You wouldn’t want to underrate a humble “s” if it stands for security on the internet, as is the case in the HTTP Vs HTTPS. Before we dig deep into the technical aspects of this rivalry, let’s take a quick look on why a URL prefix should bother us.
When you visit a website, it interacts with the browser on your computer via a protocol or in simple terms, a language. Generally, websites like internet forums, online news outlets, educational sites, etc. which are open discussion platforms, share information back and forth on the World Wide Web using Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), which is insecure in nature.
With HTTP, the data is exchanged as plain text without any encryption, which leaves the users’ information at the risk of being “eavesdropped” on. Here comes the need for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS), which couples with Secure Socket Layer (SSL) offering a secure environment for communication of sensitive data.
HTTP Vs HTTPS
- Security: As already mentioned, the differentiating factor between HTTP and HTTPS is the security of the environment in which hypertext documents are shared between server and browser. HTTP involves no encryption and hence leaves user data vulnerable to “man-in-the-middle” breaches while with HTTPS, there’s no such security issue.
- Certification: HTTPS requires a website to purchase SSL certificate, which serves as its online identification card. There’s no such requirement in case of HTTP.
- Port Used: HTTP uses port number 80 for communication while HTTPS relies on port number 443.
- Sites: HTTP can be used in educational websites, online news outlets and discussion forums where secure access doesn’t matter a great deal. But sites such as those for banking, payment gateways, e-commerce, etc., where sensitive financial information is fed and shared, should be HTTPS to prevent interception of data by unwelcome third parties.
Should You Switch to HTTPS?
A research by GlobalSign found that over 80 percent of users are likely to opt out of a purchase if the site doesn’t have a “green secure browser bar.” That sums up the importance of HTTPS for e-commerce platforms.
Also, there is enough evidence to correlate HPPTS security seal with improvement in lead generation. The rise could be as high as 40 percent. Besides visitors, Google also favors secure sites in dishing out search results.
Webmasters make a strong case for switching your website to HTTPS, simply because it adds to security layers and also generates trust in the visitors. The companies providing SEO services in India even cite Google’s announcement that HTTPS is a ranking factor, which is yet another reason you should be prepared for a switch from HTTP to HTTPS.
Where HTTPS fails to score?
While the merits of HTTPS are readily evident, it may not offer any significant gains to smaller B2B websites, partly because of low awareness of SSL and the perceived complexity in the process of switching.
The HTTP websites, with good ranking, show reluctance in making this change for fear of disturbing their SEO performance. This may not be a wrong tactic in short term but in the long run, exposes the site to sudden algorithm changes and tanking rank overnight.
What’s the process for switching to HTTPS?
Unarguably, switching to HTTPS is a question of “when” rather than “if.” If you are familiar with the backend of your site, follow these simple steps to make the big switch.
- Buy a dedicated IP address and an SSL certificate from a hosting company.
- Install and configure the SSL certificate.
- Back-up your site and configure its hard internal links from HTTP to HTTPS.
- Update internet services manager function, htaccess applications and code libraries for redirecting traffic to HTTPS.
- Updating Content Delivery Network’s (CDN) SSL settings if you are using one.
- Execute 301 redirects for each page.
- Update paid search links, landing pages and links used in marketing automation tools.
- Go to Google Search Console and Google Analytics to set up an HTTPS site.
The process of shifting to HTTPS is straightforward for smaller sites, for example the ones with 50 pages or less, but it could be tedious and technically demanding for heavy websites. It’s advisable to hire high-skilled, professional webmasters for migrating large websites to HTTPS without affecting the SEO negatively. While HTTPS is still not a primary factor in boosting SEO and Improving Search Engine Visibility, it won’t be a surprise if Google algorithms give higher weightage to security signal.
Offering an HTTPS secure environment is the absolute minimum you can offer to your site users. Yes, migrating to HTTPS would add another $100 bill to your account annually but the switch is worth the cost, as an assurance of secure communication instills trust in the visitors, eventually ensuring traffic and business.
Anurag Gupta is a budding entrepreneur with stakes in WeblinkIndia.net an acclaimed Web Designing & Development Company, headquartered in India. He also happens to be a keen writer, sharing insights, tips, and tutorials on subjects related to the ever evolving landscape of Web Designing and Development.