Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller gave an interesting answer when asked if sites linking to HTTP pages experience any drop in SEO.
The answer is no. According to Mueller, “there’s nothing against linking to sites like these.” Even though linking to insecure pages does not affect SEO, the HTTPs protocol has been a well-known ranking factor since 2014. Check out his answer in the video below.
However, linking pages over HTTP can be seen as a negative factor by your users as it is a negative experience.
To better understand this, we will first look at the difference between HTTP and HTTPs internet security protocols.
What is HTTP and HTTPs and what are the differences between them?
Both are considered as Hypertext Transfer Protocols for the internet, which allow the transfer of data between the browser and the internet hypermedia servers, acting as standard formats of communication on the web.
The difference between the two is centered on the way in which information is transmitted. HTTP works in a way that sends data purely in text form, being susceptible to interventions during the message path, while HTTPs has an extra layer of security called SSL (Secure Socket Layers), or TLS (Transfer Layer Security) that provides encryption and security reliability to the exchanged data.
Here’s an example: imagine that you put your credit card details on a website and someone manages to capture the payment halfway. Such a situation could easily happen on an HTTP site.
HTTPs is already a ranking factor
As I said at the beginning of the article, Google announced in 2014 the importance of secure transfer protocol (HTTPs) for the ranking of websites in search engine pages.
The quote says:
“We’re also working to make the Internet safer more broadly. A big part of that is making sure that websites people access from Google are secure.
For these reasons, over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms.
We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal.”
Furthermore, it is mentioned that Google’s intention with the change was to encourage website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPs in order to make the web a more secure place.
So, following this line, to ensure your site does not face any penalty on this ranking factor, just direct them to HTTPs links?
According to Mueller, not necessarily.
Is it okay to link to HTTP pages?
See the final answer provided by Muller:
“From our point of view, it’s perfectly fine. If those pages are in HTTP, then that’s where you’ll link to. There’s nothing against linking to sites like this. There’s no downside to your site linking to HTTP pages because they’re kind of old or not as cool as HTTPS. I wouldn’t worry about it.”
That is, there is no visible problem in linking to pages that use the HTTP protocol in SEO. In other words, Google will not penalize you for it.
However, in addition to the clear problem of security and reliability of sites that use the technology without the “s” at the end, it is not clear to the user whether the same server that is being requested for information will be the same one that delivers it.
It is important to keep in mind that as technology evolves, new forms of attacks from cybercriminals emerge at the same time. With this, the importance of the role that SEO professionals play when it comes to contributing to the creation of a safe environment on their pages for the user and for the internet is increasingly visible.
Whenever possible, choose to use links to secure sites and look for other alternative sites that may offer the same content or reference to those that are still on HTTP.
As an SEO strategy must always be user-oriented, think first of all about the experience they will have on your pages and keep them safe from any danger so they will be willing to come back again.
But how does one implement the HTTPs protocol on their website?
To activate a security certificate on your website, it is necessary to have a hosting company that offers this service.
Note that it is possible to make this purchase even with other service providers depending on what is best suited for your portal.
We recommend this article to do the necessary step-by-step of this configuration.