Many online marketing professionals have already begun to use HTTPS to reach its full potential as far as optimization goes, with little to no hassle or drop in rankings. However, the same cannot be said for similar companies, and it seems that the problem is a failure to migrate properly. Some of the "symptoms" that have been showing up as a result are:
* Duplicate content
* Link dilution
* Waste of search engine crawl budget
The most obvious failure to assimilate manifests in duplicate content. The exact same website will appear under a search, the only difference being that one has an S. This makes total sense. When the switch is made incorrectly, two identical sites begin to exist and the search engines don't know which is which. Since the search engines don't know which one to use, rankings don't get properly assigned, and they begin to show as a drop. It is important to use canonical tags or duplicate content is going to appear, and a search engine is going to devalue your website if they find duplicate content. A canonical tag will specify whether a site is original or what the source is. Be careful, though, that the canonization has been done correctly, or duplicate content will continue to show.
Link dilution is a trickle effect from having duplicate content. If there are two versions of the exact same site, one being HTTPS and one being HTTP, users aren't going to tell which site to discriminate against. They are going to go between the two of them equally, and all of those rankings that the HTTPS site should be getting are going to be split (essentially "diluted") between the new site and the old site. This is disappointing and unnecessary! If you are going to make the switch, than make the switch so you can reap the benefits and not pay the price.
Waste of Search Engine Crawl Budget
Further out in the trickle effect from duplicate content and link dilution is the waste of search engine crawl budget. By no means is this at the last thing on the list because it is the least important. If anything, budget is the most important, but the crawl budget doesn't suffer if there aren't problems like duplicate content and link dilution, which is why it doesn't get talked about first.
I'm sure any good company would be jumping up and down to point out that budget is absolutely one of the most important things, but they would also agree that the budget doesn't suffer for the sake of suffering. The budget suffers when something else has gone wrong. What has gone wrong? Exactly what we've been talking about: HTTPS setup issues.
If both versions of a site are up and running, the search engines are going to wind up crawling both of them. Crawling the same site twice the amount is, quite simple, a waste of the crawl budget. It's double the work for even half of the results, since the results are being split between the two sites. The larger sites are the ones that suffer the most in this regard, but the smaller ones certainly don't get off easy, they just have less to lose.
In short, the old version of a site, the HTTP version, must be correctly redirected to the newer of the site, the HTTPS version. A search engine should recognize the redirect and display it properly by indicating that such and such a site has been permanently redirected to such and such a site. When this is done there are no duplicate links popping up, which means that the links won't be diluted, which means that ratings won't drop for no reason. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten: all of this means that the crawl space budget is being utilized to its full potential, free of unnecessary waste, and ready to be used to the advantage of the site. An important thing to remember when doing the redirects from HTTP to HTTPS is to use 301s instead of 302s. 302s are temporary redirects, and the search engine will display that such and such a site has been temporarily redirected, instead of what it needs to say. If a 301 is being used the search engine will display that such and such a site has been permanently redirected, and business can resume as usual, and hopefully even better since the switch has been made to HTTPS.
To avoid HTTPS setup and subsequent chiropractic SEO issues, follow these tips:
* When adding the HTTPS version of your site to the major search engines, add both versions. Don't worry, I'm not contradicting everything that I've been saying. You need to make sure that you set the HTTPS version as the preferred domain!
* Use a 301 to redirect the HTTP version to the HTTPS version. (Remember: 301 equals permanent).
* Make sure that any of the internal links direct to the HTTPS version. For some reason, this is such an easy step to forget, and it's one of the most important ones to remember. The main domain can be right, but if the internal links aren't properly directing then you are going to begin experiencing link dilution.
* Canonical tags need to be pointing to the HTTPS site version. If they aren't reading as duplicate or original, link dilution starts to show up. And with it comes a drop in rankings.
* Make sure that your sitemap includes the new, HTTPS version.
* Finally, make sure that all external links leading to your site, are leading to the proper version. Same thing with the internal links, if you have the main domain properly set up but the external links are leading to the wrong place, you aren't going to get where you are trying to go.