HTTP vs. HTTPS & Why It’s Time to Go Secure
Thanks to the internet, people are finding what they want faster, companies are getting your business faster and I’m getting this article in front of you faster than ever before – just ask my editor. As a consumer, there’s less lag-time from wanting to receiving. And as a service provider, there’s a lot more consideration going into security and what happens to the information users (knowingly, or unknowingly) publish online.
This month, we reached a huge milestone in website security. What does it mean for your website and consumers? What does it mean for the future of internet privacy? Let’s dive in and find out.
What is HTTPS?
HTTPS is short for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. It’s the secure version of HTTP and that’s important to know because a site with regular HTTP is not encrypting their data. Meaning, your information is vulnerable to being stolen. Fortunately, HTTPS adds security in the form of a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) certificate. This adds encryption to any sensitive data sent between your browser and the server.
But, what is really happening?
Once you tell your web server to use a certificate, your site is now considered HTTPS. Every time a browser reaches your site, it uses the information from your certificate to verify that your domain is accurate, and the site is authentic.
After the verification process is complete, the browser and your website will complete a “virtual handshake” to officially declare your website as secure! Once you get the ‘OK’ from the browser to be HTTPS, you’ll see the address bar using green text indicating the site is secure.
Keep in mind, however, you won’t get the green text if URLs like your resources are still using HTTP. You’ll still have HTTPS in the URL string, but the browser won’t recognize your site as completely secure and you won’t get the fancy green text. Once your site is officially HTTPS, your users are safer to enter their information on the site.
Why Go Secure with HTTPS?
The movement to securing your data began when Google recommended sites switch to HTTPS. In return, Google offered a small ranking boost. Sites heard the news of the new ranking signal and began the process the moving from HTTP to HTTPS. Since that announcement, results for secured HTTPS sites have slowly taken over the search engine results page. The latest results from MozCast show 85.6% of queries return an HTTPS site!
Google preferring trusted and secure sites should not be a surprise. Before the movement towards HTTPS, users typically only saw e-commerce sites with HTTPS because transactions require sensitive information like credit cards or addresses.
However, through Google’s influence, everyone is joining the trend. The HTTPS ranking signal is a small one by some SEOs, but as more sites trend towards HTTPS, you may see Google strengthen the ranking signal.
Strengthening the signal back when HTTPS was less common would have caused too much of disruption to the rankings, but Google may reward responsible site owner as more secure their sites in the future.
Avoid the Negative Conversion Consequences
If you’re still unsure about going HTTPS, web browsers are now marking sites as “Not secure” in the address bar. If the small ranking boost isn’t enough to go secure, then web browsers are going to shame you into it.
Beginning in July 2018, Google Chrome began marking all non-HTTPS site with “Not secure” in the address bar. Marketer’s first thought was how it’s going to affect conversions when a user provides their information on a site that’s unsecured. Websites used to be able to get away with having an unsecured site, but users are now providing more data online than ever before and their security is becoming a major topic. They will now have to think twice about providing their information to an unsecured site and this can have negative consequences on conversions.
Accelerated Mobile Pages Require HTTPS
Also known as AMP, these pages require HTTPS to function correctly says former Googler Maile Ohye. AMP was a creation by Google and was designed to load a page instantaneously. Since its beginning in 2015, AMP has grown in popularity and become a common feature for publishers. Google even favors AMP in their news carousel, leaving non-AMP publishers behind.
Google has always preached fast page load speeds, hence the embrace of sites with AMP. If your site is looking to get all the benefits of AMP, then going to HTTPS is a must.
Are There Any SEO Challenges with HTTPS?
While there isn’t a whole lot to worry about from an SEO perspective, there are still a few things to check to ensure a smooth migration:
- Migrate your whole site at once. Google’s John Mueller says the search engine will process your migration faster if you move everything at once. If you were to do it section-by-section, it’ll take longer and leave more room for error. During migration day, make sure to notify Google in Search Console of the impending change to speed up the process.
- If you’re using absolute URLs for resources on your site, then update it to the new HTTPS version. However, if you’re using relative URLs, then you’re good to go.
- Allow your HTTPS site to be crawled and index. Make sure not to block your HTTPS site in your robots.txt and check to make sure there isn’t a no index meta tag on your new pages.
- With any migration, you may see a dip in traffic, but it’ll recover as Google finishes updating their index with your new HTTPS site.
Secure Your Company’s Bottom-Line
With the movement towards stronger internet privacy, a more secured internet was inevitable. If you haven’t made the switch from HTTP to HTTPS, we strongly encourage it because the benefits far outweigh the risk.
Don’t let a conversion slip away because a user is unsure about what’s happening to their information. Keep UX top of mind by letting them browse a secure site knowing their data is in safe hands.
What the Future of SEO Holds
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About David Manng
David is an SEO Strategist who is driven to learn everything he can about search engines and what makes them go. He enjoys getting into the data and creating strategies to grow client websites. He has worked in different areas of digital marketing, but SEO is his passion. He is always ready to have a conversation about the latest algorithm updates or Google doodle.
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