The perils of migrating your website to https (plus a fix)


Last August we advised readers that Google had revealed they would be giving secure websites a ranking boost to encourage webmasters to make their websites secure. Secure websites can be identified by the HTTPS at the start of  their URLs.

Since then quite a few sites have migrated to HTTPS, a notable example being Wikipedia which migrated in early June. A recent analysis shows that almost 1 in 5 results on the first page of Google are now sites with HTTPS urls and that in mid June there was a measurable boost in rankings for HTTPS urls.

Why should you care?

If all this has you thinking of migrating your site to HTTPS then you need to be aware doing so can be a complex process & typically results in a drop of organic search traffic, at least initially. This is because redirecting non-secure HTTP urls to secure HTTPS urls results in a loss of PageRank that’s not fully compensated for by the ranking boost Google gives HTTPS.

To illustrate, when the search marketing site MOZ – which is run by some of the smartest SEO experts in the world – made the migration they saw a drop of 8-9% dip in organic traffic. And that was doing a textbook perfect job! Doing things wrong can have a devastating impact on your website traffic & revenues, so it’s not something to tackle without very careful planning.

Another issue to be aware of is that if you migrate to HTTPS your website will no longer pass referral information on to other websites. In other words, websites won’t know your site is sending them traffic. That may be an issue because being recognised for the traffic your site refers to other websites can be important due to the relationships this helps nurture.

The good news is that there’s a way around this using the relatively unknown meta referrer tag. Check out this great article published last week by MOZ  which details how to implement the meta referrer tag.

Other search marketing news this week:

The latest news about web marketing, SEO, PPC Advertising & Web Analytics. But only the stuff that matters from a New Zealand perspective. Click here to get this delivered to your inbox each Monday.


If you found this useful, please tell your friends.

About the Author Jeremy Templer & Mark Sceats

Jeremy and Mark are two of the partners behind SureFire Search. Despite their deceptively youthful appearances, both have worked in search marketing for many years. To put that in context, Google didn't even exist when Jeremy started.