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HTTP & HTTPS Duplication

HTTP / HTTPS Duplication


Duplicate Content & Canonicalisation - HTTP / HTTPS Duplication

Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the secure version of the HTTP protocol. These protocols are used in the sending of data between your website and the user’s browser, using HTTPS makes this more secure and safer for users.

Google prefer sites that use HTTPS, over time as it becomes for prevalent this will become a stronger ranking factor. This will not impact your rankings significantly at present.
Using HTTPS instead of HTTP, makes your site more secure and safer for users.

However, if you use HTTPS protocol, you should ensure that the site forces a redirect from the HTTP version to the HTTPS version. Failing to do this can technically cause a canonical duplication error. The reality of the situation as of 2017 is that Google will now automatically prefer and show the HTTPS version, meaning that this cannot / is very unlikely affect rankings.

This article is one of several that fall under the duplicate content and canonicalisation series in the Raptor Knowledge Base. Please the below list for all other articles covering all of the different types of duplicate content and canonicalisation issues that a website can experience below:

What is HTTP / HTTPS Duplication

HTTP / HTTPS Duplication, like almost all duplication issues, is characterised by content being accessible from more than a single URL. In the case of HTTP / HTTPS the content will be accessible by crawlers / bots and users from both a HTTP URL and a HTTPS URL.

For example a page may be accessible from both of the below URL’s:

This may be a site wide issue if the whole site is accessible from either HTTP & HTTPS or it may affect only a few pages; either way the issue should be addressed.

Impact of Issue

Google can see the content being presented from URL’s as duplicate content and will decide for itself which one to present to users in the SERPs. This essentially devalues the content on one URL and promotes the other.

Because HTTP/HTTPS use different protocols Google typically considers them different sites. Consequently the chance of being penalised for duplicate content is significantly higher than with the canonical issue for example.

If you have a https site, you probably want that one to be the preferred version, and failing to take preventative measures removes that choice. The impact is often not that great, and the most likely outcome would be that Google will prefer the https site as this is more secure. Nonetheless, the problem is easy to mitigate and the solutions for it are also part of wider best practices for any website.

How to Resolve

Below are a number of solutions to address this issue that can be used exclusively, or in conjunction with one another:

  1. Protect your site from being crawled and indexed through site structure. For example ensure that HTTPS pages are accessible only through a login, sign-up or form. Do not make these pages accessible through a standard link, this is a common mistake and is easy to avoid.
  2. Through using the Robots.txt file effectively it is possible to control which pages will be crawled and indexed. It is not possible to specify within the main robots.txt file that HTTPS pages should not be indexed. Instead a couple of other steps need to be taken but this requires a .htaccess file and a Linux server:

Create a file names robots_ssl.txt in your root.

Add the following code to your .htaccess

RewriteCond %{SERVER_PORT} 443 [NC]
RewriteRule ^robots.txt$ robots_ssl.txt [L]

Then add the following code to your robots_ssl.txt file:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

  • Setup canonical tags on the HTTPS pages that point to the HTTP pages or the other way around. Continuing the example above the canonical tag would be placed on both pages would be this:

<link rel="canonical" href="" />

  • A more drastic solution that you may find is not possible is to permanently 301 redirect the HTTP pages to the HTTPS pages or the other way around.

Raptor Tools!

Use our HTTP/HTTPS analysis tool to identify any opportunities for improvement and problems. This can provide a range of recommendations designed to help improve your on-page content strategy. Our SEO Tools, check for analyse and make recommendations for every item in this knowledge base.

Benefit of Resolving

Removing the chance / opportunity for Google or other search engines to devalue your content whilst controlling what content appears in the SERPs and on which URL.

Also this helps to redirect some of the link authority from pages if people have already linked to them from other websites.