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Using HTTPS seems to be standard and more and more sites are making the switch and redirecting all users from HTTP to HTTPS.
However I have come across some large sites that keep HTTP and HTTPS both available and indexed in Google.

The only reason I can think of keeping the HTTP pages indexed is that older devices/browsers may not support HTTPS. I have found this out from my own testing but obviously, that number of incompatible devices gets smaller every day.

The SEO reasons to move and redirect users to HTTPS are obvious. Secure, combine link juice to one page only, no duplicate pages, save on crawl budget.

So why would sites support both?

  • Many old browser/device support https. I personally believe there are two reason. 1. They think by making all changes to https will drop their site traffic 2. They want to see how migration affect their analytic report. – Goyllo Jun 29 '17 at 16:47
  • If both are available, Google will usually choose just to index the HTTPS version these days. – Stephen Ostermiller Jun 29 '17 at 17:57
  • @StephenOstermiller From my small amount of research when doing a site: operator search I am seeing a pretty even split between http and https. I dont see a favour towards https at all. – mat boy Jun 30 '17 at 11:21
  • Some sites may be asking Google to index one over the other, for example by using canonical tags or sitemaps. About a year ago, Google started preferring HTTPS when both are available and no preference has been stated. Google did so for my sites. Both versions were available and Google started sending traffic only to the HTTPS sites. Google even posted that they had started doing this: webmasters.googleblog.com/2015/12/… – Stephen Ostermiller Jun 30 '17 at 11:24
  • Hmm. I thought the point was that when moving to https, one should keep the http pages and do permanent redirects on them to the https pages. That way, anyone that had used an http link would still be contributing to SEO results. – JustJohn Jul 5 '17 at 18:29
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None. This is harmful for SEO, and is likely to result in duplicate content issues, split inbound link profiles, incompatibility with secure iframes, and other such unpleasantness.

The reason you see both in the index is either lack of knowledge or presence of technical issues on the website's end. Maybe they didn't specify in Search Console that only one version should be used, the https version. Maybe they didn't properly redirect the http version. Maybe they didn't use canonicals to point to the secure URL's.

Now, a website may have both secure and non-secure pages in the index. For example, let's say you have a secure site, but one page has an iframe that's necessary but isn't secure. In such cases, all pages in the index should be secure, with one http page to match the non-secure iframe. But having both versions of the same page in the index should not be an option.

  • Thanks for your answer. It is interesting that you give a lack of knowledge or technical issues. A couple of large sites have both http and https. www.accuweather.com/ is one such site. – mat boy Jun 30 '17 at 11:16
  • 1
    You would think a major website & data provider might have an SEO team, but unfortunately that's not always the case. I've worked for financial publications, telecommunication companies, and software companies, and every time I'd see major SEO issues. Many rely on server admins or back end devs for this, but those professions don't usually concern themselves with search, or with the impact that their processes have on SEO. Sometimes they don't know what to look for. That's why I'm an advocate of bringing an SEO/webmaster on new web dev projects as early as possible. – Henry Visotski Jun 30 '17 at 15:06
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HTTP sites are (negligibly) faster than HTTPS sites due to not needing to negotiate encryption.

See this question I asked in 2012 for more details: https (SSL) instead of http for mobile users

Practically speaking, I work with a well-known university and they tried to switch to HTTPS only about a year ago...

If memory serves, their (well known) cloud hosting company didn't support TLS 1.2...or maybe it did support 1.2 and didn't support 1.1.

I forget.

Point is, they had to abandon HTTPS only/preferred because one of their DNS/Hosting providers didn't fully support the HTTPS protocols that their users would require.

Let's just say that it's best to have a website that is useful to as many people as possible, regardless of protocol.

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