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Are search engines dead in China?

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30-second summary:

  • WeChat, a widely-used Chinese app, provides users with a variety of features including messaging, shopping, and more, inevitably affecting the search landscape with the abundance of data and content it provides to users.
  • Chinese users are stepping away from using traditional search engines, and instead, are leaning on searching within one-stop apps that are more tailored to their search queries.
  • Many companies like Bytedance and Alipay are increasingly trying to make their mark in search by creating large ecosystems that effectively tend to users’ needs.
  • Many of these challenger platforms are aiming to gain more dominance in the search market to capitalize on rising search demands.

 Are search engines dead in China?

You can’t imagine the internet without the search engine. It started out as a way of finding stuff on the various websites that were popping up, but ended up shaping the very medium it was indexing. Nobody would build a website without making sure it was molded around the demands of the biggest search engines in its customers’ region.

But that doesn’t mean search itself isn’t changing. As we’re seeing in China, the days of the search engine website that you visit to start your exploration could be numbered.

WeChat, therefore WeSearch

The largest search engine in China has always been (and remains) Baidu, which has a billion regular users, making it the second most popular search resource in the world.

But there’s a new player in town. WeChat has 1.2 billion users globally, mainly in China. It’s a one-stop app with a multitude of uses, not limited to messaging, consuming content, shopping, accessing services, and mobile payments. It’s ubiquitous in the nation, so it’s easy to see how it could become a hugely disruptive element in the search landscape. Because of its huge user base and multiple functions, there are billions of different user actions recorded and thousands of items of content being created and consumed on a daily basis. 

WeChat has a large volume of content and data within its ecosystem, including articles from WeChat official accounts (similar to Facebook business pages), mini-programs (mini-apps embedded within WeChat which don’t require installation on users’ mobile devices), news content from Tencent News, along with content from Tencent Music and WeChat Video channel. More importantly, WeChat has a partnership with Sogou, China’s second-largest search provider, to pump more information into WeChat’s ecosystem.

WeChat stats

Plugged into this huge index, WeChat search has become a powerful tool to find information. A survey by SocialBeta showed that 32% of WeChat users use it as their prime search engine of choice, and 46% use it as a general search tool. These are big numbers.

Now, Tencent, the owner of WeChat (and Sogou’s major shareholder), is moving to buy Sogou outright, potentially empowering its business model to take on more of the traditional search engines’ market share and to grab the benefits that come with it.

Search is moving away from pure search engines

The amount of searching going on in China is as strong as ever, but increasingly, people are turning away from the traditional search providers and searching within the enormous ecosystems Chinese tech giants build. 

A typical Chinese consumer can have various different sources to search for information depending on what they are looking for. To search for a product, they can go straight to dominant ecommerce platforms like Taobao and JD.com, then search in Xiaohongshu to look for inspiration and community reviews. If they are interested in a brand, a celebrity, or trending news, they will head to WeChat, Weibo, or Toutiao. To find a nearby store or a local service they will search in WeChat and Alipay without downloading any apps. A typical American would do most of that through Google, even when searching for products on Amazon, despite it having a perfectly good search engine of its own.

Search engine market in China

Search defragmenting

When it comes to search engine market share in China, only traditional search engines like Baidu and Sogou will be classified in the landscape by all the statistics providers. The movement of other players has been neglected for a long time. Toutiao, for example, is the top news and information aggregation app in the country, with 275 million monthly active users. Its owner is Bytedance, a company that’s currently in the Western news, as it’s the owner of TikTok, a video sharing app that President Trump wants to ban in America.

TikTok’s cousin in China, Douyin, has more than 400 million users. Similar to WeChat, millions of pieces of content and actions happen across Bytedance’s portfolio, ranging from news and articles to videos. With the data and information continuing to grow in the app, an increasing number of users are adapting to use search in the news app to look for information.

However, in March 2020, when Toutiao launched an independent search engine to rival Baidu, it failed to meet expectations and didn’t make much of a crater in Baidu’s landscape.

With 700 million users, Alipay is another rising star in the search landscape. It is a financial app that allows users to not only pay for things, but do a host of daily tasks like picking up parcels, ordering food, applying for credit cards, and buying and selling stocks and shares. Again, search within this ecosystem is a significant competitive thing, as it can guide users towards certain products and services over rivals.

According to third party research, half of the search queries happening in Alipay are finance related. In early 2020, Alipay even made an improvement to its in-app search algorithm so users can directly search for the name of a stock or finance product, instead of accessing them through the menu.

Alipay has not stopped there – this year, as the major sponsor of a trending reality show, “Street Dance of China Season 3″, Alipay has been actively placing branded search bars in the show to encourage more viewers to engage with its in-app search function.

Alipay sponsors major reality show in China

Why are they all eyeing the search market?

The answer is ad revenue. Many of the platforms mentioned above, including Weibo, Tencent, and Toutiao are already offering paid search ad positions to capitalize on the search demand.

Clearly, Chinese people regularly use all or most of these apps on a daily basis, so they don’t tend to stick to a single search engine, as is the case with Europe and the US, where Google dominates and permeates throughout the entire digital world. A rough parallel could be the search results given by Facebook and Twitter, but neither has the dominance or the captive audience that these Chinese giants can boast.

Should Baidu be worried? By far, Baidu provides the biggest index compared to all the other players. Also, like Google, Baidu has vigorously diversified, and provides dozens of services from maps to cloud storage – and its search engine backs up the whole ecosystem. The biggest long-term challenge for traditional search engines is that all the valuable data and content from super apps like WeChat, Toutiao, and Aliplay have not, and will not, open their indexes to service users outside their ecosystems.

In the short term, Google’s search dominance doesn’t look like it will be challenged in the same way Baidu has been. Through accidents of history and habitual use among consumers, it’s hard to knock big search engines off their perch. But nothing is predictable in digital, and analysts will certainly be keeping a close eye on the petri dish that is the Chinese search sector.

Ada Luo is Regional Account Director (APAC) at Croud.



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Q&A with Moz’s Sarah Bird

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30-second summary:

  • Hyperlocal SEO will help struggling communities salvage their local businesses.
  • Moz surveyed over 1,400 local business marketers and more than half said they plan to implement Google’s new features to support COVID-19 affected businesses.
  • Five under-rated yet crucial parameters marketers need to stay on top of.
  • Sarah Bird’s special tips to optimize audience engagement at various marketing touchpoints.
  • The best things you can do for landing pages is….?
  • Dive in for these golden nuggets and a lot more.

2020 has hit the reset button for the world in many ways adding more wheels to digital marketers’ and brands’ “car of struggles” for success. SEO is somewhat looked at as a game of Russian roulette where you win some and you lose some, and COVID-19 hasn’t made this any easier. To help you hit bull’s eye and add an extra push to your digital strategies, we caught up with Moz’s CEO, Sarah Bird to uncover emerging trends in the search scape, SEO, audience behaviors, and more!

Sarah Bird Q&A on emerging SEO and industry trends 2020
Sarah Bird, CEO of Moz

Q. What technologies, tools, and audience behaviors do you see shape up as 2020 progresses. If you were to draw a line between the temporary and ones that are here to stay, what would it be? 

Sarah Bird: Hyperlocal search has been important for years. 2020 has only increased its merit.

COVID-19 has made active local business listings management more vital than ever before. Communities struggling to keep themselves supplied and cared for in changed conditions must depend on the internet as a crucial resource, and when business listings can quickly communicate to them what’s available, where, when, and how, that’s truly important.

With Google rolling out new features that allow business owners to share updates about curbside pickup, home delivery, or special hours for vulnerable populations directly on their listings, customers can access convenient information with a simple search. We surveyed over 1,400 local business marketers and more than half said they plan to implement such services permanently. Aside from being absolutely necessary this year, businesses recognize that the investment in ecommerce should not simply be for the short-term, but should be able to accommodate their business and customers in the long-term.

Q. If you were to pick the hero of Moz’s local and international SEO strategy for the rest of 2020, what would it be? 

Sarah Bird: Reputation management will be crucial for local SEO strategy during 2020. We offer reputation management features through Moz Local that we urge users to leverage. 

Some of the most valuable features of Moz Local at this time are review alerts that allow you to quickly facilitate complaint resolution and response rating for quality control. During hectic times, customers are more emotional — this can either work for or against you. Should you receive a poor review during this time, it’s imperative that you respond quickly and empathetically.

Moz Local also offers a sentiment analysis feature that shows the most commonly used words for each of your star ratings. This can be useful in deciphering exactly what customers are finding important during this time.

Q. What five under-rated yet crucial parameters do marketers need to stay on top of to ensure that their brand has positively influenced their customers/target audiences?

  1. Keywords: Understanding your own keywords and those of your competitors ensures marketers have a plan in place to secure visibility on a brand’s offerings or content. 
  2. External links: These are an important source of ranking power in a SERP.
  3. Differentiation: Framing content correctly is key to reaching target audiences. Sometimes that means presenting contrarian ideas, as described by Caroline Forsey of HubSpot. 
  4. Omnichannel communication: Not all of your readers are going to read and engage via laptop or mobile, but be sure to consider how SEO is involved in your social media strategy.
  5. Outcome alignment: SEO goals don’t always have to focus on clicks. Ensure your marketing team is aligned on how content or a topic should be engaged, as it could mean that your ideal outcome is answering your customer’s question directly within the SERP. 

Q. What are the best ways to use entities that can leverage BERT, add more dimensions to keyword strategy, content, and the overall digital presence? 

Sarah Bird: I don’t encourage SEOs or marketers to optimize for BERT. There are too many variables to develop an effective strategy toward this model.

Instead, marketers should continue the focus on the overarching goal of creating excellent content that holistically understands and meets the intent of users. This is no small feat and requires an intense understanding of your business, your audience, and how the two intertwine. Creating world-class content that’s data-driven, timely, and empathetic to the audience will prove to be far more effective than focusing on this specific component of an algorithmic change from Google.

Q. Tips to optimize audience engagement at marketing touchpoints like emails, landing pages, and social media?

Sarah Bird: Each of these touchpoints are important for a business’s SEO strategy. These aren’t tactics that can be tacked on — they all have a powerful impact. 

Email marketing delivers some of the highest ROI, generating $38 for every $1 spent. When it comes to emails, call-to-actions must be clear. Consider which landing pages you’re sending people to and whether they’re appropriate to improve bounce rates.

Social shares of a brand’s content have a high correlation to ranking (as described by our own Cyrus Shepard.) As with everything in SEO, a focus should be put on the keywords used as well as the medium of the content being put out and whether or not it’s optimized.

High-converting landing pages may lead to high bounce rates, which could negatively impact SEO. Rand Fishkin actually addressed this exact issue in a Whiteboard Friday. The best things you can do for landing pages is – focus on high-conversion long-tail keywords and to provide keyword-based content.

Feel free to share your thoughts on our interview and the emerging trends, drop a comment!



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Top 10 Best Austin SEO Companies: Gotch SEO Choice 2020

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If you’re looking for an unbiased data-driven list of the best SEO companies in Austin for 2020, you’re in the right place.

In this post, we rank local outfits in the famous Texas town according to objective criteria that strip out personal prejudice. The companies in this list got there because of merit, not because their executives enjoy a cushy relationship with us.

What’s more, we base all our rankings on public-available information about each agency, so you can easily cross-check our scores. So, without further ado, let’s get into the rankings.

FREE Download: Only work with the best SEO companies on the planet when you download our free SEO company vetting checklist.

Top 10 SEO Companies in Austin, Texas

  1. Thrive Internet Marketing Agency (32 points)
  2. Complete SEO (31 points)
  3. TastyPlacement SEO (30 points)
  4. OgreLogic Solutions LLC (26 points)
  5. Digitech Web Design Austin (25 points)
  6. WEBii.net (23 points)
  7. MARION Integrated Marketing (23 points)
  8. Regex SEO (22 points)
  9. Big Gorilla Design (22 points)
  10. Geek Powered Studios (21 points)

1. Thrive: Top Austin SEO Company

Thrive comes in first place in our list of the top SEO agencies in Austin, Texas. Established in 2005 in Arlington, this company has stood the test of time, and it now employs over a hundred people, working with clients all over the world.

Thrive excelled across all our test criteria and performed admirably on the website performance front. It earned the maximum score owing to its rapid loading speed and mobile-friendliness. It was also the top dog for website traffic, gaining more visits than the other nine agencies in this list combined.

At root, the firm is a full-service digital marketing agency. They offer search engine optimization, link building, web design, social media marketing. This marketing agency adopts what it calls a “big-picture” approach to its thinking, helping its clients with both the nitty-gritty technical side of gaining online visibility, as well as high-level strategy. It currently boasts customers in places as far-flung as Hong Kong and Germany.

2. Complete SEO: Award-Winning Marketing Experts 

Complete SEO is a locally-owned agency in Austin that provides enormous value for its clients. The firm takes a fundamentally different approach from other agencies in the industry. Instead of using outdated templates, it takes into consideration its clients’ budgets, goals, competition, and values, and then uses this information to construct a unique plan of action. On these criteria, this agency in Austine builds high-quality SEO campaigns.

In today’s market, that approach is most welcome. It may explain why the firm managed to achieve a 5 out of 5 review score across 25 Google Reviews.

Right now, Complete SEO offers free consultations, so clients can find out whether the service is a match for their needs or goals without having to hand over any money. It is particularly popular among outlets that have tried other digital marketing companies in the past but were disappointed. And it publicly posts its case studies to back up its performance claims.

3. Tasty Placements: Google Partner for Your Marketing Services. 

TastyPlacement SEO is now more than ten years old, making it one of the more experienced agencies on this list. Founded during the financial crisis of 2008, the company has a list of impressive accolades, including unrivaled Google certifications, regular speaking engagements, and even books on the latest SEO practices.

The agency earned the maximum points on our SEO best-practices score and, like Complete SEO, received a perfect 5 out of 5 on for its average Google Review score too. To grow your business this SEO agency offers a variety of internet marketing: social media, SEO, PPC, content marketing and so on.

The firm likes to brand itself as a “thought leader,” owing to its academic achievements in the search engine arena. Its ebook WordPress Search Engine Optimization is a full-length treatise on everything you need to know on how to get your site to rank higher. The agency first published it in 2012, and it has seen multiple editions since.

4. OgreLogic: Full-Service Web Development

OgreLogic comes in a solid fourth place based on our objective points system. The company is famous in the Austin area for defining itself not as a digital marketing agency, but as a “global software development partner.”

This terminology is deliberate. OgreLogic sees its work as more encompassing than mere digital marketing. It creates software from the ground up designed to help firms realize their visions and attract more clients. Both SEO consultants and web design developers at the outfit work together to solve the real problems that their clients face.

There are no templates here – just a passionate focus on maximizing the usefulness of digital technology to maximize your return on investments.

OgreLogic believes that it offers a competitive advantage across a range of domains. For instance, it never shies away from sharing the results of its work. Instead, it proves its transparency by offering clients data on service performance at regular intervals. This SEO company in Austine, TX provides email marketing, link building, on-page search engine optimization, local SEO to help big and small businesses grow.

It does well on the promptness front too, delivering SEO campaigns that respect its clients’ timetables and immediate business needs. There’s a lot to like here.

5. Digitech: Search Engine Optimization in Austine, TX

Digitech came in fifth overall, owing to its excellent website experience and positive, third-party client feedback. The company is the brainchild of Darryl Stevens, a naturally creative visionary. Like so many great SEOs, he is entirely self-taught. He mastered web design and search engine optimization by serving clients in the online marketplace back in the heyday of digital marketing. This marketing company in Austin, TX offers PPC, SEO, graphic design, social media marketing to make sure their marketing strategy helps with your business growth.

Now, he is a contributor to top online publications, such as Entrepreneur and Forbes magazine, thanks to his deep expertise.

Digitech takes a philosophical view of its work, believing that “inside every impossible is a possible just trying to get out.” Darryl and the team are a group of creative thinkers who want to help brands solve their most intractable online outreach problems. Services include design, development, marketing, fractional CMO, and exclusive SEO.

Notable clients include Universal Music Group, Election Science, and the American Heart Association.

6. WEBii: Web Development with Search Engines on Mind

WEBii was one of the most impressive agencies on our Austin SEO shortlist but fell out of the top five because of the relative obscurity of its website.

The company is an old hand in the Austin area. The founders set up the firm in 1996 with a mission to bring better customer service to the web hosting industry. Since then, it has evolved, expanding its operations into custom web development, domain name registration service, and search engine optimization.

The long experience of the company makes it something of a jack-of-all-trades. Its team offers WordPress web development, server administration, graphic design, project management, and custom web design. All the people who work for the firm pride themselves on their communication skills and prioritize staying in regular contact with customers, keeping them apprised of developments.

Companies requiring a full-stack solution should consider this agency.

7. Marion: Graphic Design & Full Service SEO

Marion did well under our scoring system, primarily due to the positive user experience. The driving force behind this is the company’s unique mix of creative, technical, and strategic assistance. It doesn’t just adopt a cookie-cutter approach but instead learns all of its clients inside out before beginning work.

Each customer gets a virtual CMO – somebody who works with them to understand their business goals turn them into an SEO roadmap. They then get access to a host of services, including logo design, assistance with catalogs, and illustrations. Each account holder receives expert account management, assisted by professional digital marketing specialists, content creators, and web designers.

Over the years, the firm has won several awards, including Gold Winner at the 2020 AVA Digital Awards, 2019 MarCom Gold Winner, and 2017 Silver Awards Winner at the Davey Awards. Carey Balzer, Jon Anger, and Robert Dihu – the three founding partners – offer either full-service digital marketing services or supplement in-house marketing teams.

8. Regex SEO: Digital Marketing in Austine, TX

Regex SEO is another small-time Austin SEO company with massive marketing agency potential and interesting history.

The founders of the company were sick of standard SEO industry marketing approaches. For years, the digital marketing industry over-promised and under-delivered. It hyped pre-packaged plans but failed to generate results for clients. The team behind Regex SEO decided to do something about it. They rejected the subterfuge and shoddy work provided by many agencies and set up their own agency instead. This Austin SEO services company helps you grow your business with pay per click, content marketing, social media marketing, graphic design, and email marketing campaigns.

Regex SEO has won a host of awards and earned widespread online marketing industry recognition. In 2017, it was a Marketer of the Year finalist and later won numerous UpCity, MarCom, and AVA digital awards. The firm’s current clients include the likes of Service Corporation International, Dignity Memorial, and Maison Luisant.

Our scoring system ranked it eighth. Like many of the other boutique agencies on this list, it offers excellent service but fell down because of relatively lackluster website traffic performance. We expect this one to rise in the future.

9. Big Gorilla Design: Brand Awareness in Search Results 

Coming in at the ninth place of the top SEO companies is the somewhat hilariously named Big Gorilla Design. The outfit concentrates on legitimate SEO tactics – not just keyword stuffing. Their list of services covers just about everything you could imagine, including content marketing, email marketing, graphic design, eCommerce site development, and print design.

Big Gorilla Design marketing agency sees itself as an SEO services educator, rather like Tasty Placements, and works hard with clients to discover their actual needs before recommending services. It’s not just about rankings. It is also about building brands.

Big Gorilla Design did well on our test in most areas. But, as with so many other agencies, lack of traffic to its website and inbound links dragged its score down.

With that said, the agency offers clients a unique “out-of-the-box” approach to internet marketing and a lot of flexibility. They provide a vast range of options, including choice over the underlying platforms for the websites they create – such as WordPress or static HTML.

The company has a good sense of humor. The road to success is, according to their marketing, “paved with bananas (and other cool things).”

10. Geek Powered Studio: Search Engine Optimization & Content Marketing

Geek Powered Studios rounds out our list of the top SEO companies in Austin, TX in 2020. SEO specialist Guillermo Ortiz founded the digital marketing agency in 2009 during the depths of the financial slump, drawing on his experience of web design. What began as a small side project in San Antonio, flourished into a full-scale digital marketing agency, employing over a dozen people and serving an ever-growing list of clients. They offer the whole spectrum of online marketing: from social media marketing, pay per click advertising, email marketing to maximize your return on investments.

Geek Powered Studios has won several awards, including the 2014 BBB Torch Award and the 2016 US Search Awards. The company has also featured on Mashable, American Express Open, and Tech Cocktail.

Why did it come tenth in our objective test? The main culprit was the failure of the company’s website to respond rapidly to user input. If it hadn’t been for that, it would have received a much higher score. Also, the company’s website ranked well outside of the top ten, which seems to undermine its promise to deliver on its SEO promises.

How We Score

So there you have it: our top 10 best SEO companies in Austin. Remember, we don’t rank companies in our lists according to mere opinion or solely based on what Google says. Instead, we use an objective in-house scoring system that allows us to compare companies objectively, based on a wide range of parameters.

Our scoring system takes into consideration the following criteria:

  • Average user review scores
  • The total number of Google Reviews
  • Total website traffic
  • The number of linking domains
  • The domain ranking
  • If the agency ranks in the top ten
  • Website experience parameters, including loading speed, mobile-friendliness, and SSL certification

We then assign a score, up to a maximum value of 5 for each of the above criteria, depending on the relative performance of the agency. Companies with a lot of reviews, for instance, will score 5, while those with relatively few will earn 1. We then sum all of the individual components to arrive at a final score out of 35 for every firm.

The top-scoring SEO agency in this was Thrive Internet Marketing on 32, followed closely by Complete SEO on 31 and Tasty Placements SEO on 30. The rest clustered between 26 and 21, and a whole host of other Austin agencies never made it onto the list.

You can take a look at our raw scoring data here.

Enquire With Us Today

The purpose of this guide was to provide you with a comprehensive insight into the types of companies offering SEO services in Austin, Texas. While there are some technical differences between the firms, the above SEO agencies represent the cream of the crop. You should, therefore, choose the one from the list of top Austin SEO companies that offers the best services for your particular niche.

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How Does Your Decision Impact SEO Results?

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HTTPS (https://) is HTTP (http://) with the use of an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate. SSL (or TLS) certificates encrypt normal HTTP requests and responses. HTTPS is more secure than HTTP. HTTPS is so important that Google uses it as a ranking factor in its organic search results.

Question for you:

Did you know there’s a hacker attack in the World Wide Web every 39 seconds, affecting one in three Americans every year?

But if you’re not protecting the information being passed through your domain, you could be skyrocketing the chances of a cyber-attack happening to your site, your website that uses HTTP dropping down organic ranks—and sacrificing your customers’ sensitive data.

(Which, as you’ve probably guessed, is a huge GDPR issue.)

Preventing that security catastrophe starts with learning the key difference between HTTP vs HTTPS protocols: A type of website encryption that impacts how a domain collects, stores and uses visitor data.

In this guide, we’re sharing everything you need to know about SSL encryption, and listing information on how you can use security certificates and encrypted connections to help boost your SEO. Read this text until the end to learn what HTTP and HTTPS stand for, including how to use web protocols to protect sensitive data, such as credit card information.

What is HTTP?

Simply put, HTTP (stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol) basically what makes the internetwork.

HTTP is the core protocol of any world wide web data exchange. It enables transferring data such as hypertext, plain text, a structured text that uses hyperlinks between nodes. A variation of the protocol is needed to access any website—hence why URLs address usually start with “http://www…”—and works by sending a command to a website server to fetch the webpage your URL corresponds to. Why use HTTPs instead?

What is HTTPS?

HTTPS (stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) works in the same way as standard HTTP.

Is https really secure and is it the only difference between HTTP vs HTTPS? All of the data sent through a webpage using HTTPS has an additional layer of security which is extremely important for sensitive information. This is called a Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol and protects any third-parties from eavesdropping on any type of data being passed through the secure https encryption.

Secure protocol HTTPS gives domains extra protection because the data being submitted to and from the server is encrypted—meaning nobody has the ability to steal, hack, or view private data.

Plus, data is passed through the protocol sites that can’t be changed or corrupted.

You can check whether your website address has HTTPS encryption by viewing the URL in your browser. If there’s a green padlock before your domain name, your site has a secure SSL/TLS protocol:

(Your customers check this, too: 28% of internet users look for the green address bar.)

In order to make your website run on HTTPS, you’ll need a Security Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate. This certificate, originally developed by Netscape, is what encrypts the site’s data and proves to website visitors that you’re a secure website. The advantages of https are clear enough to force the site to use https.

SSL as a Google ranking factor: the Main Difference between HTTP and HTTPS

WhyNoHTTPS found many of the top 100 websites still don’t load securely—including Baidu, ESPN, and MyShopify.

Does that make HTTPS encryption completely irrelevant for SEO?

Not necessarily. In fact, those websites are an anomaly.

Google’s team has expressed their opinion on HTTP vs HTTPS and the need for HTTPS time and time again. So much so, they’ve released an algorithm update based around it—causing sites without SSL to TLS security to struggle on their quest to rank highly in the SERPs.

“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.”

It seems they’re taking their own advice. Over 90% of sites owned by Google—including Google News, YouTube, and content promoted through their Google Ads network—send encrypted user traffic:

…But Google has said they’re working hard to make this figure closer to 100%.

4 Key SEO Benefits of Using HTTPS

These days, there’s more to SEO than encryption certificates.

It’s unlikely that a switch from HTTP vs HTTPS will skyrocket your rankings to page one. It takes an entire strategy—including on-page SEO, acquiring backlinks, and creating SEO content —to see SEO success.

However, there’s no doubt that making the switch has SEO benefits. Those include:

1. It Gives Better User Experience

It’ll come as no surprise to hear that user experience (UX) is a huge part of Search Engine Optimization Results.

If people are landing on your site pages through organic search and you’re greeting them with flashing text, bouncing icons, and countless pop-up ads, they aren’t going to stick around. Chances are, they’ll be mad that search engines pointed them there. The secure protocol grants the use of https greater security in web transactions.

Google doesn’t want that reputation, which is why UX forms a huge part of SEO strategies.

Unsecure pages without an SSL or TLS (HTTP vs HTTPS) don’t fit the “high-quality, trustworthy, and reliable” criteria that Google set for sites to achieve high rankings.

In fact, Google is so against insecure sites that a recent Chrome browser latest update now tells users when they’re visiting a site without an SSL or TLS, labeling the unencrypted site as “Not Secure”:

Source

Seeing that browser warning sign would give you a fright, right?

You’d think twice about continuing to the site after knowing your data is at risk, which isn’t going to lead to a great user experience—nor high rankings.

2. Secure URL Address Can Increase Dwell Time

Now that you understand what does https protect, here’s another important thing to mention. Dwell time is an important factor for SEO. It’s determined by the amount of time a searcher spends on your site before clicking back to the SERPs, which tells Google how accurate your result was for their query.

Domains without HTTPS connection could be sabotaging their own dwell time. SSL or TLS encryption is extremely important at this point.

The content you’re sharing could be the perfect fit for your searcher. But if they’re being faced with an ugly “Not Secure” message, you won’t have the chance to show them your awesome content.

They’ll simply head back to their SERPs, and contribute to low dwell time.

Google’s spiders will then view your site as low-quality, or totally irrelevant to that search term, and your URL will drop down the ranks—even if your content is top-notch.

3. Sites with HTTPS Load Faster

When you click a link and land on a site, how long do you wait for the content to load before your patience runs out?

Research by Incapsula found that 55% of people are willing to wait a maximum of five seconds. Combine that with the 7% of people who expect a page to load immediately, and you’ll see why site speed is a critical ranking factor when comparing HTTP vs HTTPS.

(Remember: search engines want to point searchers in the direction of sites that are fast, reliable, and trustworthy to keep sensitive information safe.)

There’s such a huge importance on site speed that Google rolled out a “speed update”, impacting how mobile SERPs would be produced.  Read their announcement:

“People want to be able to find answers to their questions as fast as possible — studies show that people really care about the speed of a page. Although speed has been used in ranking for some time, that signal was focused on desktop searches. Today we’re announcing that starting in July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches.”

Using  HTTPS vs HTTP gives you an SEO advantage because websites using HTTP are 824% slower than HTTPS:

Granted, you can use techniques like compressing files, optimizing images, or reducing redirects to boost your connection speed.

But using HTTPS connection is a quick win that could see huge returns from one change.

4. HTTPS Leads to Accurate SEO Reporting

You’ll need to regularly check-in and audit your SEO results to find out what’s helping your performance, what isn’t, and tweak your strategy accordingly.

That’s the tried-and-tested process of any marketing campaign, right?

It’s not an easy task though; SEO is notoriously difficult to report on. Comparing HTTP vs HTTPS: switching to HTTPS can help improve the results.

That’s because referral information is stripped when a connection isn’t secure with an SSL to TLS protocol (HTTP). Traffic sources aren’t named on sites with HTTP address, meaning you’ll see a bunch of visitors who’ve come from “direct” source—when in reality, they’ve probably been referred from social media, organic search, or paid ads.

Secure sites using HTTPS vs HTTP protocols, on the other hand, protect (and show) this referral information in your analytics dashboard. You’ll be able to clearly pinpoint the best sources of user traffic to your domain, making reporting more accurate.

You can, therefore, tweak your SEO strategy based on reliable referral user traffic information.

How to Migrate to HTTPS Without Losing Your World Wide Web Traffic

Are you ready to take advantage of the SEO benefits that HTTPS provides?

Unfortunately, migrating from HTTP to HTTPS isn’t as simple as contacting your site server host to change your URL address. The switch means the links you’ve built to your old domain (without secured protocols) are no longer working—hence why many site owners worry about losing their organic user traffic during the migration.

Here’s how you can switch without that happening.

1. Install an SSL certificate

Ready to start protecting the data being passed through your site, and experience the SEO benefits of HTTPS protocol?

You’ll need to install an SSL certificate to establish an encrypted connection for the server.

Platforms such as WP Engine have public key encryption via SSL/TLS available as add-ons if you’re already using them for your web server hosting. You might need to pay extra for this, but don’t treat SSL certificates as an unnecessary expense that you can avoid.

Google is actively rewarding secure key encryption with higher results, and 85% of internet users avoid shopping on unsecured resources—meaning the SEO benefits you’ll get in return will outweigh the (small) cost of installation.

Alternatively, you could also use a free service like:

Once you have the SSL encryption for your domain, you’ll need to install it on your site.

You can either utilize a WordPress plugin like Really Simple SSL to do this (which will automatically detect your new SSL  secure certificate) or ask your server hosting provider to activate the key certificate on your site.

Once you’ve enabled the SSL certificate for your domain, it’s time to set the HTTPS version as the default URL for your site.

Sign in to your WordPress dashboard, click Settings, and be sure your WordPress and the URL include the HTTPS prefix:

(The Really Simple SSL plugin might do the difference automatically, but it’s worth double-checking.)

2. Automatically redirect HTTP to HTTPS

Your old HTTP URL is no longer in use, but people still might land on the unsecure version on their browser. So, as soon as you’ve changed your default URL, you’ll have to automatically 301 redirect users landing on the old URL to the new one.

For example: If someone visits https://gotchseo.com, a browser redirect would automatically send them to the secure https version at https://gotchseo.com.

The server hosting provider you’re using will likely generate this secure redirect once they’ve installed your SSL certificate. But if you’re installing it manually, get instructions from the guide to redirect HTTP to HTTPS, depending on your server.

3. Add the new URL to Search Console

Use analytics to measure http https impact. You probably already know that Google Search Console is the primary way Google will communicate with you about your site. Not only that, but it contains tons of sensitive information that SEOs can use to understand (and improve) their organic results.

That’s why when you’re migrating to HTTPS, add the new URL to Google Search Console as a new “property”:

When you get to this stage, take special care to include the URL exactly as you see it in your web browser—including the https://www. prefix.

You’ll then see two properties in your Search Console account: The HTTP and HTTPS versions of your website.

(Bear in mind it might take a while for Google to crawl the new version, but from now on, your site SEO data will be found in the HTTPS account.)

4. Find and replace external backlinks

You’ve automatically redirected from HTTP to the protected web server, and crawlers analyze the new version of your site.

What happens next?

The answer lies within backlinks: Arguably the most important factor of any SEO strategy, because external links prove to Google that your website is trustworthy.

…But the backlinks you’ve previously built point to the unsecure version of your domain address. And even if you’ve redirected your old URL to the new HTTPS domain, you’ll still need to check (and replace) external backlinks pointing to the HTTP version.

Use a tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush to audit your backlink profile:

For every external link you find, check to see whether you’re automatically redirected from the HTTP to the SSL secured hypertext transfer protocol (HTTPS) version of your website. If you’re not, don’t panic.

Simply install the Redirection plugin for WordPress and create the link yourself.

Redirecting these backlinks makes sure you’re not losing any link juice.

Since the backlink leads people to the secure version of your site instead of the unsecure HTTP version (or worse, a 404 error page), Google will crawl the backlinks—and take them into consideration when determining your rankings.

5. Scan for crawl errors

Now you’ve checked that your site’s external backlinks are in check and know how to use https instead of http, let’s confirm you’re not losing any search engine optimization value with the internal links littered around your website.

Sign in to your Google Search Console account and head to the Coverage report.

Here, you’ll find broken internal links that crawlers don’t recognize and that you’ll get to redirect to the page with a secure connection:

Redirect broken internal links to the same page on the secured HTTPS version of your site.

This works similar to external links in the fact that search engines can now crawl your site, and understand what it should rank for, without dead ends blocking their tracks.

Final Thoughts

Are you convinced of the huge difference and ready to switch from HTTP to HTTPS?

Following this guide is the key to the successful migration—without losing your organic Wold Wide Web traffic in the process.

Using HTTPS instead of HTTP is essential these days. Not only are you protecting your business and domain name from hacker attacks, and public-key encryption via SSL/TLS also protects your sensitive data and credit card information. Installed SSL certificates and encryption data is bound to support your SEO strategy.

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