HTTP is at the start of every URL, but you probably do not think much about it unless you are an SEO or a web developer. However, this string of four letters matters much more than you think! HTTP stands for hyper-text transfer protocol. It displays information from a website owner to a web searcher. If your domain is your address online, HTTP acts as a postcard. Postcards have addresses that post officers or mail carriers can read.
You have different ways of delivering a postcard—you can course it through the post office, but you can also deliver it to the recipient’s workplace. HTTP works like that. Some information goes through various networks, but other data stays inside the server.
The rest of the postcard—the message or the picture—is not important to the mail carrier. What they look at is the address. Similarly, the web-based language inside your HTTP file—whether it’s CSS, HTML, XML, plain text, or others—does not matter to the protocol. It is only the sender and receiver who read these.
Switching from HTTP to HTTPS
If you have a non-HTTPS website today and you are on Google, visitors to your website will land on this page first before your actual homepage:
A casual web browser or someone who does not know a lot about web development wouldn’t want to proceed after seeing a page like that. This warning page from Google will probably discourage you from moving forward. A pop-up notification like this could cause you to lose traffic and, in turn, conversions.
Google first started web administrators to go to HTTPS in 2010, and in 2014, the company announced that they would show a preference for HTTPS in search results. One of the things you should do to optimize your website today is to use HTTPS. Why do you need to stay on this type of protocol, though?
Why Switch to HTTPS
If you have been online for a while and are on HTTP, you might be a little resistant to switch to HTTPS. After all, it takes time and effort to write web copy, design a website, and ensure that everything is functional. And you are right—it does take time. If your website is a hobby site, perhaps staying on HTTP will be fine. However, if you have a checkout page, take orders from clients, or handle other types of sensitive data on your website, you need to be on HTTPS. This protocol provides an extra layer of security to your visitors and your network. Migrating to HTTPS provides other benefits—here are some of those.
1. HTTPS Improves Search Rankings
On Google Search Central, the company says that HTTPS is a very lightweight signal. However, the post is dated August 2014, and Google might have changed the weight of HTTPS as a ranking signal since then. In any case, migrating to this protocol will help Google see your website as trustworthy and safe.
2. It Makes You More Credible
When you use HTTPS, you add credibility to your website. Users feel secure browsing your website if you have visible trust indicators on it. Some common indicators are the use of HTTPS and the presence of a padlock, showing browsers you have an SSL certificate or a method of encryption for data on your website.
3. It Enables Better User Experience
The warning page that appears before HTTP websites is a significant factor in preventing people from accessing the site. Browsers like Chrome and Firefox use indicators that tell users how secure a website is, and people notice that.
Users would drop purchases instead of following through if they see that the website is not secure. Showing users that their confidential data is safe on your website will make a conversion more likely.
4. It Enables You to Implement AMP
AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages, an open-source framework that enables web developers to create simple, fast-loading mobile web pages. Using AMP helps your website become more visible to users on mobile devices, but you will need to have an encrypted site if you want to deploy AMP. HTTPS enables you to use AMP, which means optimizing your site for mobile browsing.
5. You Get Better Referral Data
Currently, Google Analytics blocks HTTPS to HTTP referral data. If your website is on HTTP and there is a link back to it from a website that uses HTTPS, you will not be able to see this referral in your Google Analytics.
SSL versus TLS
If you are convinced about the benefits of migrating your website to HTTPS, you need to add a security protocol between your server and the client. This protocol is your SSL or TLS, a digital “handshake” between the two.
SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, is a technology that keeps internet connections secure and prevents malicious actors from reading or modifying data during an exchange. TLS, or Transport Layer Security, is an updated form of SSL, and HTTPS is secured using TLS. People will browse with peace of mind if they know that you have these standard encryption methods on your website. When your server and the client complete the handshake, the user receives a digital certificate, an encryption key for the website. This key prevents third parties from stealing and manipulating the information your server exchanges with the client.
TLS and SSL are two of the most common protocols that websites use to generate security certificates. Both allow you to provide more security to your website. Today, though, you are better off using TLS. This security protocol enables better use of ciphers and enhanced negotiation of encryption. If you want to learn more about how TLS and SSL help makes your website secure, a web developer or SEO expert can help.
Making the switch from HTTP to HTTPS is worth the time and effort you will put in because having a secure site is valuable, especially if you do business online. People will want to transact with you when they know that their credit card information, shipping details, and other sensitive data are safe in your hands.
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