The entire internet community owes a lot to Hypertext Transfer Protocol or HTTP. It is a networking protocol that virtually sustains the entire World Wide Web. Industry experts define HTTP as a network communication that your web browser communicates with the server of the website that you’re visiting.
This definition broadly gives a clear idea about the foundational role that HTTP plays in the operation of the internet. It is by far the most powerful and most widely used internet network protocol out there.
However, over the past decade internet became too dynamic & massive and this eventually paved way for an overarching desire that HTTP needs an overhaul. So in 2015 HTTP 1.1’s successor HTTP/2 was launched. Industry experts widely claim that HTTP’s newest version is based on Google’s SPDY project.
When Internet Engineering Task Force officially launched HTTP/2, Google in a sort of unambiguous way said that it may gradually give more prominence to website that use HTTP/2 protocol.
These feelers were enough to send the SEO community to an overdrive, Till date tones of articles have been write about how HTTP/2 protocol will impact SEO. While this article will surely add on that list, it will surely weed out all the confusion about whether or not this new protocol will decisively impact your website’s ranking in Google. Simply because most of the stuff in this blog post has come straight from Google’s mouth.
Google recently came with pretty detailed information on HTTP/2 protocol. This detailed information was part of Google’s announcement that from November 2020 Googlebot will start crawling some websites over HTTP/2. Hence if you want to know even slightly about how HTTP/2 will influence SEO then stay with this blog post.
How HTTP/2 influences website performance?
To decode HTTP/2’s impact on website’s search engine ranking, one will have to first understand how HTTP/2 will influence website’s overall performance. After going through Google’s webmaster blog and reading opinions of industry experts, I can say with supreme confidence that websites that are already or will use HTTP/2 will be in an advantageous position.
Simply because HTTP/2 will have a dramatically positive impact on website’s speed. No less than Cloudfare has claimed that new protocol will significantly bolster website speed, which essentially means that your website will load much faster.
HTTP/2’s robust performance boils down to a feature called ‘request multiplexing,’ which many industry experts hail new protocol’s most advanced feature. Request multiplexing basically enables HTTP/2 to send numerous requests for data in parallel over a single TCP connection instead of multiple TCP connections.
For all those who are non-technical or trying to understand this from a layman’s perspective then all they need to know is that fewer TCP connections results in better website performance. Simply because fewer TCP connections paves way for faster server response and faster retrieval of information, which basically results in swift transfer of data.
Let me explain this with a simple formula that will hopefully clear all the doubts about HTTP/2 and its impact on website.
HTTP/2 = fewer TCP connections = faster transfer of data = better website performance
HTTP 1.1 = multiple TCP connections = slower transfer of data = relatively poor website performance
For all those who don’t know TCP stands for Transmission Control Protocol and supposedly plays a key role in establishing and maintaining network conversation between a server & web browser.
So will using HTTP/2 benefit your website’s ranking
Now I finally come to the main point. First let us know what really is Google’s view on this important issue. The search engine giant addressed this important question in a Q & A format in one of its recently published blog post. Below is the screenshot of the blog post’s Q&A section.
This answer explicitly suggest that Google won’t give any preferential treatment to HTTP/2 enabled websites. However, I personally think that this answer shouldn’t be taken in a literal sense.
I have a reason to back this up. The reason being that website speed is in itself a pretty strong ranking factor. This is enough to suggest that HTTP/2’s prominence will increase in coming years. Google has also categorically said that Googlebot will gradually crawl more HTTP/2 enabled websites in the coming months. I personally think that this must be seen as a hint that growing prominence of HTTP/2 is only a matter of time.
One cannot rule out a future situation that makes HTTP/2 enabled protocol almost mandatory for all websites; just as it has almost become mandatory today for all websites to switch to HTTPS. The same HTTPS scenario cannot be ruled in the case of HTTP/2 as well in future.
So what happens to those HTTP 1.1 enabled websites? Should they get panicked and start making fanatic calls to their hosting company? The answer is ‘no.’ As of today, they have no reason to get panicked.
Google has explicitly said in its blog post that Googlebot will continue to crawl and index HTTP enabled websites. Its crawling won’t change, either qualitatively or quantitatively for HTTP 1.1 enabled websites. But as I said before that these assurance may not count all that much in future. For the sake of future, the website owners should make consistent efforts in coming months to switch their website to HTTP/2 protocol.
How to switch over to HTTP/2 protocol?
Before thinking to switching over to HTTP/2 protocol, people must first verify whether or not your website is enabled with HTTP/2 protocol. There is every likelihood that your website is already enabled with HTTP’s new version but you may not be aware about it. One way to verify the same is to check your server logs. Now this method may prove a little tricky for those who are not tech-savvy and are not all that acquainted with coding knowledge.
For these people browser indictor extensions like ‘HTTP/2 and SPDY indicator’ can prove pretty helpful. This is actually a chrome extension that inserts different colored lightening blot to the browser bar displaying the protocol status. To know more about this extension please click on the above link. There is a similar extension for Firefox as well. It is called HTTP/2 indicator by Brandon Siegel.
Another simple method is to call your website’s hosting service provider and enquire about the HTTP/2 status. If your hosting company uses Apache and Nginx server then conventionally it should be able to provide HTTP’s latest protocol.
Website speed is an important ranking factor and given that HTTP/2 significantly enhances website performance, migrating to this latest protocol must be put into priority list. If not immediately then sometime in near future. Whenever you decide to switch to latest HTTP version, try to ensure whether your hosting company provides all the HTTP/2 features including the all-important multiple requesting.
Before concluding I would like to bring to your notice that HTTP/2 has already become a mainstream. According to W3Techs, today 49% of the top 10 million websites are supported by HTTP/2 protocol. Before finally concluding, I would like to end with a teaser. HTTP/2 already has a successor, HTTP/3, which is essentially an upcoming version of HTTP. But the world will wait a bit longer for HTTP/3.