The Process of Switching to Https – Why? When? And How?

Ever since Google made the announcement that secure webpages would be given a small SEO boost businesses are beginning to upgrade from HTTP to HTTPS. But what do these letters even mean and why should you want to make the switch? Let’s first start with a brief background on the difference between the two.https

“HTTP” is an acronym for “Hyper Text Transfer Protocol” and this is the format that the vast majority of websites use for their protocol. “HTTPS” stands for “Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure.”  This means that information exchanged between the user and a HTTPS web site is encrypted and cannot be hijacked to allow someone to electronically eavesdrop on the information the user provides, such as credit card numbers, passwords, or social security numbers.

This “secure” element becomes most important for ecommerce websites, but nearly all businesses can find several good reasons to also make the switch and provide a more secure online environment for their users.

Why?

On August 6, 2014, Google published on their Webmaster Central Blog that HTTPS will now be considered as a ranking signal as an effort to increase internet safety and reward websites that use HTTPS. It’s important to note that this will be a “lightweight signal” that will affect less than 1 percent of global queries. Google has indicated that, in the future, this signal’s ranking weight will increase.

Additionally, HTTPS will allow more people to access your site from various locations. Many businesses have installed firewalls blocking employees from viewing non-HTTPS sites as precautionary measures. Your blog in HTTP might be blocked from office internet, creating a roadblock between you and your readers.

Now that Internet users are becoming more aware of the meanings of HTTPS and the lock symbols on websites, more trust is being placed in websites with this level of security. Users feel more confident when they see HTTPS on your domain. It builds trust and security not only with your website, but with your entire brand.

When?

Now that the longstanding fear that the switch would hurt your SEO rankings has been addressed by Google, there’s really been no better time to jump on the bandwagon to make the switch.

Users are informed and aware of the difference between the two and appreciate the added security. Even if the SEO ranking signal is modest, there is still an added benefit to making the switch. The answer to “when” is the sooner the better! While the process for how to do so can be a bit more technical, it’s not any more complex than the effort it took to first develop your site or update it.

How?

First and foremost, you will need to buy a Secure Socket Layer Encryption (SSL) Certificate and have it installed on your website. According to Verisign, a provider of Internet infrastructure services, SSL is a technology that enables encryption of sensitive information during online transactions. Each SSL Certificate contains unique, authenticated information about the certificate owner. A certificate authority then verifies the identity of the certificate owner when it is issued.

All links on your webpages will have to link to the HTTPS area or your website will have a caution sign instead of a green closed lock. If you are using a content management system (CMS), all of the dynamic links created by the CMS will adjust accordingly. Links created by the user (ones that are copy and pasted from somewhere else) will need to be manually updated. Finally, if you use any libraries from other websites (such as for hosting your graphics or logos), you will need to ensure that these are linked from an HTTPS link as well to ensure the green closed lock –  a sign of a fully secure site.

A note of caution: a website that uses SSL encryption does not safeguard users from phishing and other schemes.  When visiting websites that accept financial information online, it is always smart to make sure the online company is legitimate, has a good reputation in customer service and uses SSL encryption in their transactions.

Have you made the switch to Https? Share your insights and experience by commenting below!

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Filed under Algorithms, SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

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