Did you know that every year, one in three Americans will face a hacker attack on the World Wide Web? That’s one hacker attack every 39 seconds.
In order to prevent these attacks, it important to make sure your website is as secure as possible. But how do you ensure site security?
If you want a more secure site, you need to understand the difference between HTTP vs HTTPS websites. Knowing the difference, and knowing when to make the switch, can ensure that you are protecting your site visitors. You’ll also be improving your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) efforts in the process.
So, let’s break it down.
HTTP vs HTTPS: What’s the Difference?
In the early days of the Internet, there wasn’t an “https vs http” issue as almost every website used HTTP to transmit information from the server to your browser. However, more and more websites are switching to HTTPS. In fact, back in 2014, Google started offering minor rating bumps to any website that made the switch.
But why? What’s so special about HTTPS?
Well, in order to understand the increasing popularity of HTTPS, it’s important to understand what exactly each one is. And, perhaps more importantly, what they can offer your site.
What is HTTP?
HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. It’s been used since the dawn of the World Wide Web to transfer data from web servers to browsers. This allows any user to view web pages.
Basically, HTTP enables different systems to communicate with one another. Pretty much every early website used HTTP. Many still use it to this day.
The main problem with HTTP is that there is very little privacy. This means virtually anyone can see the information that is being transmitted through HTTP. This also means that it’s much easier to alter the content that is visible on a site or gain access.
What is HTTPS?
HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. Essentially, it does the same thing as HTTP, but with an added layer of security. This means that unlike HTTP, HTTPS encrypts the information that is flowing between the server and the browser.
This extra layer of encryption makes it harder for hackers to steal visitor information. Originally, prior to 2014, mostly e-commerce websites used HTTPS to protect payment information. But, as websites and the information that flows between them becomes more complex more sites are making the switch to HTTPS.
HTTPS secures information by using an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate. This forms a secure encrypted connection between the server and the browser. As potentially sensitive information flows between the two, this protects it from being stolen.
What’s the Difference?
Both HTTP and HTTPS are used to send information from the webserver to the browser. The important distinction between the two is HTTPS’s use of an SSL certificate. This is especially important for websites collecting credit card information or other types of sensitive information such as social security numbers or passwords.
An SSL works by taking the information and encrypting it. Encryption translates information into a secure code. This means that even if the information is stolen, it’s unlikely the hackers will be able to understand it thanks to the secret code.
In addition to this extra secure layer, HTTPS is also secured by a TLS (transport layer security) protocol. TLS protocol provides additional data integrity. This means that the corruption, possible watering hole attacks or modification of data transfers is prevented.
Another advantage of TLS is it’s added site authentication. This proves to users that they are communicating with the correct, intended website. Site authentication lets site visitors know that their information is going where it is supposed to.
Which is Better?
Obviously, HTTPS has a major security advantage over HTTP. But, HTTPS is most useful for e-commerce sites, or those sites that accept otherwise sensitive information. If you’re not one of these sites, switching to HTTPS can come with some serious hassles.
Still, in most cases, switching to HTTPS can be in your best interest. In addition to added security, HTTPS can give you a boost in your SEO efforts. That’s welcome news for any company trying to leave a serious technological footprint.
HTTPS and Your SEO Efforts
If you’re trying to give a boost to your SEO efforts (different than PPC), there are several reasons to switch over to HTTPS. Each of them will help you keep your visitors, and even score new ones. The SEO boosters offered by switching to HTTPS include:
Increases Your Website Ranking
As previously mentioned, Google offers a slight ratings boost to any website that makes the switch from HTTP to HTTPS. But, that’s not the only way that the HTTPS switch increases your long-term Google rankings.
Switching to HTTPS can lead to long-term website growth because your guests are more likely to stick around a secure website. More frequently, website visitors look for the lock symbol in their browser. This lets them know they’re on a secure site.
This lock symbol only appears for HTTPS sites. It’s Google’s way of letting them know they’re safe and their information is secure. Switching to HTTPS can make visitors more comfortable, which means they’re much more likely to stick around.
Builds Visitor Trust
In addition to the comfort of the lock symbol, HTTPS sites offer guests lots of added security. Sites protected with HTTPS encryption not only protect visitors’ sensitive information but their browsing history, as well. Privacy while browsing means that anything your guests download, purchase, or sign up for won’t put them at risk. This gives them an added peace of mind, thus building their trust in your site. Trust in your site often leads to added trust in your organization at large.
Additionally, HTTPS protects sites from added security breaches that could put guests at risk. Security breaches can damage your reputation as an organization. In some cases, they can even cost you extra money and valuable time.
Eligibility for AMP
It is becoming increasingly important for sites to be able to create AMP (Accelerated Mobile Page) pages. As more and more people browse from their smartphones, you’ll want a site that is quick and easy to access on mobile. But, if you want an AMP page, you’ll need an HTTPS site.
AMP is basically a stripped-down version of HTML. This means faster loading for mobile and a fit-to-screen view of your webpage. However, it is impossible to generate an AMP page without an HTTPS protected site.
If you want a better experience for mobile users, you’ll need to make the switch to HTTPS. It’s more important now than ever before to have a mobile-friendly site, especially for your SEO rankings.
Mobile search rankings and local SEO matter for your website rankings. This is a major reason to make the switch to HTTPS if you want to boost your SEO efforts.
SEO Concerns When Switching From HTTP
It’s not always easy to make the switch from HTTP to HTTPS. In fact, in some cases, making the switch can negatively impact your SEO efforts. If you want to avoid these pitfalls, keep these tips in mind:
Inform Google Your Site Has Made the Switch
Google won’t automatically be notified that you’ve switched to HTTPS. They won’t be aware of it until the next time they crawl your site. That can take quite a while, with your SEO dropping every day.
If you want to avoid this lengthy process, inform them of your switch right away. This way, they can give you your ratings boost and your site can be on its way to long-term rating boosts.
Make Sure Your Certificates Are in Order
There are a few other certificates to be aware of other than SSL. These include:
- Single Domain: Issued for one domain or subdomain
- Multiple Domain (aka Unified Communications Certificate): Secures a primary domain and upwards of 99 additional subject alternative names
- Wildcard SSL: Secures website URL and unlimited subdomains
Make sure that you have the right certificates for your domain needs. This will keep your SEO boosts from being slowed down by technical errors.
Don’t Prevent Google From Crawling Your HTTPS Site
If Google can’t access your robots.txt, they can’t get clear crawling instructions. This could prevent you from improving your SEO. If Google can’t crawl your site, it could negatively impact your potential search rankings.
Usually, this happens right after you’ve made the switch to HTTPS. Don’t forget to update your test server to allow bots. This will eliminate hang-ups.
Allow Search Engines to Index Your Page
Not allowing search engines to index your page could have a negative impact on your SEO. This could wipe out your rankings. Getting your rankings back can take a really long time, so you’ll want to get this in order.
Track Your HTTP to HTTPS Shift
Use Google WebMaster tools or any other analytics software to track your progress. This ensures everything goes smoothly. It will also catch any issues that arise as soon as possible, ensuring they don’t hurt your SEO.
Ready to Make the Switch?
Now that you understand HTTPS vs HTTP, and how they can impact your SEO, you’ll know if your company needs to make the switch. In almost every case, moving to HTTPS is in your best interest. From increasing your visitors’ trust to improving your website rankings, HTTPS can bring tons of benefits to your site.
If you’re ready to make the switch to make your site more secure, unlike the complexity of JSX in web development, this switch is less complex which you can do this in-house or outsource it the task. They can help you make the switch effortlessly, and ensure the best outcome for your SEO efforts.
Author: Randy Soderman
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