Should you switch to HTTPS for SEO in 2016?
By Christian Bullock
A question we got a lot from our clients is:
Is it worth switching our site to HTTPS to benefit our site's SEO?
As of right now, MKG believes that for most websites there isn’t enough of a benefit to switch to HTTPS due to the amount of planning and resources it will take to make a complete, 100%, bug free transition.
However, if your site has terrific on-page SEO, a high domain authority, and you can’t actively working on anything that allows your web dev team to implement this properly, then you could make this switch (but make sure to measure impact!).
How did we arrive at this answer? Well, both “first-party” and third-party data sources:
- Data from client website that has had HTTPS in place for about 8 months now (~15k organic search sessions a month)
- Data from client website that has had HTTPS in place for about one week now (~1m organic search sessions a month)
- http://backlinko.com/search-engine-ranking - Brian Dean is a terrific SEO resource
- https://moz.com/blog/https-tops-30-how-google-is-winning-the-long-war - Dr. Pete is an incredibly sharp guy
- https://www.wired.com/2016/05/wired-first-big-https-rollout-snag/ - nice transparent story about the challenges with moving to HTTPS
Google HTTPS ranking boost announcement happened about two years ago. Since then big, well-known websites such as Amazon, Wikipedia have switched to using this protocol.
We have not seen any cases - either from sites we actively provide SEO services for or a third-party case study - that suggests a direct correlation between switching to HTTPS and getting better search engine rankings.
Moving to HTTPS takes meticulous planning, some $$$, and a great deal of time. Most companies we work with have ongoing, in-depth projects they are always currently working through. Switching to HTTPS, which is an immense project would completely envelop the client’s time and take away from those projects. All in search for a possible minor ranking boost.
Sometimes, a minor ranking boost isn’t possible. Sometimes - you can’t necessarily beat specific pages in the SERPs. With this, a minor ranking boost doesn’t help.
We’ve found better opportunities by testing title tags and meta descriptions to produce more impressions (higher rankings) and better click through rate. Doing this allows a similar “minor ranking boost” effect while testing two easily editable elements of a web page.
We’ll check back in six months and see if a move to HTTPS makes sense for most websites. But for right now, you shouldn’t look to make the move to HTTPS simply to help your website’s SEO.