Technical SEO Basics | HTTP, HTTPS, and HTTP/2

Chapter 5

Technical SEO Basics – Course Overview

Using a computer is easy these days, but how exactly are websites accessed? And why is this important for SEO? In this lesson, we’ll be covering the basics on how the web works.

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Search engines are always evolving, serving as an answer machine that tries to provide the best results to users. Understanding how search engines like Google work will provide a deeper level of knowledge that helps break down technical SEO issues you will come across.

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Meta tags are tags that describe metadata within an HTML document. Learn about the important meta tags and the ones you can ignore.

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After learning about the different types of meta tags and directives, you’ll want to know how to set and optimize them.

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Understanding the different parts of the anatomy of a URL is an important part of digital marketing and technical SEO. Learn about the basics of HTTP, HTTPS, and HTTP/2 and how they can help to enhance your online search presence.

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Table of Contents

Understanding the different parts of the anatomy of a URL is an important part of digital marketing and technical SEO. Learn about the basics of HTTP, HTTPS, and HTTP/2 and how they can help to enhance your online search presence below.

The World Wide Web and most of its resources are accessed via HTTP or HTTPS, something you are aware of that shows up in the beginning of any URL. Just as our world is advancing in technology, so is the internet and the protocols that come with it. HTTP was a standard across the web, now transitioning into HTTPS for its security. The revisions of the protocols from HTTP 0.9 up into HTTP/2, and HTTP/3 upcoming are an important part of the ongoing improvements as well. In this guide we will cover the basics of HTTP, HTTPS, HTTP/2, and their relation to SEO.

What is HTTP?

HTTP is an acronym for HyperText Transfer Protocol. It is a protocol or system of rules for transferring files across the World Wide Web (www) between web clients and web servers. Web clients, the most common being a web browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc), send HTTP requests for files (webpages like from a web server. A web server (or internet server) is a computer where web content is stored, that responds to requests from web clients then sends web content and services.

How HTTP works graphic, showing a HTTP request and HTTP response.

What is HTTPS?

HTTPS is an acronym for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure. This is the secure version of HTTP, encrypting communications between web clients and web servers through either Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS). Both of these encryption protocols utilize public keys and private keys. Private keys are stored on the web server and public keys, as the name suggests, are available to everyone publicly. Web clients and web servers perform an SSL handshake when HTTPS sessions are initiated, to exchange information and establish a secure connection.

HTTPS was commonly used for websites that transmit sensitive data like ecommerce websites, banking websites, etc; but is now becoming the norm for any website.

HTTP vs HTTPS graphic showing the different communication methods of both.

Benefits of HTTPS in Regards to SEO

Security is an important aspect of digital marketing and plays a key role in SEO. Google has even stated that HTTPS is a ranking signal, to help keep everyone surfing the web, safe. Outside of the official announcement on their webmaster blog, Google Chrome makes it apparent when a site being visited is not secured with HTTPS. For users that don’t see the secure padlock icon, they may be wary of entering their personal information, and rightfully so.

Google Chrome showing that the domain is not secure. With the ranking benefit that comes alongside HTTPS sites, it is apparent that changing from HTTP to HTTPS is the right choice. Keep in mind that the ranking benefit is low impact, compared to quality content and backlinks.

How to Setup HTTPS for Your Website

Setting up HTTPS is simple nowadays, and won’t even cost you a dime if you opt in for a service like Let’s Encrypt. To install Let’s Encrypt with cPanel, follow these steps:

  1. Access your cPanel dashboard.
  2. Under “Security”, locate the “Let’s Encrypt SSL” icon.
  3. Select your domain you would like to install HTTPS on and press “Issue”.
  4. The SSL certificate should install and if there is an error, it will inform you.

If you run into any issues on the above, or don’t see the option to install an SSL via Let’s Encrypt, speak with your hosting provider.

Please note that upgrading to HTTPS should be planned based on the amount of content your website has. If you are ranking well in a few areas, mapping out your content and making sure you have the right redirects in place will ensure a smooth migration. Additionally, you should run a find/replace sitewide afterwards to remove any internal link instances of HTTP to HTTPS and cut down on the total amount of redirects.

What is HTTP/2?

HTTP/2 is the second major version of the application protocol. It was made to speed up the transferring of files between web servers and web clients. Prior to HTTP/2, HTTP 1.1 had to send files down a single line, one at a time, closing and opening. HTTP/2 drastically sped this up by keeping the line open and allowing the transfer of multiple files at one time.

HTTP timeline graphic, spanning from 1991 (HTTP 0.9) to 2019 (HTTP 3).
HTTP 1.1 vs HTTP/2 graphic showing multiple connections vs a single connection.

Benefits of HTTP/2 in Regards to SEO

Another important ranking factor announced by Google in respect to the mobile-first world we live in is page speed. Page speed as a ranking factor is a priority because of the slower connections associated with mobile devices. Also, websites are growing in size because of the addition of multiple assets like images, JavaScript, CSS, and more.

How to Implement HTTP/2 for Your Website

Luckily, most big name hosting providers will have HTTP/2 enabled on their servers. To test if your server is using it, check out this HTTP/2 testing tool. If you don’t have it enabled, ask your hosting provider of your options. Also, it is required you have an HTTPS connection.

What is HTTP/3?

HTTP/3 is the newest Hypertext Transfer Protocol version, made to improve security and performance. HTTP/3 is HTTP over QUIC, which stands for Quick UDP Internet Connections.

HTTP/3 vs HTTP/2

The main difference is that the handshake protocol on HTTP/3 will now run on QUIC instead of TCP on HTTP/2.

Key Takeaways

HyperText Transfer Protocol and its many variations or revisions are an important part of the modern web. Implement the most stable and latest version of any technology and you are sure to be closer to the top, especially with SEO.

  • HTTP is the protocol used for transferring files across the web.
  • HTTPS is the secure protocol, encrypting information that is transferred.
  • HTTPS is recommended by Google for positive SEO and is a minor ranking factor.
  • HTTP/2 is the latest major revision of HTTP and allows for multiple files sent down a single line.
  • HTTP/2 improves page speed, and in return, helps SEO.

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