Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from 54.156.76.187

Forum Moderators: Robert Charlton & goodroi

Featured Home Page Discussion

Switching from http to https and back

     
11:25 am on Feb 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from DE 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Feb 20, 2003
posts:890
votes: 6


Although this topic has been discussed more than once I want to share my experience. See also "Has anyone moved back to http from https?" [webmasterworld.com]

I switched a large site from http to https at October 3rd. From that day traffic and ranking drops continuously. For a long time I thought that this is just a temporarily effect and everything will recover. Therefore, I was giving it time. During the next weeks I had some small technical problems, but I'm sure that they were not related to the drop. After 12 weeks (December 23rd) I decided to switch back to http. I know that this wasn't a guarantee for recovering but at least I want to try it.The next week traffic was recovering a little bit. However, this might be due a general traffic increase at January compared to Christmas. At least the continuous decrease was stopped, but since than everything was unchanged.

This behaviour was reported before from others members. Therefore, it isn't just a single case.

Diagram: [suchmaschinen-doktor.de ]
1:05 pm on Feb 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Sept 25, 2005
posts:1793
votes: 267


The problem with such case reports is that there's no way to tell whether or not a faulty implementation of HTTPS contributed to the drops. Keep in mind that negative effects on rankings would slow down Google's quest for an all-HTTPS internet, so you can bet they've made sure there are no obstacles on their end. Which leaves your end, and unfortunately there are quite a few things you can trip on when switching to HTTPS.
1:19 pm on Feb 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

Junior Member

joined:Feb 22, 2018
posts:146
votes: 22


12 weeks does not seem to be long enough to make conclusions. Also, on a long term HTTPS will be mandatory.
1:46 pm on Feb 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from DE 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Feb 20, 2003
posts:890
votes: 6


What kind of "faulty implementation of HTTPS" are you talking about? There was a 301 redirection from http to https and Google was crawling and indexing the https pages. At the Google search console there was no hint that something went wrong with the implementation. Moreover, if this drop was caused by technical problems from the implementation I would expect that ranking and traffic would fully recover when switching back to http - but this wasn't the case.

Of course, I didn't say that switching from http to https always have a negative input. But it seems that under some comditions (which it don't know) there are negative effects.

12 weeks does not seem to be long enough to make conclusions.

Of course, I could have wait even longer, but 12 weeks isn't a short time and for me it was too risky. And Google had already cralwed 90% of the site und I did't expect any improvement just because 10% wasn't crawled.

on a long term HTTPS will be mandatory

"In the long run we are all dead" ;-)
2:09 pm on Feb 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Sept 25, 2005
posts:1793
votes: 267


Mixed content, bad certificate chains, duplicate content (having both HTTP and HTTPS in the index), not (or incorrectly) updating canonical tags, sitemaps, redirects or internal links,... to name a few things. We don't know exactly what happens at Google when a site moves to HTTPS, so I can't say it's impossible for the move (if properly executed) to affect your rankings, I just don't find it very likely.

I understand why you reversed it, but in all likelihood you will have to make the switch again at some point.
2:27 pm on Feb 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from DE 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Feb 20, 2003
posts:890
votes: 6


I redirected http to https per 301 redirect via .htaccess. At the same time I modified the canonical tag (http to https) which is on every page. The total indexed pages (http plus https) shown in the search console keep almost constant over the time. Therefore, I'm not aware of any duplicate content problems.

If 'mixed content' refers to non-secure content on the https site - no I didn't had this. (I controlled it and it would be shown in the browser.)

I didn't had any sitemaps at all. Internal links were without domain (like "/example/").

Of course I can't rule out other technical issues. At least there was no hint in the search console. And as already said: In case of implementation problems I would expect that ranking and traffic would fully recover when switching back to http because problems are gone again. This is not the case.

Btw, I switch a smaller site without any problem or even any temporarily effect.

(Maybe the effect it's just a side effect as for example the "sandbox" around 2005.)
4:32 pm on Feb 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Sept 25, 2005
posts:1793
votes: 267


I would expect that ranking and traffic would fully recover when switching back to http because problems are gone again.

I wouldn't necessarily. Undoing a 301 redirect ("Moved Permanently") can have unpredictable effects, especially 3 months down the line.

If you covered all your bases then I'm out of ideas; it's a mystery that you (with full access*) are, of course, in the best position to analyze. The Search Console provides lots of good data on keywords and positions that might offer some clues about what happened and where. Since this doesn't happen that often, and it worked well for your other site, there's always the possibility of mere correlation and zero causation.

* and an SEO doctor, apparently ;-)
5:04 pm on Feb 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member aristotle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Aug 4, 2008
posts:3372
votes: 266


Google has always said that "content is king". So if the viewable content of the pages wasn't changed when switching to https, and the loading time didn't increase significantly, and google's crawling showed all of this, then the rankings and traffic should have stayed essentially the same. A big traffic loss in this case is an injustice.
5:12 pm on Feb 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

Administrator from US 

WebmasterWorld Administrator not2easy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Dec 27, 2006
posts:3724
votes: 205


While your site was using https, had you tried to access your site as http from any old http backlinks? Were you (or others) able to see any pages using http protocol? I mean, did you test all possible combinations of http://example.com such as the following:
http://example.com
http://www.example.com
https://example.com
https://www.example.com

Tip: All "301 redirects" are not the same, not all are done using the optimal format and we meet new examples of this every week in the Apache Forum [webmasterworld.com] discussions.
6:29 pm on Feb 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

5+ Year Member

joined:Mar 22, 2011
posts:434
votes: 6


I have made over 40 https switch overs will zero affect in ranking. Little sites <1000 pages and sites 80,000+ page sites.

Every time I follow all the steps on movingtohttps.com

Works like a charm.
6:49 pm on Feb 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from GB 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Sept 7, 2006
posts: 1025
votes: 88


Of course I can't rule out other technical issues. At least there was no hint in the search console.


You should be looking for them in your server logs, not in GSC.
8:29 pm on Feb 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 9, 2011
posts:14721
votes: 616


Undoing a 301 redirect
The wording betrays the problem: From your end, you may just be removing a line or two in htaccess, trala, I've undone the redirect and everything is back the way it was before. But there's no way to tell a visitor--whether human or search engine--that your intention is to reset the clock and undo the last six months.
8:42 pm on Feb 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:July 7, 2003
posts:757
votes: 99


Are you on IIS by any chance?
10:52 am on Feb 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from DE 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Feb 20, 2003
posts:890
votes: 6


So if the viewable content of the pages wasn't changed when switching to https, and the loading time didn't increase significantly, and google's crawling showed all of this, then the rankings and traffic should have stayed essentially the same. A big traffic loss in this case is an injustice.


The content hasn't changed. The loading time with https was the same (as far as I can say) - the search console was giving around 200 milliseconds for "time spent downloading a page".

Yes, I tested all versions http://example.com, http://www.example.com, https://example.com, https://www.example.com. And I even added all of them to the search console.

301 redirection was made in this was:
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off 
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [L,R=301]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^www\.example\.com
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://www.example.com/$1 [R=301,L]


I also made switches from http to https which works fine... but not this one. Within the 12 weeks I controlled every step more than once and I used several check lists. There was no hint, not in the search console nor in the server logs.

The domain is on a virtual Linux server.
2:24 pm on Feb 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Feb 12, 2006
posts:2690
votes: 109


doc_z:
i did exactly the same as you... I saw a big drop when I changed to https and then decided to change back to http. except I left it over six months before I switched back. i saw a noticeable uptick after I changed back, but not enough to claw back everything I lost.

everyone always says that it must have been due to a mistake we made when we switched to https, but it's not that at all. i checked everything (a bazillion times) and it was all fine. some sites definitely do suffer -- there are numerous examples on the web.

personally i think it's because of the backlinks. google must re-evaluate them somehow the next time they they get recrawled to the https site. maybe they don't exist anymore, or maybe the content on their page has changed reducing their worth to you - loads of things could have happened - but the upshot is that you lose some juice. if you have a tonne of backlinks then you don't notice any difference, but if you have a lot less than your competitors then any drop will be instantly noticeable in your rankings.
2:49 pm on Feb 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from DE 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Feb 20, 2003
posts:890
votes: 6


personally i think it's because of the backlinks.


That's an interesting theory and it least the best I've heard so far. The domain just have a few backlinks thus the theory might fit. Howevery, I guess that's a little bit more complicated, but a good approach.
3:53 pm on Feb 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Sept 25, 2005
posts:1793
votes: 267


Not bad, getting 10k/day (and much of that apparently from search engines) with just a few backlinks.

personally i think it's because of the backlinks. google must re-evaluate them somehow

Why must they re-evaluate them differently now? Also, a HTTP > HTTPS redirect does not cost you any "link juice".

Q: Will I see a drop in search?
A: Fluctuations can happen with any bigger site change. We can't make any guarantees, but our systems are usually good with HTTP -> HTTPS moves.

Q: Do I lose "link juice" from the redirects?
A: No, for 301 or 302 redirects from HTTP to HTTPS no PageRank is lost.

Q: How long will a move from HTTP to HTTPS take?
A: There are no fixed crawl frequencies, it depends on the size of your site, and the speed of crawling that's possible. The move takes place on a per-URL basis.

John Mueller on Google+ [plus.google.com]
4:52 pm on Feb 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

Full Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 20, 2017
posts:334
votes: 73


Fluctuations also exist outside of understandable reason. My site has its traffic changing all the time. Google is constantly experimenting all kind of things.

I did switch my site to HTTPS a couple of years ago, without any noticeable change. (During 2 weeks there were more "movements", that's all).

Now, it's still possible that among the hundred of factors that Google is using to rank a site, may be some are or more less impacted by a protocol switch, and may be your site relies on these particular ranking factors.

Did your ranking (position) changed during the period you switched to https ? Is that the reason of your traffic decrease? Because after all, the ranking position is the best indicator.
9:59 pm on Feb 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 9, 2011
posts:14721
votes: 616


301 redirection was made in this way
Two separate rules means potentially two separate redirects for no good reason. It should have been a single rule with two OR-delimited conditions.
12:02 am on Feb 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

Moderator from US 

WebmasterWorld Administrator keyplyr is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Sept 26, 2001
posts:11542
votes: 704


The only time I was able to recreate & verify any reason for a traffic drop when moving a site to secure, was 2 sites (out of 34 that I've switched) that relied significantly on 3rd world traffic.

By 3rd world, I am referring to some regions in Africa, Asia, Indo-china & South America where they typically use older hardware with older browsers that do not support the newer TLS standards.

Older users from any area may also fit this metric.
10:07 am on Feb 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from DE 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Feb 20, 2003
posts:890
votes: 6


Fluctuations also exist outside of understandable reason. My site has its traffic changing all the time.


Of course, there are fluctuations because of algorithm changes, new competitors and so on. But if you look at the diagram, you see that everything is almost constant for one year except when I switched from http to https.

Two separate rules means potentially two separate redirects for no good reason. It should have been a single rule with two OR-delimited conditions.


You' re right. However, all backlinks are going to [mydomain.com...] Therefore, in practice there is just one redirect. Moreover Google said that there isn't any problem even with 2 redirects.

that relied significantly on 3rd world traffic.


This is interesting because the site is an online dictionary which have traffic all around the world e.g. India! If the user-experience for part of the visitors is bad because their hardware doesn't support https than I would expect a continuous decrease ... and that was exactly what is saw.
10:21 am on Feb 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

Moderator from US 

WebmasterWorld Administrator keyplyr is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Sept 26, 2001
posts:11542
votes: 704


It's not that the user experience is "bad" with older hardware... there is no experience at all. Many older browsers cannot connect to HTTPS.
12:48 pm on Feb 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from DE 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Feb 20, 2003
posts:890
votes: 6


Yes I know. My point is that Google will notice that people are not satisfied which cause a drop in ranking.
4:10 pm on Feb 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from DE 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

joined:Feb 20, 2003
posts:890
votes: 6


I tested the site with https on some older systems and it seems that this is indeed the origin of all problems. Thanks keyplyr!
4:38 pm on Feb 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:July 7, 2003
posts:757
votes: 99


Yes I know. My point is that Google will notice that people are not satisfied which cause a drop in ranking.


I have heard others speculate about that theory: user clicks the back button because they can't connect via https and this begins a negative feedback loop where the site drops a few positions and then gets less clicks because it has dropped a few positions, and then drops a few positions because it gets less clicks etc.

My sites that were decimated after switching to https, attracted an older home-user UK demographic, and I wonder if many of those users were using older browsers.

I also speculate that Google may have applied some kind of manual boost or whitelisting to my sites, and maybe this was reset when I made the switch.
4:57 pm on Feb 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

Full Member

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 20, 2017
posts:334
votes: 73


It might be a matter of SNI (which is why it's better to have a dedicated IP, like in the old good times)

I guess you tested your site with [ssllabs.com...] . it can report all possible issue with each kind of OS and web browser.
5:58 pm on Feb 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Sept 25, 2005
posts:1793
votes: 267


Most HTTPS sites don't work if a client does not have support for SNI. All HTTPS sites on shared hosting, for example, or on a CDN like Cloudflare. This is not likely to cause any issues with rankings (direct or indirect) and the effect on traffic is probably very small. If the impact was more severe, you'd also notice a sharper drop in traffic directly after switching to HTTPS.

There are exceptions, of course. If your website is dedicated to Android <2.3 users, or Windows XP, you'd be in trouble (though HTTPS may be the lesser of your problems). On average, however, they account for less than 1% of all Android users, and for XP that's around 3% of Windows users.
7:36 pm on Feb 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member aristotle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Aug 4, 2008
posts:3372
votes: 266


I also speculate that Google may have applied some kind of manual boost or whitelisting to my sites, and maybe this was reset when I made the switch.

That's an interesting theory that I hadn't seen before.

There have been some reports here of sites that were removed from Google News immediately after switching to https. Presumably these sites had previously been added to Google News manually when they were still http, but the manual approvals no longer applied after the switch to https.

At any rate, it's clear that there's some kind of still un-identified hitch or bug somewhere in the process which affects some sites but not others.
4:46 pm on Feb 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Oct 4, 2001
posts: 1268
votes: 14


One thing I didn't see mentioned is landing page experience... SSL has overhead, if the load time of pages increased significantly it could have an impact on your rankings.

The SSL overhead is relatively small, but it's compounded if the page is calling a lot of resources that also must be transmitted over SSL, each one with it's own overhead, handshake especially.

If that were the case you'd want to look into how SSL is implemented on the server to see if you could speed things up. There are different ways to do it, some with significant performance impact, some with very little.

You could also look at reducing external calls.
6:10 pm on Feb 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member

10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 15, 2004
posts:439
votes: 55


Ian is spot on, after switching to https a lot of work must be done on speed. You should sample every page for speed and find out that https ads probably 1 second in average

There is also personalisation issues if the site is very old a lot of visitors being many times on the site may not see the https as high as it used to be the http.
This 55 message thread spans 2 pages: 55
 

Join The Conversation

Moderators and Top Contributors

Hot Threads This Week

Featured Threads

Free SEO Tools

Hire Expert Members