The HTTPS vs. HTTP debate has raged on for years now. Initially, the high cost and complexity of HTTPS technology made it a barrier for many businesses. However, these are no longer issues. As well due to the weight that Google puts on HTTPS sites in search ranking, it’s an important item to do for your website today.
Many business owners don’t fully understand what HTTPS is, and how they benefit from switching. In this short guide, we summarize the basics to help you better understand the new protocol and make an informed decision on whether or not to switch over.
What is HTTPS?
To display the information we see on our PC and mobile screens, our web browsers fetch information from web servers across the globe. The communication between web browsers and servers is governed by a set of rules known as Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). HTTPS is essentially a secure version of HTTP.
How Does It Differ From HTTP?
The procedure for communication between a web browser and server remains the same for both HTTP and HTTPS. The only difference is that with HTTPS, the connection is encrypted.
For a seamless encryption/decryption process, the communicating parties begin by establishing a verification protocol. In HTTPS, verification is achieved using Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificates. SSL certificates contain critical pieces of information, the owner’s name, digital signature, certificate key, and validity dates. Each party requests and verifies the other party’s SSL certificate to confirm that they are communicating with the right entity.
After verification, the parties exchange an encryption/decryption key. In this case, both encryption and decryption use a single key. Only the communicating parties know about the key and therefore only the two can unlock messages sent over the connection.
Why You Need HTTPS for Your Small Business
There are four main reasons business’ should switch to HTTPS:
HTTPS is Safer
With HTTPS in place, communication becomes private. Under no circumstances can third parties see or access shared messages. This can help businesses deal with credit card and identity theft as well as other forms of cyber threats.
HTTPS is Better for SEO Performance
In 2014, Google publicly announced that HTTPS is now a ranking factor. In 2017 non-HTTPS sites started being penalized by the search provider by showing up lower in search results.
Avoid the “Not Secure” Warning
As part of Google’s ongoing quest for increased internet security, as of July 2018, the search engine marks all non-HTTPS sites as “Not Secure” in the address bar. Hence with all the cybersecurity issues, this can’t be good for your online presence. Therefore this becomes a factor in visitor confidence in the website and the brand.
It’s a Prerequisite for HTTP/2
A revision of the HTTP protocol, HTTP/2 boasts some incredible performance benefits including faster website speeds and concurrent load times. However, it should be noted, however, that on major browsers, including Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, to use HTTP/2, you first need to set up HTTPS.
How to Set Up HTTPS on Your Site
Set up HTTPS in four simple steps.
- Purchase an SSL certificate: Your web provider or web host can assist you with this.
- Install the SSL certificate: Your hosting company or website developer can take care of this for you.
- Clean up “mixed content” errors: Mixed content errors occur when a webpage references non-HTTPS elements. Often images or other site content need an adjustment to be under the “https” loading protocol.
- Notify Google of your migration: Upon notification, Google will re-index your site to reflect your new HTTPS status. This guarantees your site isn’t penalized for a non-secure site.
Expect a slight, temporary dip in SERP rankings immediately following the HTTPS migration. After a short period, however, you’ll return to your normal position or, more likely, have a better search engine ranking.
That’s the basics on the HTTPS scenario for websites. Need assistance with your site? Let us know!