john Godley and Wordpress HTTPS by Mike Ems. This still doesn't explain why the sudden plunge on March 30th.

I removed the old site in WMT because once I switched, the old account traffic dropped like a rock. Once I added the secure version, the traffic quickly repopulated.
That might be the problem I'm seeing over on Bing WMT...if so, they are only 6 months behind.

Here's the really weird part. In Google, my search queries are stable, no big plummet that matches the loss of conversions. It just seems like they suddenly decided to throw mobile (or zombie) traffic at me and restrict much of the desktop. Mobile users for the most part just don't buy. How this happened overnight is anybody's guess. But it did.
Hope it doesn't hit anyone else with an ecom. This is extinction level traffic.
1:15 am on Apr 10, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Does wmt now recognize http and https as separate sites


Yes, going through this right now. In fact if you want to use fetch as google for an https page you need to have the https version of a site listed in WMT. They don't let you select preferred site for http/https like they do for www/nonwww yet though.
 

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