Google has just announced that they will be starting to crawling certain websites over HTTP/2 from November this year.

Googlebot has been crawling using the HTTP protocol since it’s outset and this represents the first time they are using the faster and more efficient HTTP/2 protocol to crawl suitable sites.

What is HTTP/2

HTTP/2 is the latest version of HTTP, one of the main benefits of HTTP2 is that it allows your website to be crawled in a much a more efficient way. This is because it only opens a single connection to the server which allows it to transfer multiple files over in parallel. This is in contrast to HTTP where it has to open multiple connections for different requests.

Using this method takes the load off the server and in turn, improves performance. Anything that reduces overall load is a win for both the website and crawler.

Does my website support HTTP/2?

There are a good number of tools which you can test if your website currently supports HTTP/2:

You can also use the Network tab in Chrome Web Developer tools to add a ‘protocol’ field which lets you see the version they are using:

HTTP2 Chrome Web Developer Tools Test

How to know if my site is being crawled by HTTP/2?

Google has said they will send out a message through Search Console to Webmasters whose site has started to be crawled through HTTP/2. You can also check through log files to see the protocol they are using.

Not every site that’s HTTP2 enabled will be crawled using the updated protocol, this is based on Google’s tests finding little benefits across some sites so they will continue to crawl using HTTP/1.1. This is a similar approach to how the carried out the mobile first indexing initially, they only rolled it out to sites which were ready.

Analysis

HTTP/2 is much more efficient than its predecessor and it’s positive to see there is going to be a shift towards this across the board. While they aren’t supporting all the features of HTTP/2 yet (such as server push) it’s safe to say these are being worked on a will become available as HTTP/2 crawling becomes more ubiquitous.

As an SEO my first thoughts go to a few key questions.

Will this improve my rankings?

The short answer is no, using HTTP2 will not be a part of the ranking algorithm. It’s purely for server performance and doesn’t have a big impact on a user.

Will using HTTP/2 increase my crawl rate?

Common sense would say that if crawling takes less resource then the Googlebot would be able to crawl more. However, we know that crawl rate is dictated by a much larger range of metrics than just server performance:

  • TTFB (time to first byte)
  • Content demand (how popular the pages are)
  • Content freshness (is the content updated regularly)

So even if Googlebot can crawl more efficiently it won’t decide to crawl more just because it can.

Will I be able to get more content indexed?

Based on the previous question this is another no, Google won’t suddenly decide to start indexing more content just because it’s taking fewer resources to crawl your site.

Will this impact my Core Web Vitals?

With the recently released Core Web Vitals, site performance has been a key focus as it’s being rolled into the core algorithm sometime in 2021.

This will not impact your Core Web Vitals as the performance increase from HTTP/2 is incredibly small. The change is also focused on Googlebot and these scores are taken from your actual users rather the crawling bot.

Conclusion

HTTP/2 has been around for a while now and there are many sites that are using.

It’s great to see that Google is updating their bot to use more modern technology, but it’s important to understand that this isn’t anything to do with the ranking algorithm.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out when your site has been switched over to new the crawl, will Google gradually start to use the new protocol or will it be a mix until they a fully confident that each page is using HTTP/2.

Charlie Norledge

Technical SEO Consultant

Charlie is a Technical SEO Specialist at Impression.

Charlie has specialist knowledge in Technical SEO.

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