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http to https migration of a decent traffic website

     
8:09 am on Jun 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I am finally taking a plunge to move my website from http to https. I have been intentionally delaying it for the fear of SEO impact it may cause. Now, this website of mine receives 90+% traffic from search engines with few million pageviews and few thousand dollars in adsense revenue per month. So, I am super worried about the SEO impact of the shift.

I have done my research on the migration but I have few doubts and hence this thread. This is what I have done till now - Have installed the certificate from letsencrypt successfully, removed any non-https dependency from code, using relative links etc in html. In a nutshell, my website is now serving both http and https for all the pages.

The next step involves telling search engines to start indexing https version - this is where I am a little confused. I seem to have multiple choices (don't know which one is best for minimum impact on current traffic/ranking) -

1. 301 redirect http to https version so google pass on the ranking of http to https. If I do this, I will do it in phases for each section of the website so I can monitor traffic and impact.
2. Can I just leave both versions (http and https) and let google pick https over time. They seem to do it as per their blog [webmasters.googleblog.com ] if both versions are available. Not sure if it causes duplicate penalty to occur as both http and https versions are available or will it pass on the ranking of http to https automatically.
3. Do not redirect but set the canonical URL to https version (in both http and https version) so overtime google will pass on the link juice to https and index it as well.

I have heard lot of horror stories of traffic culmination due to https shift and that's why I want to be 100% sure of what I am doing. I will ofcourse do the other regular stuff (like listing https version in webmasters and submission of sitemap etc.)

What is the best strategy to go about it?
4:15 pm on June 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

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The best strategy is the same for any situation where you are changing URLs: Install a 301 redirect. The page you reference in Google's Webmaster Blog explicitly recommends this method. That page is just telling webmasters that their system will look for an HTTPS version, and if one is found they will give that version preference for canonicalization purposes. But without a redirect in place, that process will be much slower.

When setting up the redirect, be sure that it also resolves the www./non-www. subdomain prefix you prefer to use so that it doesn't take two redirects to correct both issues. If you already had a redirect for www./non-www., set it to fix the HTTPS issue as well. Make sure that your XML sitemap uses the HTTPS version of your URLs. I usually recommend also adding a <link rel="canonical"> tag to your home page using the HTTPS version of your URL. It isn't strictly required and I can't point to any specific evidence that it helps, but I just have a feeling that it might speed things up. Good luck!
5:07 pm on June 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Good suggestions from rainborick there. A site search here (in the upper right part of the pages) for something like "to https" can lead you to tons of information. Only you know how you're handling changes so it is difficult to get the right answers for your own situation without looking around a little. It's easier to get the information you need once you figure out what parts you aren't sure of.
9:13 pm on June 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

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It sounds like you know what you are doing. Since you have the https already working and tested (canonicals are correct etc...)

I would do #1 but for the entire site.

Then log into the Google Search Console and Bing's equivalent and set up the https version of your site and submit your https version of your sitemap.

Before doing this you should also double check your ssl setup using ssl labs ssl test (say that 3 times fast) (google them for the url)

You should also make sure your 301 redirect does the redirect in one hop For example if you use www and someone visits your site with the url:

http://example.com

Apache should redirect then to

https://www.example.com

all at once and not first redirect them to https://example.com and then https://www.example.com.

There are a bunch of websites like Redirect Detective that allows you to check these things easily.
6:31 am on June 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Thanks rainborick, not2easy, jestermagic for the suggestions. It seems 301 redirect is the way to go.
I would do #1 but for the entire site.
Is there any known benefit of doing in one go then in phases?

I am more inclined to do it in phases (around 20% at a time) so I monitor the shift carefully. This is my strategy for shifting each section periodically -

1. 301 redirect to https for moving section with canonical url to https version.
2. Rest of the website will remain http if invoked with http and will remain https if invoked with https but will have a canonical to http version so search engines don't index the new https version of these sections till I ask them to.

Please let me know if this looks okay?
There are a bunch of websites like Redirect Detective that allows you to check these things easily.
Thanks, it was helpful.
1:55 pm on June 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

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John Mueller from Google suggested to move the whole website at once - [seroundtable.com...] so that's what I would also go with.
2:40 pm on June 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Any known benefit? Certainly not doing unnecessary work is a benefit. Once you have your 301 in place, the site is https and requests for http go to https.

If you can still visit the site with http requests, it has not been properly redirected.
There are exceptions to the methods, but normally speaking, a 301 redirect in .htaccess via mod_rewrite as recommended delivers https URLs no matter whether http or https is requested.
12:54 am on June 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Can I just leave both versions (http and https) and let google pick https over time. They seem to do it as per their blog [webmasters.googleblog.com ] if both versions are available.

So if you don't do anything more, google will gradually switch your site to https anyway. Why not just wait and let this happen? Eventually, as a reinforcement, you might use an x-robots tag to noindex the http urls.
4:04 am on June 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

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you might use an x-robots tag to noindex the http urls
How?

Just redirect it already. Itís got to happen sooner or later; do it now all at once and get it over with.
3:08 pm on June 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Having just been going through this on numerous sites, my observations are that the Search Console is reporting canonical (and other) errors, despite correct 301 redirects being in place.

So I have been doing all three of what you suggested originally:
* changing sites and internal links to https
* 301 redirects from http to https
* canonical tags citing the https version

Also picking up and changing/requesting change for any references to http versions on 'friendly' sites that are linking to me. Remember also to check you have no insecure content errors with any external stuff you are using.
3:08 pm on June 29, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Just rip off the bandaid and do the entire site, will there be an impact? Yes. We saw about a 30% reduction in traffic.
Also register the https version of your domain in webmaster tools asap
6:08 pm on June 29, 2018 (gmt 0)

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will there be an impact? Yes. We saw about a 30% reduction in traffic.

How long did it take to get that lost traffic back? Or are you still down, and if so, by how much, and how long has it been since you switched to https?

The OP seems to be worried because of the previous reports here of traffic losses for which the specific cause couldn't be identified.

Is there a flaw in the way that google handles the switchover that appears in some cases but not in others. No one knows for sure.
 

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