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4 Crucial Things You May Have Ignored When You Switched to SSL

4 Crucial Things You May Have Ignored When You Switched to SSL Blog Feature

July 24th, 2017 min read

I’ve been doing a lot of research into SSL lately.

First off it stands for Secure Sockets Layer, but it’s more commonly known as the ‘s’ after the ‘http’ in many website URLs. You can see ours if you look at your browser right now.

SSL isn’t anything new. Google announced it back in 2014, and since then, many sites have begun using it on their websites, protecting their users’ information. At the time, it wasn’t a huge ranking factor (it affected fewer than 1% of global queries).

If anything, the most important factor in implementing SSL was user perception. I mean, would you submit your credit card information on a website that didn’t have that little green lock? Probably not.

Today, SSL is more than just a factor in peace of mind, it plays an important role in the ranking and authority of your website. If you haven’t already switched your site over to SSL, here are a few crucial things to know about SEO (and more) when you do.

But first, let’s back up for a second and understand why we are all here.

Why is SSL Important to SEO?

Content is still king, and organic traffic is the biggest driver of that. Great content has a lot of attributes, but just like anything in life, without proper care, it will fall into decline.

Data security is important and most data shows that Google gives preference to sites that take this seriously (a.k.a. Implement SSL.)

Improper SSL implementation, however, is one example of how technical SEO can hurt your search rankings, obfuscate your data, and generally make you uncomfortable.

This is the case for one of my clients, Ambs Call Center, one of the top answering services in the country, based in the heart of the US: Michigan. In late 2016, the company transitioned its site to include an SSL certificate. Consequently, they saw a drop in organic traffic.

So, we looked into why that was happening and learned a few things.

4 Things You May Have Ignored When Switching to SSL

#1 You Need to Update Search Console

The first thing we found was we didn’t have the right data - we couldn’t even see why it was happening.

When you switch your site to SSL, there are a lot of things to do, but one of the most important from an inbound perspective is creating a new property within Google Search Console -- basically submitting your URL, raising your hand to Google to pay attention to a new version of your site.  

Note: You should create a Search Console property for each version of your website. (https://www.domain.com, https://www.domain.com, https://domain.com, https://domain.com, etc.)  For the apex domain, you might have to dig in a little further, but that’s beyond this article.

Creating a new property is not that hard:

  1. Navigate to Google Search Console and login.
  2. Click Add a Property.
  3. Enter your https address.
  4. Click Add.
  5. Verify your ownership of the site. The easiest way is Google Analytics (GA) - if you’re an admin on GA, you’re already verified. If not, then copying the verification code to the <head> portion of your website is a solid bet.
  6. Submit your sitemap, and wait patiently for your data to fill up.

Without Search Console setup correctly, you won’t be able to gather data on your pages, submit (or resubmit) your sitemap, or check/fix errors that Google finds when crawling your site.

After all, it will give you a TON of data you can use to make iterative improvements to your website and your content.

#2: Same Goes for Google Analytics

The second thing we noticed with Ambs was that Google Analytics was inaccurate.

Similar to Search Console, Analytics needs to be updated for SSL as it is one of the best ways to judge whether or not SSL has made an impact on your website’s rankings and SEO. Without it - you’re guessing, and if you’re guessing, you’re not making good marketing decisions.

You need to do this in two places in the admin area of Google Analytics: Property Settings and View Settings.

  1. Open your Google Analytics portal, and click on ‘Admin’, near the bottom of the page.
  2. Choose the correct account from the Account dropdown. Choose the Property you want to update under the Property dropdown.
  3. Click on Property Settings.
  4. Choose https:// from the Default URL dropdown.
  5. Save your changes, click the back arrow in the top left.
  6. Repeat steps 3-5, but instead of Property Settings, click on View Settings.

Lastly, make a note of when the switch to SSL was made. Write it on a sticky note on your monitor, set a reminder in your calendar - but make sure to measure organic traffic 30, 90, and 180 days from when that switch was made.

That’s the best way to understand how the switch to SSL affected your rankings.

#3: You’re Going to Lose Traffic

As with most changes to your website at the domain level, you’re probably going to see a reduction in organic traffic after switching to SSL. Even heavyweight, Moz saw a reduction in traffic after switching to https of about 11%.

There’s just no way around it. Google’s algorithm doesn’t work as fast as you, so don’t expect an immediate boost in rankings.

#4: ...But You’ll Get it Back

Moz saw its traffic return to normal levels in about 3 months. It could be faster or slower for you. There’s really only one way to tell.

Most marketing teams use Google Analytics or HubSpot to monitor traffic, and it also accounts for the switch to SSL. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to alter your Google Analytics for that.

The Point: Moving to SSL is Tricky

But there’s a silver lining if you’re using HubSpot.

Many of our clients (and us) use HubSpot’s SSL service to manage the majority of this process, and while there are multiple levels of it for those businesses that need the top shelf product, the standard version works for the 99%.

Best of all, it’s free with the website add-on.

You’ll still need to do some serious QA, particularly of website assets, to make sure that images, scripts, CSS, and plugins are working correctly, but this add-on will remove the largest barrier - the technical side - of moving to SSL for your website. .

Not sure if you’ve setup your SSL certificate correctly? Head over to Qualys SSL Labs and submit your URL to get graded.

Need help with a website redesign on the HubSpot Website Platform? Talk to us.

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