What is HTTP2 and How Will it Affect Your SEO?

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What is HTTP2 and How Will it Affect Your SEO?

HTTP/2 is a much needed refresh of the HTTP protocol that was based largely on Google’s own SPDY protocol. The protocol brings with it vast improvements in communication between browsers and servers, reducing load times.

The two biggest changes are that the protocol did away with a lot of redundancy in the headers and it allows for multiplexing, or requesting multiple files at the same time. With more than 50% of websites now loading 75 or more files, according to HTTP Archive, multiplexing is a huge boon to newer websites that typically rely on more files.

TLDR; switch from HTTP/1.1 to HTTP/2. It’s easier than you think and there are no downsides. If a browser doesn’t support HTTP/2, it will simply downgrade the connection to HTTP/1.1. All you need to do to make your website support the new protocol is update your server software, assuming your server supports HTTP/2 (most do or will be adding supporting soon).

The one caveat to this is most major browsers only support the HTTP/2 protocol over a secure connection, so if your website is not already secured, then you’ll have to make the switch. Luckily for us, many hosts, CDNs, and other entities are now offering free TLS certificates which eliminates cost as a barrier to entry to security. Remember as well that HTTPS is a Google ranking factor and the switch to HTTP/2 will be better for user experience since it is faster.

Where HTTP/2 truly shines is on slower connections such as mobile networks. Without the additional round trips, the load time on slower mobile networks is reduced significantly. I would say, for most mobile networks, HTTP/2 reduces the load times more than Google AMP, but that’s not to say that you can’t use both together!

What is HTTP2 and How Will it Affect Your SEO? | SEJ

Does HTTP/2 Affect Your SEO?

John Mueller, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, stated that Googlebot will support HTTP/2. At the time this article was written, it’s not yet confirmed that this has happened. It may have happened with all the algorithm changes in January, but there were so many, it’s difficult to tell. What’s interesting is, to my knowledge, Googlebot never supported SPDY. Google’s announcement of support for HTTP/2 shows that they will likely be adding more user experience indicators to the algorithms or, at the very least, adding HTTP/2 as a ranking signal this year. Even if there isn’t a significant boost to your rankings, remember that you are better serving your users by having a faster website.

Are SEO Companies Supporting HTTP/2?

I was surprised to find that few SEO companies seem to have added support for HTTP/2. I checked roughly 75 SEO companies whose employees routinely speak at conferences and write for various SEO blogs and could count the number of SPDY and HTTP/2 implementations on one hand. This baffles me, as so many of these companies tout better UX and increased site speed in their service offerings—but perhaps they are updating client sites and haven’t gotten around to their own yet. Even SEJ doesn’t seem to have support yet, even though they added support for HTTPS. What would happen if they did? According to my quick test from LoadImpact.com, SEJ’s load time for the homepage would decrease from 1.89 seconds to 1.25 seconds!

[Editor note: We’re aware and considering it! :)]

What Else Should SEOs Have on Their Radar?

I think that the IETF will standardize QUIC (another protocol by Google) within the next few months. The biggest advantage to this is the protocol runs on top of UDP instead of TCP. UDP master race. QUIC actually improves multiplexing. A single packet dropped in HTTP/2 can cause an overall delay, whereas the same packet dropped in QUIC will only delay one stream. This is reducing what is called head-of-line blocking. QUIC actually has 0ms round trip times for repeat connections and can establish new connections faster than HTTP/2. QUIC has some serious advantages for streaming video as well. Most people don’t realize that Google is already using QUIC on some of their services, including YouTube. YouTube users using Chrome with QUIC support were found to be 30% less likely to experience video buffering.

Giga is a replacement for TCP from Akamai which averaged a 30% speed increase. Areas of the world such as India and China had over 150% speed increases. Giga is better at determining which connections still have capacity, it’s better at determining connection paths, and also at detecting when packets are dropped and quickly sending them again.

Keep in mind that updating to HTTP/2 is as simple as updating your server software. Even if you don’t see a boost to your rankings yet, take comfort in the fact that the additional speed will be good for your users and likely your conversion rates.

Are you going to make the switch to HTTP/2?

Image Credits

Featured Image: geralt/Pixabay.com
In-post Photo: geralt/Pixabay.com

Patrick Stox

Patrick Stox

SEO Specialist at IBM
Patrick Stox is an SEO Specialist for IBM and an organizer for the Raleigh SEO Meetup, the most successful SEO Meetup in the US.
Patrick Stox
Patrick Stox

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  • Madison Woods

    Wow, I ran the check on mine and it would go from 1.31 sec to 0.91. That’s huge! Thanks for this heads-up post. But I just checked with my hosting company and they have no plans to add this support, which is disappointing.

    • Patrick Stox

      You’re welcome Madison. Check and see if you host has support for SPDY since it’s been available for a lot longer. It would provide nearly the same speed increases and has better support currently.

      • Madison Woods

        I’ll ask. I hope they do. Thanks!

      • Gerry White

        SPDY is being deprecated soon, so is there any downside to using.

        As youbsay http/2 isn’t really talked about except in https migrations

      • Patrick Stox

        You’re correct, it will be deprecated in Chrome on May 15th, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t still be supported for a while longer and once it is deprecated, it just means that if your browser has dropped support that you’re back to using HTTP/1.1.

    • Kelsey Jones

      That is a big change! Wow.

  • asefati

    Finally a good technical SEO article worth reading. It was news to me, thank you.

    • Patrick Stox

      I’m glad you found it useful.

  • Andrew

    Thanks for your post,

    • Patrick Stox

      You’re welcome Andrew.

  • Apni Tricity

    Thanks for providing this important information.

    • Patrick Stox

      You’re welcome Apni, thanks for reading.

  • John Goatbirth

    HTTP/2 is sooo last year. When is HTTP/3 coming out? I want it yesterday, not now! My sales funnel needs leveraging through the business spiel pipeline.

    • Patrick Stox

      Haha, HTTP/2 is definitely last year and maybe by the time HTTP/3 comes out, people will adopt it.

  • Husnain Abbas

    Hey Patrick, thanks for sharing this very informative article.

    • Patrick Stox

      Thank you for taking the time to read it Husnain.

  • Paul

    Its a helpful post thanks for sharing

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  • sattamatkapress

    nice post

  • Muhammad Junaid

    Such a great post and very useful information about HTTP2 version, I think HTTP2 will going to become a core ranking factor just like HTTPS in the past.

  • chamini

    Thanks for sharing the information, Is it good to use HTTP/2 Comparing to HTTPS ???

    • Patrick Stox

      You should use both. In fact, most browsers won’t serve content over HTTP/2 unless the website is using a secure connection.

  • sattamatkapress

    grate post i have ever read in this month thanking you for the useful information

  • lily smith

    I never heard before about HTTP/2.. I got some points about this but still I am confused.

    • Patrick Stox

      Basically, it’s a new protocol that is an update to HTTP/1.1 which wasn’t written for the modern internet. It will reduce strain on servers by doing away with additional connections. In the past developers and SEOs were forced into various tricks to overcome the limitations of HTTP/1.1 including domain sharding, using image sprites, inlining, combining files, and using cookieless domains. Most of that is gone now although tests have shown that combining files may still be best practice. Hopefully that helps explain some of the benefits but if you have any additional questions, please let me know.

  • Siri Innovations

    In this post you shared new information because very rare people know about this http2 only, but if you explain more clearly means everyone can understand it was really little bit confused.

  • Yash Pratap

    How can we implement http/2 in our existing websites, need some guidelines…!!!! Could you help me @Patrick Stox

  • Patrick Stox

    Awesome response Filipe and exactly right. I’ll add that in addition to letsencrypt, many CDNs are now offering free SSL certificates as well.

  • Daniel Boswell

    I just asked our server company about making the switch. If I understand correctly, our one site which is already https will benefit and our other site which isn’t secure would just revert to http/1/1. Correct me if I’m wrong on that. Anyhow, thanks for the article and I hope to see some improvements with SEO due to increased speed!

    • Patrick Stox

      You got it, you’ll see no change on the site that isn’t secure, but should see a fairly significant increase in speed on the site that is.

  • Randy Downs

    We would love to implement a faster protocol. Our host don’t support it yet. 🙁

    • Patrick Stox

      Sounds like it’s time to start looking for another host Randy.

      • Randy Downs

        I hear you but that’s never fun. We are probably paid up for a couple of years too. 🙁

      • Patrick Stox

        That’s a tough spot to be in. I just worry that they’re not updating their software. I see servers with so much out of date software that has known vulnerabilities that I’m not surprised how many websites are hacked anymore.

        If you still want to make use of HTTP/2, several CDNs have support. CloudFlare is free at the base level and has support.

      • Randy Downs

        Awesome, I will try CloudFlare.

      • Randy Downs

        I made the mistake of enabling DNSSEC 1st go round only to find that my host doesn’t support it without additional charges. That pretty much made my websites inaccessible so I deleted them from CloudFlare & went back to default GoDaddy Nameservers.

        I am back on CloudFlare once again but not sure which servers I am hitting for speed tests.

        I am able to access sites via SSL so that’s a plus in itself.

        Thanks for your help.

  • Anthony

    This is certainly more of a reason to get your SSL certificates folks!

  • Yash Pratap

    Its Apache….

  • Patrick Stox

    Hey Daniel, you should be able to build it with EA3 which is probably the workaround they mention. If you don’t want to wait, you could ask them to drop in LiteSpeed.

  • Brenda

    If your serve company isn’t changing or isn’t sure about upgrading (Nexcess…I guess issues with Apache4) is that a red flag that a change is necessary to another provider. We have SSL already. Thought this would be a nice easy bump

  • BrisbaneBathrooms

    Interesting. I have been thinking of setting my business website to https.. if I even get a little boost in the serps it would be worth it. I’m bookmarking this for future ref. Cheers.

  • ineventos

    Great article! Still waiting for azure http/2 support…

  • MD Yusuf

    It is suitable for CloudFlare

  • Thomas Zickell

    I think that the move to HTTP/2 is extremely important. it will be much more important once Googlebot has changed to work with the protocol. As of right now unfortunately Google has yet to make Googlebot crawl via HTTP/2. If you think of crawl budget and HTTP/2 it makes sense for Google to move to it it also makes sense for them to take a while to do so. It needs to be more accessible and hosting companies must take the initiative. Anybody can add Incapsula, CloudFlare or Sucuri’s WAF in order to take advantage of this technology. I believe next week Armor Anywhere will also be HTTP/2.
    Searchenginejournal uses PressLabs correct? They are great company.