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Does SSL slow down or prevent search spiders?

2:28 pm on Oct 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

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We recently hired a SEO company to help us promote our site. Due to the sensitive nature of some of the data we work with, we made the decision long ago to place our entire forms system under https pages, and force any page a form is placed on to redirect to its SSL-secured URL. With that in mind, a few of our forms (notably contact forms) are placed on pages that need to be visible in search engines.

We've been told that search engine spiders won't crawl these pages since they're on https, and that if we want these pages to rank in searches we must remove the SSL requirement. However, this will involve a fairly significant time investment, as we will have to remove the SSL redirect code from the form system code and re-apply it to each form that needs it, which will require a manual review of around 80 forms.

Essentially, I'd simply like to get a second opinion: does SSL indeed prevent search engine crawling on those pages? It seems like not spidering SSL-secured pages would leave a huge hole in search engines' data; wouldn't they want to crawl as many pages as they possibly could? I know SSL imposes some additional overhead both server- and client-side, but it seems like search engines would be willing to overlook this in return for the benefits of having that many more pages available to them.
5:00 pm on Oct 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member rocknbil is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

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Enter this into Google.


Either you misunderstood the statement or this company is like many SEO companies - mushrooms (if you know the joke you know the meaning.)

What is important is that none of those pages are accessible via non-https so you don't get duplicate content.

It **is** true that SSL sites are slower in general because the data has to be encrypted on serve or request. But not slow enough to stop SE's. So it's fairly wise to use non-SSL on pages that don't need it and force SSL where it is needed.

Add to that, if you switch out the site to non https, you'll have a huge task of 301'ing all the URL's, and the possible subsequent temporary loss of indexing while that takes effect.

Surely they must have some reasons for saying this and requesting such a huge task. I'm curious as to what that is.

Edit: You got me curious as I've never heard such a brash statement (It's like "the Internet sucks if you use X browser!") Here's a previous discussion [webmasterworld.com].
7:24 pm on Oct 11, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Thanks rocknbil! I knew something about that statement simply didn't jibe, just from my experience as a programmer (it's certainly not how I'd build a spider if I was indexing pages for a search engine). I'm not exactly trained in SEO techniques, but I've dealt with search engines long enough to guess that they'd be a bit more intelligent than this.

Our non-https "version" of those pages is forcibly redirected with a 301 code to the https version by the forms system, so I don't think we'll run into any duplicate content issues. The server we're on is pretty beefy (plus we use a lot of caching, both server- and client-side, to lower processing and bandwidth requirements), so pages load fairly quickly regardless of the use of SSL.

The SEO company's stated reason for removing https on these pages is that there is no real need to have the pages secured--to be fair, there isn't other than the time and effort requirement to switch away from the https version--and that using https "can make the site harder to crawl for search engines" (their words, not mine). My guess is that since the company in question does not exclusively handle SEO (they're a marketing consultancy company) that may not be the specific area of expertise of the person assigned to us.

Regardless, thanks again for your help and for the previous discussion link--I didn't run across that one in my search of the site!

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