What You Need to Know About HTTP/2, HTTPS, and HTTP/1.1
Google has recently announced that Googlebot will start crawling over http/2 websites starting November 2020. This announcement reignited the interest over HTTP/2 as the most updated type of protocol. Questions on whether webmasters should switch to HTTP/2, the benefits of switching to HTTP/2, and will retaining HTTP/1.1 as the current site protocol be okay for rankings have risen and I’m here today to answer some of them. Let’s get started.
What is HTTP/2?
HTTP/2 is the upgraded version of HTTP/1.1 – a protocol that the internet uses to transfer data. Since it’s an upgraded version, HTTP/2 has a more efficient and faster time transferring data than its predecessor.
The primary difference between HTTP/2 and HTTP/1.1 is that the latter is a text-based protocol while the former has moved on to a binary protocol. This makes it easier for HTTP/2 to parse for clients (browsers) and servers. HTTP/2 also allows multiplexing – having your browser fire off multiple requests at one time on the same connection and receive them back in any order.
Overall, HTTP/2 is the better version of HTTP/1.1.
What is HTTP/1.1?
This used to be the most prevalent format of HTTP used by most websites. Unlike HTTP/2, HTTP/1.1 is a text-based protocol that is considered inefficient and slower in requesting webpage resources.
HTTP/1.1 is not capable of multiplexing since can only download one resource at a time, so it needs to wait until a request is sent back until it can request a new one which adds up to the loading time of a webpage. Although a browser can make use of multiple connections, if a user is trying to load a resource-heavy webpage, it will still be slower than an HTTP/2 website.
Additionally, HTTPS/1.1 had its last major upgrade in 1999. This means that the last time it had major improvements was 21 years ago. Comparing it to HTTP/2, the latter was only released in 2015.
What is HTTPS?
HTTPS isn’t a type of protocol but it’s a way of encrypting HTTP messages or requests for a more secure and safe online journey for users. I won’t go into too much detail about HTTPS since it is a common and well-known topic in the industry on how HTTPS affects SEO and Google has always been pushing for a safer and more secure search landscape through rewarding HTTPS websites.
Should You Move to HTTP/2?
Since Google will be providing support for HTTP/2 websites and it does seem like the obvious choice when compared to HTTP/1.1, the question now is should you move to HTTP/2?
If you’re worried about your HTTP/1.1 website affecting your rankings, Google confirmed that HTTP/2 is not a ranking factor. But, it being more beneficial to the users by achieving faster loading speeds for websites, there is still a high chance that Google will “reward” HTTP/2 websites since it’s “for the users”.
So, to answer the question, you SHOULD move to HTTP/2 provided that it will be easier for you to implement it since not all clients support HTTP/2 as of the moment. If you’re only thinking about moving because you’re afraid of it affecting your rankings, then I suggest that you need not worry. Google will still be supporting HTTP/1.1 websites. But if you have a choice between the two, always go for HTTP/2 since it is the better choice.
Additionally, HTTP/2 is used by almost half of all the websites on the internet. So, resources to help you understand it deeper will always be available and other webmasters that have experience with it will be able to help you.
How to Check if Your Site is Using HTTP/2
The common questions I see a lot in the forums are webmasters or developers having trouble determining if they’re using HTTP/1.1 or HTTP/2. Checking it is easy enough since there are available online testers. Here’s a screenshot when I tested if seo-hacker.com supports HTTP/2:
HTTP/2 is the better choice when compared to HTTP/1.1. But there are still a lot of obstacles and restrictions for some, so HTTP/1.1 is still a viable choice nonetheless. But, for both protocols, it is important for webmasters and SEOs to always go for the HTTPS version since it provides more safety and security. Additionally, browsers of today also show an unsafe or risk icon every time a user comes into an HTTP website which could affect bounce rate and dwell time. What do you think about HTTP/2? Are you currently using it or are you planning to implement it? Let me know in the comments below!