Google's FAQ On HTTP To HTTPS Migration

Feb 2, 2016 • 7:46 am | comments (47) by | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

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Google's John Mueller posted a FAQ on Google+ around questions asked about site migrations from HTTP to HTTPS. Truth is, I don't see anything in there we didn't cover already here when talking about HTTPS but it is a good refresher.

As you know, we took this site HTTPS on August 12th of last year and I also migrated my corporate site and provided a daily status report of the changes in indexing and ranking over the days after. It went incredibly smoothly for both sites. We covered the HTTPS topic in so much detail, I can't see anything in this FAQ that we missed.

But John Mueller clearly felt a need to publish this based on some questions Google sees over and over again about the HTTPS move. The question is why now? Google making an other HTTPS push now? I am not sure. But here is the FAQs from John:

(Q) Do I need to set something in Search Console?
(A) No, just add the HTTPS site there. The change-of-address setting doesn't apply for HTTP -> HTTPS moves.

(Q) How can we do an A/B test?
(A) Don't cloak to Googlebot specifically, use 302 redirects + rel=canonical to HTTP if you want to test HTTPS but not have it indexed. Don't block via robots.txt . More about A/B testing at here (302 redirects aren't cached.)

(Q) Will the rel=canonical guarantee that the HTTP URL is indexed?
(A) No, but it's a very strong signal when picking the indexed URL.

(Q) What's the next step after testing?
(A) Follow our site-move documentation. Use 301 redirects from HTTP to HTTPS, confirm the new version by adding a rel=canonical on the HTTPS page, pointing to itself, and submit sitemaps including both HTTP & HTTPS URLs with new change-dates (in the long run, just keep the HTTPS sitemap).

(Q) What about the robots.txt file?
(A) The HTTPS site uses the HTTPS robots.txt file. Check that it's reachable or serves a 404 result code, and check that your HTTP URLs aren't blocked by the HTTP robots.txt file.

(Q) Is it OK to have just some pages on HTTPS?
(A) Yes, no problem! Start with a part, test it, add more.

(Q) Should I move everything together, or is it fine to do sections?
(A) Moving in sections is fine.

(Q) Will I see a drop in search?
(A) Fluctuations can happen with any bigger site change. We can't make any guarantees, but our systems are usually good with HTTP -> HTTPS moves.

(Q) Which certificate do I need?
(A) For Google Search, any modern certificate that's accepted by modern browsers is acceptable.

(Q) Do I lose "link juice" from the redirects?
(A) No, for 301 or 302 redirects from HTTP to HTTPS no PageRank is lost.

(Q) Will we see search keywords in Google Analytics when we're on HTTPS?
(A) This won't change with HTTPS, you can see the search queries in Search Console.

(Q) How can I test how many pages were indexed?
(A) Verify HTTP / HTTPS separately in Search Console, use Index Status for a broad look, or the sitemaps indexed counts for sitemap URLs.

(Q) How long will a move from HTTP to HTTPS take?
(A) There are no fixed crawl frequencies, it depends on the size of your site, and the speed of crawling that's possible. The move takes place on a per-URL basis.

So John sees people now obsessing about his PageRank comment and posts on Twitter:

In addition, Zineb from Google is answering some questions around HTTPS in the Google Webmaster Help forums explaining that the change of address tool still doesn't work for HTTPS migrations, which is a FAQ above.

Forum discussion at Google+ & Google Webmaster Help.

Previous story: Daily Search Forum Recap: February 1, 2016
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