Google has announced this week that Googlebot will be crawling selected sites using HTTP/2 from November. Whilst a number of mainstream web browsers have supported the HTTP/2 protocol for a while now, Google has decided that the time is right for Googlebot to follow suit.
But what is HTTP/2?
HTTP/2 is a major upgrade of the HTTP/1.1 protocol, which is more robust, secure and faster than its predecessor. HTTP/2 has been around since 2015 with both Cloudflare and Mozilla being early adopters of the new technology. According to W3Techs, over 98% of web browsers have HTTP/2 capability and as of August 2020, 48% of the top 10 million websites support HTTP/2. Overall HTTP is the application layer protocol that allows users to view websites and other content on the web.
What are the benefits of HTTP/2?
HTTP/2 has a number of performance advantages over HTTP/1.1, this includes reduced latency to improve page loading times. This is achieved by:
- Compressing HTTP headers
- Server Push
- Pipelining requests
- Multiplexing requests over a single TCP connection
Overall HTTP/2 is more secure, an SSL certificate is mandatory for HTTP/2 to work with web browsers.
What does this mean for Googlebot?
By Googlebot utilising HTTP/2, we should start to see the amount of resources needed for crawling reduced. This makes crawling more efficient for Google as well as the server the website is hosted on as by using HTTP/2, Googlebot can use a single TCP connection to transfer multiple files in parallel instead of opening multiple connections to retrieve files.
Google is starting a phase system rolling out HTTP/2, if you have a large site such as an ecommerce site that uses HTTP/2 then Googlebot should automatically start crawling using HTTP/2. This new feature will then be rolled out to other websites that will benefit from it.
Do I need to do anything?
As long as your website hosting already has HTTP/2 enabled there is nothing more you need to do. Googlebot will start crawling your website using the new protocol where appropriate. There are a number of tools online which you can use to test your website to check HTTP/2 is in use, these are:
- KeyCDN Test – https://tools.keycdn.com/http2-test
- HTTP2 Pro – https://http2.pro/
- Cloudflare Claire Chrome Extension – https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/claire/fgbpcgddpmjmamlibbaobboigaijnmkl
Is there any ranking benefit from using HTTP/2 to crawl my website?
The million pound question … No. HTTP/2 crawling won’t be and isn’t a ranking factor for SEO. The only advantage of HTTP/2 crawling is that Google can crawl your website more efficiently by using less resources for Googlebot and the server your website is hosted on.