Google says it’s worth replacing internal HTTP links with the HTTP versions instead of relying on redirects. Here’s why.
Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller says you should always try to replace internal links pointing to HTTP URLs with the newer HTTP versions.
This is stated in a Reddit thread asking if it’s worth the effort to replace internal HTTP links with HTTPS versions, even when there are already redirects.
Several years ago, Google’s Gary Illyes said replacing links isn’t worth it when proper redirects are in place:
@pip_net if your redirects are properly implemented, the benefit from doing that is so minimal that IMO it's not worth it.
— Gary 鯨理／경리 Illyes (@methode) July 7, 2015
Now, Mueller says it’s “always” worth doing. Thankfully, as other commenters in the thread state, mass replacing HTTP internal links isn’t hard to do.
Here’s what Mueller says about replacing HTTP with HTTPS links and how to do it.
Replacing Internal HTTP Links With HTTP Versions
Mueller gives two reasons for replacing old HTTP internal links.
First, it’s cleaner than having a bunch of redirects. And, unlike external links, you have complete control over the URL visitors are sent to.
“I’d always try to fix internal links, it just makes things cleaner, and is under your own control. I doubt it would have any visible effect though.”
Replacing HTTP internal links likely won’t have a noticeable impact on search rankings, as Mueller says, but it’s worth doing.
Changing the links, rather than relying on redirects, can positively affect webpage performance.
Anyone clicking on a link that redirects to HTTPS has to go through the HTTP version first. Getting rid of the extra ‘hop’ means visitors get to the content faster.
In addition, relying on redirects for internal links is a fool’s errand. Many things can go wrong, such as redirect chains, redirect loops, and broken links.
If a site loads images with HTTP URLs, it can cause browsers to give visitors a “not secure” error message, deterring them from staying on your site.
Redirects eat your crawl budget because every redirect counts as a page crawled. Google can potentially crawl more pages per session without the redirects in place.
Lastly, you can’t depend on redirects working indefinitely. Redirects can break or get deleted while replacing the links ensures they’re changed forever.
With that said, here’s some information about mass replacing internal links.
Mass Replacing Internal Links
It’s not hard to replace internal links automatically, but the method varies depending on how your site is built.
Mass replacing internal links is as simple as running a find and replace in the database. You can change every reference to an HTTP URL to the HTTP version in one fell swoop.
If you have a WordPress site, several plugins make this task easy, such as Better Search Replace.
However, if you’re not comfortable making significant changes like this, I advise speaking with your developer first.
Keep in mind there’s always a risk of your site breaking when you make changes on a mass scale, so it’s essential to save a backup you can revert to.