If you still use HTTP, it’s time to move to HTTPS. With encryption, you build better trust with your readers. It used to be that having encryption on certain payment processing pages was enough, but now users expect to see the entire site encrypted. Once you decide to make the move, here are a few considerations to ensure that your site works smoothly. If you’re not sure if you should make the effort, here is why you should be using HTTPS.
Create 301 Redirects
A 301 redirect tells search engines and browsers that site pages moved from one location to another. In this example, the new location is the HTTPS version of the page. Users and search engines have your old HTTP page saved. When they open the page, having a 301 redirect in place sends the user to the HTTPS version.
Update Links on Your Site
If you use relative links, this won’t affect you as much. Absolute links include the protocol, and you need to go through each of them and change the HTTP portion of the link to HTTPS. This is a simple find and replace, but it’s tedious to find every link on your site.
You can use Screaming Frog to help find broken links on your site.
Update Links on Social Media
You have 301 redirects in place, but you should still update your social media links. It’s better to point directly to the landing page rather than point users to a page that redirects. If you have dozens and dozens of links to go through, you can prioritize the social media update by the links that bring in the most traffic.
Remember that when you move to HTTPS, the referrer (spelled REFERER in server logs) is preserved. When a user clicks an HTTPS link from an HTTP page, the referrer is lost. One advantage to moving to HTTPS on your own site is better referrer reports.
Check Your robots.txt File
Your robots.txt file controls the way search engines crawl your site. Indexing and crawling are not the same in the search engine world, but if you block URLs search engines won’t crawl the pages. You should put important pages behind a username and password protected area of your site, but you can block some unimportant pages from being crawled to save on resources.
In WordPress, you don’t need search engine bots crawling admin pages, so it’s common to block the admin folder. Any other folders that you don’t need indexed can be added to the robots.txt file.
When you move your site or make structural changes, always check the robots.txt file to make sure it’s still valid.
Review Canonical Tags
Canonical tags are also used by search engines, but not users. Canonical tags tell search engines which version of a page to index. They are used for HTTP versus HTTPS versions, and you can also use it to tell search engines to index one page when you have several with the same content.
With WordPress, you can use an plugin to work with canonical tags. Yoast and All-In-One SEO plugins both let you work with canonical tags. They make it easy to configure them with little input from the admin.
These are just a few considerations before moving your site. Don’t forget to review the site and test it before you finalize the move. Moving your site to HTTPS on WordPress is much simpler than complex sites. Most of the work can be done with plugins, and the process is smooth and intuitive.