In August 2014, Google announced that it would reward websites using HTTPS by giving them a minor ranking boost. Before the big announcement, only e-commerce websites really bothered to use HTTPS.

So what’s all the fuss about switching from HTTP to HTTPS?

What’s the difference between the two?

What are the SEO benefits of HTTPS?

Why is HTTPS important for SEO?

Is the switch even right for my business in the first place?

Well, I’ve made it my goal to answer all these questions in this article. If I’ve done my job right, you will have a much better understanding of HTTP vs. HTTPS.

What is HTTP?

HTTP generally stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol and is a system whose main purpose is transmitting and receiving information across the internet.

It’s basically an “application layer protocol” which means that it mainly focuses on how information is presented to the users. However, HTTP does not care about how this information gets from point A to B.

It also doesn’t attempt to remember anything from previous sessions, which significantly increases speed during information transfer.

HTTP is commonly used to access HTML pages. However, it’s important to consider that different resources can be utilized through accessing HTTP. This is the method most commonly used by websites that don’t store private and confidential information.

What is HTTPS?

Also known as “secure HTTP,” Hypertext Transfer Protocol
Secure (HTTPS) is basically the new and improved version of the HTTP. It was developed to allow authorization and secure online transactions. With millions of online transactions occurring every day, the exchange of private and confidential information needs to be secure. HTTPS provides this extra layer of security needed to protect credit card information and private personal information.

That’s why you will see the “https” on the URLs of all e-commerce and online banking websites. When a website has HTTPS set up, you can be sure that your card information is safe from hackers.

HTTPS works with another important protocol known as Security Sockets Layer (SSL) to transport data safely from point A to point B.

Just like HTTP, HTTPS does not really care how the data you send reaches its destination. It’s all about securing your confidential information.

It’s important to note that HTTPS and SSL are two different things. Many people often use them interchangeably.

Overall, what you need to understand is that HTTPS is more secure compared to HTTP because it uses SSL to transfer data.

Why Google is Encouraging Websites to use HTTPS

As you can see, there is an extra added layer of security when using HTTPS. Google does care about users and is always finding ways to provide an exceptional user experience. Adding an extra layer of security to online transactions will definitely provide a more beneficial user experience. It’s, for this reason, they’re not encouraging all websites to switch to HTTPS.

As users begin to understand the difference between HTTP and HTTPS, they will have confidence that the site they are using will provide an extra layer of security
by encrypting their private information. Of course, this will mean more business for sites that change over to HTTPS.

To expound further, data sent using HTTPS is secured through a system known as Transport Layer Security Protocol (TLS) which provides three strong layers of protection including:

• Encryption where data is encrypted to keep it secure

• Data Integrity which prevents data from being corrupted or modified during transfer without being detected

• Authentication which provides proof that your users are communicating with the intended website

With these security aspects, it’s no wonder Google prefers sites that are trusted and certified. The fact that Google is now using HTTPS as a ranking signal has prompted many websites owners to make the switch.

In fact, results from their initial tests indicated that the HTTP signal showed positive results in terms of relevancy and ranking in the search engine’s search results.

What are the Advantages of Switching to HTTPS

At my agency we make all our clients switch to HTTPS.  We have already discussed its security aspects, but there are some additional SEO benefits you will get for making the switch.

1. Increased Website Rankings

You should trust Google when it says your site rankings will see a slight bump after switching over to HTTPS. Even better, users will prefer to browse through sites that provide an extra layer of security. This will increase user engagement with your website, which is a big ranking factor. If you still don’t have HTTPS, consider making the switch if you’d like to see a boost in your rankings.

2. Security and Privacy

By making your website secure through HTTPS, you will be able to achieve your business goals in a number of ways.

  • Makes your site secure for your visitors. This builds their confidence and trust when browsing or buying a product or service.
  • Prevents unauthorized access and hacking attempts by third parties
  • Verifies that your visitors are communicating with the intended website.
  • Encrypts all communication, including URLs which offer protection to things like credit card numbers and browsing security.

3. Preserves Referrer Data

When traffic passes through a site with HTTPS, the secure referrer information is preserved, unlike with HTTP where referral sources only appear as “direct traffic.” This makes it an excellent choice for gathering more accurate information about your website’s visitor.

Are There Any Concerns with Switching to HTTPS?

According to Google, it’s perfectly safe to make the switch. After all, the tech giant can’t recommend something if there is any problem with it. However, here are a few tips you should use when switching to ensure that your traffic is not affected.

  • Research the kind of certificate you need – can be single, multi-domain, or wildcard certificate
  • Consider using relative URLs for sources within the same source domain
  • Use protocol relative URLs for other domains
  • Use 2048-bit key certificates
  • Avoid blocking your HTTPS website from crawling in your robots.txt
  • Be sure to track your HTTP to HTTPS switch in your analytics software as well as within Google Webmaster Tools
  • 301 Redirect your HTTP to HTTPS

It’s clear to see that switching to HTTPS can bring immense benefits to your website. You’re likely to notice a significant increase in traffic and users will have more confidence browsing your site. Furthermore, cases of cyber crime have been on the rise in the recent past, and more users are feeling more insecure about their online safety.

In addition, switching to HTTPS will allow you to keep up with Google. They’ve now come out and stated that they would like all websites to switch over to HTTPS. If you want to show up high in their search result pages, you better be willing to play by their rules.

About the Author: 

Alexander Hassoulas is the co-founder of Upkeep Media, an online marketing agency that specializes in working with the real estate industry. When he isn’t learning about the latest marketing techniques, he spends his time hanging out with his family, working out and playing basketball. If you would like to connect with him, follow him on LinkedIn.