HTTP/2 Comes Out Soon – What does that mean For SEO?

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The first major update to the foundation of the web – HTTP will be rolled out this year as it has finally been finalized and  is on its way to the RFC Editor to go through editorial processes before being published as a standard.  That means most likely later this year we will see HTTP 1.1 retired and HTTP 2.0 become the standard for web traffic online.

Why is HTTP/2 so important?

Well, aside from the fact that this is the biggest update since the web became a verb, it does provide a whole slew of improvements to how web traffic works and how websites interact with web browsers.

The biggest difference is how a website serves traffic to a web browser.  Up until now web servers sent 1 file at a time to the web browser.  In other words, when a web browser (such as Chrome, or Internet Explorer, or Firefox) requested a page, the server would send the page line by line, file by file.  From top to bottom it would serve the content.  It would send the HTML page first, and then the corresponding CSS files, Javascript files, and images next – all in sequence.

With HTTP/2 servers will be “smarter” and able to “push” files at once, not having to wait for the browser to say it’s received the file before accepting another.  Up until now the speed at which web pages moved was relatively slow.  This is because how it works now is a browser requests a file, the server sends it and the browser has to send an acknowledgement of the complete receipt of the file before requesting the next one.  The server basically had to wait for that receipt and request before sending the next file.

Now the web server can assume the browser knows what it’s doing and start sending more files, sooner, and let the browser worry about how to assemble them without acknowledgement from the browser that it has in fact received all the files.

HTTP/2 also uses fewer connections.  This means that instead of using 6 connections (for example) to receive a completed web pages, it can use only 1 or 2, but because of the “pushing” of data from the server, the browser can still receive the same amount of data.  This will be particularly useful in mobile websites because mobile devices can use less memory on the device to request and render a page – increasing the speed at which mobile devices can interact with a website (or other web service).

There are also components built in to the new protocol to improve security, improve interaction with API’s and a host of other improvements.

Put in terms our older audience might understand, we just went from 3 channels to 30 because we went from our roof mounted antenna to cable TV.

How does this affect SEO?

There should be no negative impacts.  In fact this makes everything better, provided your hosting is up to par (that is the servers are updated when the new standard is applied) and there aren’t any other sort of bottlenecks that will affect your site speed.

Truly that should be the only negative impact – and it isn’t due to SEO  but your hosting provider.  That is because speed will become even more of a ranking factor moving forward.  But if your hosting is up to date than this won’t be an issue.

Not only that, but interactive media (such as videos) should see their importance rise because now more data can be pushed through the same pipe.

Traditional SEO can take advantage of the new protocol improvements as well by finding ways to exploit it to their advantage – whether that is optimizing images, implementing sitewide GZIP compression (if not already done) and utilizing CDN (content delivery networks) to further optimize site speed.

Really the rules we follow now will be the same, just faster.  And that’s good for everyone.

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