Tom Anthony – VP Product at Distilled – gave a great talk this morning on HTTP/2, which represents a major revision of the HTTP network protocol. He broke down what it is, why you should implement it and what the SEO benefits might be.
To introduce the topic, Tom took us back to the origins of communication online and a conversation from 1996. A professor at an American university was complaining that his emails weren’t able to travel more than 500 miles. The reason for this turned out to be a misconfigured server, which would time out after 6 milliseconds. 500 miles happens to be the distance which light can travel in 6 milliseconds, and is at the crux of the issue when it comes to increasing content delivery speeds – latency. Latency describes the speed at which light, and messages, can travel. This will never change, which means the web development community need to find different ways of transferring messages quick. This is where HTTP/2 comes in.
What is HTTP?
HTTP means HyperText Transfer Protocol. HTTP is the underlying protocol used by the World Wide Web. Traditionally, when the web was simpler, servers would form a connection and make a request. A few requests would be enough to form a simple web page. This is whats known as HTTP/1.
As the web has grown and sites have become more complicated, the number of requests needed to form a web page has grown, now commonly between 50 and 100 requests per page. Only one request can be made per connection. HTTP/2 aims to make multiple, simultaneous connections, allowing requests to be fulfilled faster.
Why HTTP/2 matters?
Google confirmed earlier this month that user experienced will be measured and it will constitute a key ranking factor. HTTP/2 will lead to faster load times and better user experience as a result. So, whilst HTTP/2 won’t aid google bots, it will aid the user, meaning a great propensity for your site to rank well.
How does HTTP/2 work?
HTTP/2 now allows browsers to open 6-8 connections to a specific server (any more than 8 connections will cause diminishing returns). With up to 8 connections being made, requests are able to be fulfilled quicker and page load speeds decrease.
HTTP/2 is also significantly improved with the use of a Content Delivery Network (CDN). CDN’s host local versions of files, meaning they are retrieved quicker. Essentially, it is much easier for a server located in the UK to retrieve files from within the UK, as opposed to if it has to retrieve them from overseas.
HTTP/2 is not a migration project. Unlike with the introduction of HTTPS, there will be no redirecting or other development exercises to be carried out. Very often, just the implementation of a CDN will satisfy HTTP/2 requirements, providing your site already operates HTTPS.
- It is a quick performance win. You can roll out a CDN to make deployment ‘easy’.
- HTTP/2 requires HTTPS. We are now likely to see last hold outs migrating to HTTPS.
- SPDY is the precursor to HTTP/2 and is not relevant anymore. There is a chrome extension shows you which server and protocol sites are using so you can review this.
- Moving to HTTP/2 is not a migration. HTTP to HTTPS was a migration with URL changes etc. But this is not the case with HTTP/2. It is something that happens at the network layer. So if you can do it you should.
- This is something that Google can detect so it is a nice easy win for us as SEOs.
You can find Tom’s full slides here – https://www.slideshare.net/TomAnthony/http2-brightonseo-2018