Google’s John Mueller offers an exciting insight into whether linking to insecure pages hurts SEO.
John Mueller, Google’s Search Advocate, provided interesting information about whether linking to unsecure HTTP web pages could negatively affect SEO.
It might seem as though linking to HTTP pages is a negative quality and a detriment to a page since it could be perceived as a bad user experience.
Difference between HTTP and HTTPS
HTTP (A protocol made up of rules) transfers data from a server into a browser.
HTTPS is a secure version of the Internet that verifies that the site is safe and can be trusted with sensitive information such as passwords.
HTTPS can be a Ranking Signal
Google’s ranking signal is the secure HTTPS protocol.
Google declared that HTTPS was a ranking signal in 2014.
According to the announcement:
“We’re not just working on our stuff; we also want to make the Internet more secure. Google is a significant player in ensuring that all websites are safe.
We have been testing sites that use encrypted, secure connections over the last few months as part of our search ranking algorithms.
We have seen positive results, so we are now using HTTPS as a ranking signal.
It’s a lightweight signal that affects less than 1% of global queries and weighs less than other signals like high-quality content. We give web admins the time to move to HTTPS.
We may, however, decide to make it more robust over time. We encourage all website owners and web admins to change from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe online.
HTTPS is a ranking indicator that provides background to the question of linking out to insecure HTTP sites.
Google is very concerned about secure websites, so it makes sense that all linked sites must be HTTPS.
Mueller explains that this is not always the case.
Should You Link to HTTP Pages?
It is not recommended to link to HTTP pages for many reasons.
The question was not whether linking to insecure pages that use HTTP harmed SEO.
The question was:
“Is it affecting my SEO score negatively if I link to an insecure external website?”
Also, HTTPS is not HTTPS.
Mueller clarified the question and then interpreted the question to reflect his belief.
“…first, we don’t have an idea of an SEO score.
You don’t have to worry about how high your SEO score is.
However, I understand that the question is, “Is it bad if I link directly to an HTTP page rather than an HTTPS page?”
It’s acceptable from our perspective.
These pages should be linked to if they are HTTP.
This is exactly what users would expect.
It’s okay to link to similar sites.
Your website can link to HTTP pages without any problems.
That would be a worry for me.”
Are they linking to HTTP pages Okay?
Mueller stated that linking to other sites using the HTTP protocol is acceptable for SEO purposes.
HTTP does not verify that the web server responding to a request to display a page is correct.
Many web publishers hesitated to adopt the HTTPS protocol in the past because they believed it was only necessary for hospitals, banks, shopping sites, or other businesses that handled sensitive user data.
Websites that use HTTP protocol can be attacked with unintended consequences that could affect their bottom lines.
Hackers have found ways to trick visitors into thinking they are visiting a particular website.
Once a hacker is convinced, they will use the trick to obtain sensitive data such as bank passwords and financial information.
When someone visits a site that uses an insecure HTTP implementation, DNS hijacking, Man-in-the-Middle attacks and Domain Spoofing are just a few of the possible exploits.
It may be best to check the HTTPS protocol of any outbound HTTP links. It might be a great idea to look for a site that uses HTTPS if the visitor’s security and user experience are important to you.
If a site visitor follows a link to a secure website and is presented with a message in their browser that the site is not secure, they may question whether or not it is trustworthy.
SEO has many other aspects that should be considered.