Optimising Your Website for HTTP/2 Crawling and SEO
From November 2020 Googlebot is supporting crawling over HTTP/2. Initially this will be for ‘select sites’, with a plan to gradually increase its coverage.
But what exactly is HTTP/2, what are its benefits and how can you implement it on your website?
What is HTTP/2?
Most servers are currently configured to HTTP/1.1, which has been used for the last 20 years or so. HTTP/1.1 only allows you to make single server requests, one at a time, meaning that the client has to make multiple requests for resources in order to successfully render the page, which can take a lot of time if there are a lot of resources.
There are two types of HTTP server requests, GET and POST. GET requests are usually used to request information from the server to the browser (like a web page or an image). POST requests are usually used for more secure requests such as receiving a form submission from a contact form.
HTTP/2, also known as ‘h2’, allows you to make multiple requests for different file types, such as html, jpeg, css, js, etc.
According to Google:
‘it's the next major version of HTTP...HTTP/2 is much more robust, efficient, and faster than its predecessor, due to its architecture and the features it implements for clients (for example, your browser) and servers.’
Benefits of using HTTP/2
Search Engine Land has called HTTP/2 ‘one of the greatest advancements in web technology in the past 20 years’.
And there are some pretty significant benefits to consider, which you can see briefly outlined here:
- HTTP/2 reduces the number of requests to the server, reducing the resources a server needs to use
- It reduces load time, so offers a better user experience and the SEO benefits that entails
- It reduces latency (the time it takes for a network connection to open over a distance - one of the main issues affecting web speed and a major reason for Google to develop HTTP/2)
- It enables much more efficient crawling for websites and saves crawl budget
How to implement HTTP/2
If your server supports HTTP/2 and Google already crawls a lot from your website, you might be eligible for a connection upgrade already, without having to do anything.
But if you want to make sure you can take advantage of the expected benefits of HTTP/2, you’ll need to ensure the following:
- Your website is already on the HTTPS protocol. If not you will need to move from HTTP to HTTPS
- Your web server is able to support HTTP/2
- Your server is configured to use HTTP/2
This post from Cloudflare details lots of ways to check whether your site supports HTTP/2.
It’s also worth noting though that Google have said they will not be crawling every HTTP/2-enabled site over h2, if there is ‘little to no benefit...for example those with limited qps’ (queries-per-second).
HTTP/2 will be with us very soon, and although Google state there’s ‘no explicit drawback’ to remaining on HTTP/1.1, the benefits mentioned above suggest that it’s well worth getting on board and moving to HTTP/2 now, so that your site can be in the best position to embrace this next step in the evolution of web technology.
Introduction to HTTP/2 - Google
An introduction to HTTP/2 for SEOs - Distilled
HTTP/1.1 vs HTTP/2: What's the Difference? - DigitalOcean
Why Everyone Should Be Moving to HTTP/2 - Search Engine Land
Tools for debugging, testing and using HTTP/2 - Cloudflare