Is HSTS enough? Do you still need 301 redirects?
Hello. Thanks for listening to SEO tips today.
This tip is based on a client conversation with the developers of the web platform they are moving to.
Let me set the scene – we have carefully pulled data on all of their domains and subdomains, reviewed hundreds of thousands of URLs that either received organic traffic in Google Analytics for the last six months, backlinks or are ranking in the top two pages of Google. We have diligently mapped the URLs so that we can execute 301 redirects. The end result is a sheet that has hundreds of URLs on it.
And the developer mentions that we don’t need to include HTTP URLs because their platform checks for the HTTP version and “converts” it to HTTPs BEFORE then working through the redirect. This seems to me like they are using HSTS.
Which brings me to the topic of today’s tip. Is HSTS enough, or do you *still* need to do 301 redirects?
Let’s start with what the HSTS stuff is – it’s a response header that lets your site tell browsers that it should only be accessed using HTTPs instead of using HTTP.
And here’s how John Meuller from Google answered the question regarding redirects:
“ Yes, always redirect if you can. HSTS is great to add on top of redirecting & HTTPS, but I’d recommend not doing that if you’re just moving the site over for the first time. …Take your time to get HTTPS right first, then think about the implications of HSTS.”
So yes, you still need individual 301 redirects for those HTTP URLs if you want to maintain your traffic.
And I would be rich if I got paid every time a client came to me because they lost traffic from migrating to HTTPs incorrectly (I’m looking at you federal agencies).
So that’s your tip for today – if you’re migrating and wondering if you still need to redirect those HTTP URLs, the answer is probably yes if you still see links to them, they get traffic or they are ranking.
Also, keep in mind that Google also does not crawl more than 5 hops in a redirect, so a migration is a good time to think about editing those redirects.
Thanks for listening. Come back tomorrow for another SEO tip.
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