Importance of HTTPS

HTTPS is a secure web protocol commonly used by e-commerce websites to provide secure transactions for its users. Google has been actively campaigning to website owners to convert to HTTPS, and has been rewarding secure URLs with a minor SEO boost.

Google wants to provide users with a secure and beneficial web experience so encouraging website owners to switch to HTTPS is obvious.

Importance of HTTPS for SEOMaking the switch to HTTPS might not benefit all website owners and it requires careful research and action in order to make a clean conversion.

HTTPS does confer with Google’s metrics, but it mainly provides users and your business with security for any confidential transactions you conduct over your website.

We will discuss the differences between HTTP and HTTPS, and whether you should convert your website to HTTPS protocol.

What is HTTP?

Hypertext Transfer Protocol (http) is an application layer protocol designed to transfer and receive information over the Internet. An application transfer protocol presents how information is displayed to a user and does not discriminate how information is transferred from one source to another. HTTP is most commonly used to retrieve HTML text and other site resources.

HTTP is considered “stateless,” and does not retrieve or store information from previous browsing sessions. The benefits of using HTTP equate to faster load times and better information display. Websites that do not host confidential financial or user information use HTTP. Unfortunately, HTTP is not secure and are always at risk of data breach from third parties.

 HTTP + SSL

 Websites began switching to the HTTPS client in order to conduct secure transactions and authorizations with its users. HTTPS is the same as HTTP, but with a layer of security attached. HTTPS comes equipped with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to monitor and transfer data safely between two points, which is why search engines prefer HTTPS clients. Nicknamed “Secure HTTP,” HTTPS is commonly used by banks, e-commerce websites, and any website that conducts financial and personal transactions.

In-depth: HTTPS operates the same as HTTP by establishing a connection to a server on a standard port. HTTPS utilizes TCP Port 443 by default creating two separate communications between HTTP and HTTPS. SSL monitors information passed between two parties and ensures that data is not corrupted or stolen. SSL does not care how information is presented to the user, but HTTP does, which allows for the best information display possible with added security

What SSL Offers

SSL is not the same as HTTPS, but both protocols work in conjunction with one another. SSL encrypts data being transferred between two parties, provides authentication for users, and ensures that data is not corrupted or altered during transmission. SSL is used to monitor data transmission in order to prevent “man-in-the-middle” attacks or data breaches.

SEO Benefits

Increased Rankings

In 2014, Google announced that websites equipped with the HTTPS client would receive a minor rankings boost over websites with HTTP. This is a merely a soft signal for Google. If two websites were presented with the same technical specifications and content relevance, Google would rank webpages with the HTTPS client over a website using HTTP. This could become a stronger signal in the future.

 Login Not Secure

The release of Chrome 57 will give users in-form security warnings at the bottom of any form fields on sites that still run the HTTP client. In early 2017, Chrome also gave users a “Not Secure” warning for any HTTP websites that asked for login or credit card information. Imagine how users will perceive conducting a credit card transfer on your website when their browser is telling them it’s not secure.

Referral Data

Traffic passing through your HTTPS server are preserved as secure referral sources. Traditionally, when using analytics software, traffic passing through an HTTP server appeared as direct traffic.

Mobile

With Google’s new mobile index, it is encouraging websites to convert to HTTPS and it could have a larger impact on rankings than desktop searches. In order to convert webpages to AMP, Google requires websites to be equipped with SSL, which could have a dramatic effect on organic mobile rankings. 

Security

HTTPS ensures that your website is the correct site the server is supposed to be talking to. HTTPS also encrypts all user data, including financial information and browsing history, and protects against third party breaches.

Faster Browsing

Most browsers support HTTP/2, which provides browser enhancements over standard HTTP. When HTTPS is enabled, users will experience faster browsing speeds, as well as data encryption. Major improvements to TSL (Transport Layer Security) have made encryption more streamlined and adds negligible CPU load to servers supporting HTTPS. 

Making the Switch

Many websites strayed away from obtaining HTTPS certificates due to financial concerns. The lengthy process that went into obtaining an extended validation (EV) certificate may be one of the reasons Google gave HTTPS client websites a rankings boost.

The non-profit Let’s Encrypt began offering free and automated domain validation (DV) certificates for websites, which offer many of the same cryptography and security benefits as EV certificates. Websites like WordPress automatically convert websites to HTTPS and industry giants like Amazon offer TSL certificates to many of their customers.

Activating an HTTPS security certificate has also become more streamlined and easier to conduct. Enacting a faulty HTTPS connection is worse than not having one, as it breaches user trust and still puts your website in peril. Qualys SSL Labs provides testing tools for setting up a TSL connection. Often establishing an HTTPS connection may make third party data, such as JavaScript and images fraught with security concerns. The HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) can be used to clear up content issues triggering security alerts.

Making the switch to HTTPS will ultimately rely on your business goals and whether it falls in line with your digital marketing strategy. Unless your website conducts login information or financial transactions, it may be best just to avoid the headache or setting up a faulty HTTPS connection. Before deciding to make the switch read Google’s best practices regarding HTTPS implementation.

Concluding Thoughts

Establishing an HTTPS connection is valued by Google and adds a necessary layer of security for users and your business. Browsers are now evolving to handle HTTPS connections at improved load speeds and many third party websites are available to help establish the best HTTPS connection available. By all evidence, HTTPS will be the future for web clients and prolonging the inevitable will surely harm your SEO campaign in the long-run.