Why You Should Convert Your Website to HTTPS Secure
Did you know that since October 2017, Google is flagging all sites as not secure if they have log in or other input sections on HTTP basis? Well, it’s true. It all began back in 2014, when Google acknowledged the fact that it rewards HTTPS sites over HTTP sites with higher rankings. The question remains, however, about how much of a boost it gives pages for switching to the secure protocol. Is the impact of HTTPS over HTTP on SEO significant enough to make the change? That’s what we’ll explore.
What’s the Difference Between HTTP and HTTPS?
HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, and acts as the liaison between servers and web pages. It is one of the underlying mechanisms of the Internet that transfers information from a web server to your browser and shows the information presented on a website. The information transferred through HTTP is not secure. Those with the right tools would find it easy to see the information which goes back and forth.
HTTPS uses the same mechanisms as HTTP, but the S means that it uses an extra level of security in the process of transporting data from the server to the screen. HTTPS works in tandem with the SSL protocol (Secure Sockets Layer). SSL works with HTTPS to encrypt the contents of individual packets while still allowing the internet to understand where the packet needs to go. Once it reaches your browser, the packet is unencrypted and displayed.
In the beginning, this type of encryption was used by banks and any place where credit cards were used. Its development was one of the main reasons why internet e-commerce was accepted. However, the use of HTTPS has considerably broadened after it was identified as a ranking factor in 2014. Many companies got on board to receive that tiny boost.
The use of HTTPS on a site conveys trust because it means the information you give to the site is encrypted. Third parties aren’t able to see the information, such as a credit card number, unless they have the necessary certificates. Many of the hacks that came out during the 2000s were from websites that didn’t use this protocol. Later, individuals got the ability to use SSL directly to hide their browsing habits and protect their privacy.
Is HTTPS Really a Search Ranking Factor?
Google did say that they wanted to help create a more secure internet by promoting HTTPS. Many of their internal services now run on HTTPS and their links will try to establish an HTTPS connection. All modern browsers support HTTPS, so there isn’t a worry about incompatibility except for people with really old browsers. However, companies do have to pay for a certificate every year. This certificate is a piece of data that HTTPS uses to certify that you are the site you claim to be.
While Google did come out with the fact that HTTPS is a ranking factor, according to the research done by Backlinko, the influence HTTPS has on ranking is minor. They analyzed over a million sites and found that, while there was an influence, it was extremely minor. In essence, it’s like adding a little more pepper to an already peppered dish—the extra spice doesn’t hurt, but it might feel a bit irrelevant.
Why Should You Switch Over to HTTPS?
While there are only slight advantages from a search engine optimization standpoint, it’s still something Google has built into its rankings algorithm, and every little bit helps. Having outside trust in your brand is something Google searches for, because their goal is to provide its users with the best information possible. Google understands that you have to go through some hassles to receive that certification, and it rewards you.
Plus there are many other advantages to implementing an SSL certificate for your site besides a small SEO boost. Any site that handles credit card or personal information should be protected as a matter of course.
In fact, modern browsers will actually give a warning if they detect that an unsecured site might be asking for information. If a customer were to receive this message, their trust in your brand will drop significantly. They might even think they were being hacked.
For companies, it’s a public relations nightmare to find out that your servers have been breached. With SSL backing up your site’s security, it’s much harder to see what information is going in and out of your website. That takes a big load off the mind of potential clients.
So, even if the ranking factor is insignificant, the other potential problems for not having HTTPS are much more dangerous than a ranking drop.
Checklist for Switching to HTTPS
While this isn’t a full list of tips and tricks for changing your site from HTTP to HTTPS, these are definitely some important things to keep in mind. It’s better to err on the side of caution, right?
- Always perform a full backup of the target site before making the change. While making the move has been described as “easy” by several IT professionals, it’s still a smart bet to back up the files on the server before making changes.
- Make sure that the redirects are correct. Changing over to HTTPS means that the page addresses on your site will also change. If you have a smaller site, this is the perfect opportunity to make sure that all of your content is up to snuff.
- Ensure your Google Console settings are correct. For the sake of your rankings and making sure that you have a solid presence, you want to ensure that both URLs are in Google Console so that your analytics work properly.
- Keep the robots in the loop. To get your site indexed properly, ensure that your pages with the new URLs are in your robots.txt file. You want these indexed as soon as possible.
- Test it once you’re done. Once you’re done with changing to HTTPS, it’s time to test everything to make sure that it works.
Changing your site over to HTTPS isn’t that hard. And it’s not only worth it from an SEO point of view, but also from the customer’s perspective. Anything we can do as site owners that instills confidence is well worth our time.