When a web giant such as Google makes a suggestion, website owners tend to listen. And that’s the case with HTTPS, which does get priority in search rankings and indexing. But that’s not the only reason to move your website to HTTPS.
So, what is HTTPS anyway?
HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure and provides three layers of protection when moving data secured through TLS through the web, according to Google’s documentation.
- Encryption: Encrypting the exchanged data to keep it secure from eavesdroppers. That means that while the user is browsing a website, nobody can “listen” to their conversations, track their activities across multiple pages, or steal their information.
- Data Integrity: Data cannot be modified or corrupted during transfer, intentionally or otherwise, without being detected.
- Authentication: Proves that your users communicate with the intended website. It protects against man-in-the-middle attacks and builds user trust, which translates into other business benefits.
To make the move to HTTPS, you will need a security certificate and migrate from HTTP to HTTPS, which is a site move and URL change. (It can take a little time to ensure that all URLs are using the correct protocol and redirects, making this the top barrier to switching.)
Google has a full guide to making the switch that’s probably the best how-to available.
1. Google Likes HTTPS
We’ll start with Google, since it has been mentioned multiple times already. The top reason to move to HTTPS might be because Google likes it. Seriously. This can impact everything from indexing priority to search ranking.
One of the primary reasons Google likes HTTPS is because of security. This can be especially important for websites that transmit any type of sensitive data – think credit card or payment information. Users want to know that their information is protected. Not only will they look for the small lock icon in the URL bar, but users are likely to leave a site without a secure payment gateway.
Elements like this all go into the recommendation from Google to deploy HTTPS.
2. It’s Inexpensive Right Now
There aren’t that many website elements that we recommend jumping on because they are cheap – or free – but this is one of them. Lots of hosting companies are offering free security certificates to help more website owners make the switch. (Check with your host today!)
It’s a deal you want to jump on. It’s unlikely that free (or very inexpensive) security certificate offers will last forever. You should grab them for your domains to make the most of companies trying to encourage the switch.
Pro Tip: Make sure your security certificate is at least 2048 bits and it comes from a reliable certificate authority that provides support.
3. SEO Benefits
Google liking something results in a two-part benefit, and the second is increased search visibility.
But don’t expect to see a surge in traffic overnight. While Google will give HTTPS priority over HTTP, it’s probably more of a long game for most smaller website owners. You’ll start building new search credibility now, which can impact rankings down the line. (Changes hurt less when traffic isn’t as robust.)
The lesson here for webmasters thinking about HTTPS is that if Google recommends it, you should probably listen. (The search giant has actually been using HTTPS as a ranking factor since 2014, and the transition has been somewhat slow for most sites, which tend to implement HTTPS as part of a redesign.)
Using HTTPS also gives you access to HTTP/2, which can make the internet faster. In more technical terms: “The primary goals for HTTP/2 are to reduce latency by enabling full request and response multiplexing, minimize protocol overhead via efficient compression of HTTP header fields, and add support for request prioritization and server push.”
And faster websites rank higher in search… and user preference.
4. Credibility with Users
Credibility comes in two forms:
- Credibility with people who visit your site and want to know that you are legit
- Credibility of referral data so that you know where actual traffic is coming from
The first one is rather easy to understand. Users want to know your site is real and that you are trustworthy. A survey by GlobalSign showed that 9 out of 10 users are more likely to trust a website that displays security indicators, and 84 percent of users would abandon a purchase if data is sent over an insecure connection.
Further, most of those users look for the lock icon to determine if your website is safe and credible. More users are also becoming familiar with the HTTPS protocol and associate the “S” with “security.”
The second part of the credibility concept relates to referral traffic data. Analytics referral data isn’t completely accurate – and can actually be lost – for a site using HTTP that was linked to from a site using HTTPS. Those referrers can be lost in Google Analytics and actually show up as direct traffic.
The result is that some websites are moving even if just for more accurate data and reporting. Even if you don’t collect information or conduct sales, HTTPS is important.
5. Ensure Your Tools Work Everywhere
As more websites move to HTTPS, you’ll find out that your tools – embed codes etc. – will not work unless you are also using HTTPS. Insecure elements will not work in the HTTPS environment.
So, you can’t use mixed content and you can’t deploy content using HTTP to a website that uses HTTPS.
This will become a big deal if you deploy tools to other websites. And here’s the thing. It’s totally OK for you to go HTTPS first; don’t wait for your clients or users to make the move and have to find alternative solutions.
HTTPS is not a fad website design thing. It is an important security priority. If you haven’t started thinking about it already, now is the time.
HTTPS is important because it helps create a more private and secure website experience for users that help establish trust and credibility, it can provide a ranking boost in search and it can h=give you access to HTTP/2 which can actually increase your site speed.
Creative Commons photos by Unsplash.