Planning to shift from HTTP to HTTPS but concerned about impact on search rankings and traffic

Should I hire an SEO expert to make sure search ranking is maintained by dealing 301 redirects and internal links, or are DreamHost’s existing resources adequate?

Thanks in advance for any timely advice.

Do what you like, but a so-called “SEO expert” is not helpful in merely switching from HTTP to HTTPS. Done correctly, there is no change in ranking, however Google has said numerous times that secure connections will have a positive affect in their indexing in the future. IMO that future is here.

  • Generic Steps to Switch from HTTP to HTTPS -

• Read all info at your host concerning certificates & switching to HTTPS and when applicable, follow those instructions.

• Install security certificate.

• Have your host enable HTTPS (if needed.) This will enable access from both HTTP & HTTPS allowing normal access while you test.

• Go through site, page by page & make sure all file paths are relative (no protocol.) Test by accessing site using HTTPS and look for any browser alerts.

• Install 301 code in .htaccess file:

RewriteEngine On RewriteCond %{HTTPS} !=on 
RewriteRule ^ https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [L,R=301]

Note: your server may require a different code.

• Go through site again, page by page, and test. Any remote absolute links will need to be HTTPS including those found in scripts & pluggins. If you publish Adsense or other advertising, links in these scripts need to be HTTPS also (or just remove the protocol altogether.)

• Update sitemap.xml (if applicable) and submit to appropriate agencies (Google, Bing, Yandex, etc)

• In Google Search Council create a new site using HTTPS (do not use the Change of Address form.) It will take a few days to start populating information. This is normal & traffic to old site (HTTP) will drop off accordingly.

• Bing Webmaster Tools, Yandex & others should update automatically once they crawl your new pages. Updating/re-submitting sitemap.xml should speed up this process.

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A followup to @keyplyr note: When you add an SSL cert for a site, DH will automatically add the necessary redirect to the .htaccess:

Cheers. Unfortunately my site is full of absolute internal links - I’m guessing there is a plugin that will help to change them automatically?

Thanks @habilis - that was not the case years ago when I set up my sites here. At that time, a manual 301 directive was necessary. Glad to hear that Dreamhost is making things easier for those who are not RegEx savvy.

Still, I think it’s better for a site to be self-supporting for TLS and to rely on a host as little as possible. I have moved my sites 4 times.

@Marc_Howe - if you are using Wordpress (you mentioned plug-ins) you will likely get more specific comments if you specify that in the OP.

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One more point since the OP asked about traffic changes switching to HTTPS. Yes there is typically a small drop in traffic depending on your demographic of visitor, at least at first.

If you have a significant number of visitors who use older browser’s and older operating systems (example: Windows XP) many of these users will no longer connect to your site if HTTPS. This is because of SNI. Internet Explorer that’s bundled on an XP machine will not even see your site.

However that metric is shrinking all the time. All modern browsers support HTTPS now. In fact there is a good chance that many visitors will not visit a non-HTTPS website any longer.

If you’re able to programmatically find-and-replace through your site code, simply substitute any “http://” in URLs with “//” - known as protocol-relative URLs.

e.g. - altering the a-href to “//” is all that’s required.

Effect: if the page is loaded over http://, the browser will prepend “http://” to any in-page links. If your HTTP-to-HTTPS redirect is enabled, the user will be served the page over SSL - after which point all in-page links automatically become https:// , no extra effort required.