2

Many of the outbound links on my site have changed but only from 'http' to 'https'. Do I need to add the 's' to all the links if they 301 redirect to HTTPS?

6
  • 1
    You tagged this as seo but I doubt there are SEO benefits for your site of implementing the changes. Are you interested only in SEO benefits, or do you also want to know about security and usability reasons to make the change? Aug 23 '20 at 18:08
  • 1
    How difficult it is to do this using your CMS will probably determine whether it is worth it. If it's easy, it's definitely worth it. If it's not easy, it might not be worth it. Aug 23 '20 at 18:51
  • 1
    @StephenOstermiller tiny heads up, your edit introduced a typo into the title Aug 23 '20 at 18:52
  • Actually, I would have to change each link separately so, if it doesn't matter, I won't worry about it. Thanks.
    – Lee
    Aug 23 '20 at 19:19
  • 2
    One problem we ran into, was that HTTPS -> HTTP does not carry referrer information. We had a client who for all intents and purposes thought we stopped sending them traffic as we slowly disappeared from their GA reports. After we updated their url to HTTPS, things returned to normal. Aug 24 '20 at 0:44
2

Security

Changing the links to HTTPS prevents a class of attacks against your users. When a user clicks off your site with a HTTP link, that request could easily be intercepted and changed. Instead of getting a 301 redirect to HTTPS, the attacker could instead feed malicious content to the user. Linking directly to the HTTPS site prevents that type of attack.

Speed

Clicking on HTTP links that redirect to HTTPS is slower. Because HTTP is on a separate port from HTTPS, it is necessary to create two different sockets. One for the HTTP request and then when redirected, one for the HTTPS request. That adds 100ms to 500ms of overhead to each and every click off your site via one of these links. Your users will have a faster experience if you link directly to HTTPS.

Referrer data

When you link from your HTTPS site via HTTP, browsers strip the referrer from the request. That means that the sites you link to won't see that you are linking to them. Linking directly to the HTTPS versions of the URLs will preserve the referrer and allow the other sites to give you credit for the links.

Browser warnings

Browsers are starting to show warnings when users visit HTTP URLs. While no browsers show warnings now when you link to HTTP sites that subsequently redirect to HTTPS, they may in the future. Changing the links to HTTPS now would prevent it from suddenly becoming a problem later.

SEO

It is possible that Google prefers sites that take care of the external links. Although I haven't seen any hard evidence for it, it is plausible that Google would ding sites that don't pay attention as their outbound links get stale. Even worse than URLs that redirect would be ones that have 404 errors.

Is it worth updating?

While there are benefits to changing the URLs, the benefits are relatively minor. The security attacks are rare, the speed increase in modest, the SEO benefits are speculative, and the referral data may not be important.

I recommend changing the URLs, but there is no need to rush and do so. You can change them a few at a time as you edit pages for other reasons if it is difficult to change them all at once.

It is more important to change outbound external links that are truly broken. You should periodically crawl your site and its external links to find any dead or redirected links. I try to do so with my sites once a year.

1
  • Thanks! That's excellent!
    – Lee
    Aug 25 '20 at 18:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.