Monitoring Your Move to SSL With the Toolbox

Google has already started to reward the encryption of websites via the HTTPS protocol in 2014. Over the past few years many website operators have switched to HTTPS and the development in the UK shows substantial growth.

A move to HTTPS takes much more than simply flipping a switch. Since you also have to pay attention to many technical aspects, we would like to show you how to follow and monitor the SSL encryption of your website with the SISTRIX Toolbox in this tutorial. This way you can quickly detect potential errors in the conversion.

We do this in three steps:

  • We create a report so that you can keep track of the key figures for important areas of your domain during the conversion.
  • Immediately after the conversion, you can use an Optimizer project to check whether all pages are accessible.
  • With the help of filter options for your URLS, you can observe whether Google has already crawled all the new pages and included them in the rankings in the time following the conversion.

By the end of 2017, almost 55% of the Top 100 results on Google.co.uk already consisted of HTTPS pages:

History of the percentage of HTTPS pages in the Google SERPs.

The SSL Report

For starters, we enter the domain we want to monitor into the SISTRIX search bar 1.

Then, we click on the menu item Hostnames 2 in the left navigation to check if there are multiple subdomains we need to keep an eye on. To do this, see if any other hostnames have Visibility besides the www. or non-www. host.

In our example, we will do this retrospectively for the domain zappos.com. In our case, we decide to monitor the top three hosts 3.

Total Overview

Now we can jump back to the domain overview page and click on the cogwheel in the top right hand corner of the Visibility Index graph, where we choose the “Overlay Data” option.

Here we type in both the HTTP and HTTPS paths for the www.zappos.com host. Here, it is important that the entry starts with the protocol (http:// or https://) and is then followed by the rest of the URL, which ends with a terminating /.

In the visibility history, you can see that the host http://www.zappos.com/ suddenly loses all its visibility, and at the same time the visibility of the host https://www.zappos.com/ rises to the same level. The hosts are therefore replacing each other.

We are now shown the Visibility development for both protocols in one graph. Next, we use the cogwheel, once again, to open the options and select “Add to Report”.

As the report we choose “Create new Report” and then give it a meaningful title. You can find all information on working with reports in the tutorial How to Create and Configure Reports in SISTRIX.

A message appears that the element has been added to the report, as well as a button that takes us directly to the newly created report.

We can open the report directly via the pop-up window. We can also give a databox a concise title via the yellow button with the pencil icon at the top right of the box, as further hosts and directories are to be added to the report later.

We choose "Comparison mobile www.zappos.com" as the title for the databox.

If the switch to SSL of your domain is only just approaching, you can also choose to limit the graph to the last 2 months, for better clarity, by entering a date in the options.

As the search behaviour has been shifting further and further towards mobile devices over the past few years, SISTRIX displays the Visibility history based on mobile data by default. Thus, we have now created an overview of the overall health of the domain in the mobile search.

You can now proceed in the same way with other hosts relevant to your domain.

Overview on Desktop Data Basis

However, we also want to observe the Visibility trend with desktop data and therefore recreate the same evaluation, this time based on desktop data. To do so, we open the Visibility graph in the overview of our domain zappos.com again, click on the cogwheel icon in the top right corner and select “Overlay Data” again.

Via the button “Show details” 1 we can now select the desktop data. Just as before, we enter the HTTP and HTTPS URLs and click on “Compare”. We then add the created graph to our report.

We can then adjust the time axis accordingly and give the box an appropriate title (via the yellow butotn with the pencil icon at the top right of the data box).

Detail View

Our next step is to find the most important directories of the domain and add them to our report. You can either check your Google Analytics data or use SISTRIX for this. To do this, click on the menu item “Directories” in the left navigation.

If the switch to SSL has already taken place, you can also display the directory evaluation for an earlier time. To do this, open the box options via the cogwheel icon and select “Select different date”.

In our example, we will choose to keep track of the development of the two directories /product/ and /b/. You are, of course, free to add more directories to your report.

In order to add the graphs to our report, we proceed exactly as we did for the overall view and create a comparison graph for each directory for desktop and mobile.

If there are many directories that you want to monitor, you can collect all the desktop and mobile evaluations together in one single graph.

The SSL report: conclusion

We can now decide if we want to add some additional text elements to the report. This makes sense if several stakeholders are supposed to access the report, where you can use the free-text fields to briefly explain what is shown and what to look out for. You will find much more information on the report design options in our tutorial “PDF-Reports: Configuration & Adjustments“.

Once we have set up the report according to your wishes, we want it to be automatically send to us, once a week. This also has the nice side-effect that the reports will be stored in the archive, which makes it easy to track changes for a specific week, any time we like.

The ranking URL check

After your switch to HTTPS, Google will have to crawl the respective HTTP pages once again in order to find the 301-redirects to the HTTPS version of each page. A simple way to check how far Google is with this, is to look at which protocol version Google will return in the search results.

After a certain transition phase, which may take up to half a year depending on the size of the page, Google should only deliver HTTPS pages in the search results. We can use this to our advantage, by going to “SEO -> URLs” for our domain (in our case sistrix.de) and activating the predefined “Without SSL” filter. This gives us a list of all the URLs for our domain where Google is still not showing the HTTPS version in the search results.

At the start of the switch, this list will likely be quite long. Over time, it should become shorter and ideally, after no more than 6 months, it should not show any results at all.

The technical examination in the Optimizer

If you have not created an Optimizer project for the domain to be monitored, it is worth looking into our tutorial on how to create an Optimizer project.

In the project itself, we can use the expert mode and the available filters to examine two important technical conditions.

HTTP Pages without redirects

Ideally, after switching to HTTPS, there should be no HTTP pages on your domain which return a status code 200 (OK). All HTTP pages should refer to their HTTPS counterpart by using a 301-redirect.

To verify this, simply go to the expert mode in the Optimizer and create a URL filter for “http:” and a status code filter for “not 301”.

Optimizer expert mode filter for the crawled URLs

This will return a list of all the URLs (found during the crawl) on the domain which use http: in the URL and output a status code other than 301. In this list you will now find all URLs which have not been redirected correctly (or which return a 404 or 200 status code and are therefore not redirected at all) and need to be checked.

Internal links with redirects

When it comes to the internal links on your domain, there is no justifiable reason for one or more redirects to exist, at all. You have full control over your internal links and can save both the user and Google the time a redirect takes.

In the expert mode, please switch to “Links” in the upper right hand corner and you will find a table of all internal and external links, found during the crawl. Then add these two filters:

Optimizer expert mode filter for the crawled Links

By using the type filter you define that you only want to see INTernal links and the “not 200” status code filter ensures that you get all the other possible status codes (like 301, 302, 307, 404, 410 or even 418). If you get any results here, change the internal links to point directly at the new version of the page.

Conclusion

You can use the SEO module and the Optimizer to monitor and follow your domain’s switch from HTTP to HTTPS, while the automatic reporting allows for a weekly overview of the domain’s Visibility on Google.

26.01.2023