The SEO hours session raised a query regarding the potential adverse SEO effects of linking to insecure HTTP web pages. Google’s Search Advocate, John Mueller, provided an intriguing perspective.
It’s logical to assume that users could see a page’s capacity to link to HTTP pages unfavorably due to the potential for a suboptimal user experience.
Difference between HTTPS VS HTTP
HTTP is essentially HTTPS minus the password protection and encryption layers.
HTTP is a protocol governing data transmission from a server to a web browser, operating on defined rules.
On the other hand, the secure iteration, HTTPS, assures users that the website they’re visiting is protected and can be entrusted with sensitive information, such as passwords.
Google announced in 2014 that,
“Beyond our own stuff, 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.
For now, it’s only a very lightweight signal—affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content —while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS.
But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.”
Why linking to an HTTP page is not recommended?
A question about the same was asked by John Mueller, This was the question.
“Does it affect my SEO score negatively if my page is linking to an external insecure website?
So, on HTTP, not HTTPS.”
Mueller clarified that there is no such thing as an SEO score before rephrasing the question to reflect what he thought it was asking.
“…first off, we don’t have a notion of an SEO score.
So you don’t really have to worry about kind of an SEO score.
But regardless, I kind of understand the question is like, is it bad if I link to an HTTP page instead of an HTTPS page.
And from our point of view, it’s perfectly fine.
If these pages are on HTTP, then that’s what you would link to.
That’s kind of what users would expect to find.
There’s nothing against linking to sites like that.
There is no kind of downside for your website to kind of like avoid linking to HTTP pages because they’re kind of old or crusty and not as cool as on HTTPS.
I would not worry about that.”
Mueller verified that using the HTTP protocol for linking to another website is deemed acceptable from an SEO perspective.
Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that HTTP lacks a mechanism for the browser to verify the authenticity of the server delivering a response to a webpage request.
In the past, many online publishers deferred adopting the HTTPS protocol, assuming it was primarily crucial for sectors handling sensitive customer data, such as banks, hospitals, shopping platforms, and similar industries.
Hence, it can be beneficial to identify outbound HTTP links and assess whether the linked website employs HTTPS, primarily about user experience considerations. If not, seeking an alternative website for linking might be advisable, especially if visitor security and usability are paramount to you.
When users follow a link from a secure website to an insecure one and receive a browser warning about the visited website’s insecurity, it can instill doubts about the credibility of the initially secure website.
Beyond its impact on SEO, there are additional factors that warrant consideration.