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How to Move your website to HTTPS / SSL

Google wants a safe, secure web. Everybody knows that, and most people want the same thing. Google has been pushing for webmasters to go secure in a number of ways. It declared HTTPS as a ranking factor which, although minor right now, may become the norm. Google also indexes HTTPS pages before HTTP ones. The tech giant also routinely releases content around the simplicity and ease of moving your HTTP website to HTTPS. If that wasn’t enough, Google labels HTTP sites with sensitive information “non-secure”. The fact of the matter is, you may just need that SSL certificate after all.

How to Move to HTTPS: Step by Step

Before we start discussing how to move your HTTP site to HTTPS, let’s have a bit of background. What is HTTPS anyway? Hypertext Transfer Protocol or HTTP becomes HTTPS or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure with an SSL certificate. Why should you go for HTTPS? HTTPS offers three layers of security, namely authentication, encryption, and data integrity. Authentication eliminates the risk that a “middle-man” can make you communicate with a website other than the one you intended. Encryption offers a secure data exchange, encrypted against theft or eavesdropping. And finally, HTTPS ensures data integrity during the secure data exchange. This makes it harder for someone to modify or even corrupt the data without you noticing.

There are also several additional factors to consider other than the triple-layer protection. Most users expect a safe, secure browsing experience and will shy away from an unsecured site. New updates like the speed-boosting HTTP/2 only have support with HTTPS in certain cases. There’s also the boost in ranking, which Google might make more important in the near future. Do you get the picture? Good. Because now we are about to discuss how to move your website to HTTPS/SSL in the following way:

  1. Plan
  2. Set
  3. Fix
  4. Test

This may seem like over-simplification, but let’s have a look at each step and what components it has.

Plan

This is the first step to moving your HTTP site to HTTPS. The first thing you need to do in this step is to crawl the website and draft your move plan. How long this takes varies from website to website. You need to map out the site structure by crawling your entire website. This is how you evaluate your website and pen down the site structure. Consider all the underlying tech that makes up each area of your website. Make a list of all the sections that are likely to break when you migrate your site. These could commonly include:

  • APIs
  • Payment gateways
  • External scripts, etc.

The next part of this step is checking the website’s rankings. The migration will likely disturb your rankings as Google figures it out. Hopefully, if you do everything right, you’ll be able to go back to normal. You need to have an understanding of how things looked before the migration. A good rule is to do a daily check of the rankings for a week before migrating. Here’s a useful additional thing to do. Group the ranking pages of your website based on the area they belong to and the ranking keywords. This way you can track down any specific problems causing a drop in rankings.

The final part of this step is choosing the right deployment option. If you are a gung-ho, fear-nothing type, you can always deploy the changes directly on the live website or production environment. This means your users can see the changes immediately. However, bugs go live too, so this is not a recommended option for beginners. Figure out if you should use a staging environment or deploy the changes to a development environment and test it. Only then deploy the changes to the production environment.

Set

The second step involves getting and setting the SSL certificate and dealing with server-side 301s. For your site to move to HTTPS, you need to get and configure the necessary certificates on your server. Always go for a trusted certificate provider that offers reasonable tech support. The Google recommended security level is a 2048-bit key. Try to get that or upgrade your weaker-level SSL to 2048-bit security. There are 4 major types of SSL certificates:

  • Single certificate for a single domain
  • Multi-domain certificate for multiple subdomains
  • Wildcard certificate for many subdomains

Once you have gotten and deployed the certificate, you need to configure and test it to see if everything is working properly. After that, there are some SEO practices that need your attention. One of these is the server-side 301 redirects. You need to make sure that every visitor, whether human or bot, lands on the HTTPS version of your site. When you finish migrating your website, there are now 2 versions of it. An HTTP version and an HTTPS version can cause many issues like content duplication penalties. Once you fix the 301 redirects, pay special attention to:

  • Crawling and indexing issues
  • Eliminating unnecessary redirects
  • Making sure canonicals, alternates, and href langs are using the correct HTTPS tags

Fix

The fixing part is the next step in migrating your site to HTTPS. One area to fix is mixed content issues. Let’s say a user visits an HTTPS page on your site. The page features content retrieved through an HTTP page. This leaves a door wide-open for attackers. Mixed content pages generate warnings and can help attackers circumvent your security. Revise all your internal links and website assets. You need to make sure they only reference HTTPS pages. Areas to consider include:

  • Web fonts
  • Images
  • Audios
  • Internal videos
  • Internal JS and CSS files
  • Iframes
  • Structured data URLs
  • Other internal links

Make sure you have the social proof from social counters on your old HTTP pages. Some counters may be friendly to the migration. Others might reset to zero.

Test

There’s not much to say about the testing phase except that you need to test every little thing. Crawl the HTTPS version of your entire website again. Make sure all assets and links migrated successfully. Look for broken links, resources or pages. Also, focus on incorrect HTTP redirects. The testing phase will continue extensively even after the HTTPS site goes live.

There you have it. An overview of what it takes to migrate your website to HTTPS. Granted it’s not as easy as asking Centurylink customer service for help. But with patience, care and diligence, you should be able to migrate your site without too much trouble.

Hello. I am a freelance writer with years of experience. I have written on different topics which makes me versatile to write on any type of content you want. I ensure you that the content that will provide to you will be of good quality and free of plagiarism.

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