HTTP vs. HTTPS: How Your Decision Impacts your online business and SEO
http_vs_https

Article Overview

Reading Time: 36 minutes

Posted on: Thursday April 18, 2019

 

It has been nearly a year since Google announced that websites with HTTPS will be ranked higher than HTTP websites, and accordingly, many companies and websites have followed suit. However, Google has made it pretty clear that mere HTTPS is not going to be the only criteria for achieving high ranks on Result Pages. HTTPS websites will only have a SLIGHTLY better chance than HTTP websites. Meanwhile, other parameters like quality of content are still going to be the first judge for Google’s ranking algorithm.

That is the reason why many web design companies are over the fence on whether or not to switch to HTTPS or not. It’s true that an HTTPS website does have a slightly higher competitive advantage over HTTP in SERPs, but other than that there are none other quick benefits. Yet, for all intents and purposes, we are definitely pro HTTPS, and cannot recommend its implementation enough.

We will discuss the reasons behind this, but before doing so, it is important to understand the difference between HTTP and HTTPS, and everything that comes in the middle.

Suppose a point A has to transmit information to point B through HTTP.  HTTP is an “application layer protocol,” meaning that in the course of transmitting data, it focuses on how information is presented to point B. However, it doesn’t really care how the data reaches from Point A to Point B.

HTTPS: Secure HyperText Transfer Protocol

HTTPS, or “secure http”, was developed for authorized access and secured transactions. Exchanging confidential information, such as credit card information or bank account information, needs to be safe from unauthorized access, and that is where https comes in. In many ways, https is identical to http because it follows the same basic protocols. The http or https client, such as a Web browser, establishes a connection to a server on a standard port. However, https offers an extra layer of security because it uses SSL to move data.

Basically, HTTPS is HTTP; it’s just the secure version. You can think of HTTPS as a smartphone with a password lock feature and HTTP as the same brand of smartphone but without a password lock feature. The main difference is that HTTPS uses TCP Port 443 by default, so HTTP and HTTPS are two separate communications.

HTTPS also uses another protocol, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), for safe data transport.

While HTTP and HTTPS don’t care how the data reaches its destination, SSL doesn’t care what the data looks like (like HTTP does). That is why HTTPS offers the best combination; caring about what the user sees visually, but also having an extra layer of security when moving data from point A to point B.

Also, data sent using HTTPS is secured via Transport Layer Security protocol (TLS), which protects data in three ways:

  • Encryption. It encrypts data to keep it secure.
  • Data Integrity. Data cannot be modified or corrupted during transfer.
  • Authentication It ensures proves that your users communicate with the intended website.

Google’s stance:

Since Google is the most common way to reach any website, it is pretty obvious then that it cares that the websites it features on its pages should be certified to ensure their credibility and security, especially the ones with the highest ranking, as users are most likely to hit those results first. After all, its own reputation as a search engine is at stake.

How certification helps:

When a site obtains the certificate, the issuer becomes a trusted third party. When your browser recognizes a secure Web site, it uses the information in the certificate to verify the authenticity of the site. Ecommerce can now be conducted on the site without any apprehensions.

Google is now using HTTPS as a minor ranking parameter, even for non-ecommerce websites or websites using confidential information. So this switch will now benefit all companies, ecommerce or not.

SEO Advantages of Switching to HTTPS

So far, it’s clear that switching to HTTPS will guarantee security of your website. But getting into the good books of Google may not be incentivizing enough to go for it.

It’s true that other than a small ranking advantage, there are no immediate benefits of switching to HTTPS. But from an SEO point of view, there are actually substantial benefits that switching to HTTPS may generate for your online business over time. Let’s take a closer look at how that happens?

  1. Increased rankings.

In this day and age, mere online presence is not enough; you need good rankings. HTTPS sites have a ranking advantage over HTTP sites; this much is clear from Google’s end. As of now, the value of HTTPS is less than other ranking parameters; nonetheless, it is highly likely to increase in the future.

  1. Referrer Data.

When traffic passes to an HTTPS site, the secure referral information is preserved. This is unlike what happens when traffic passes through an HTTP site, and it is stripped away and looks as though it is “direct.”

  1. Security and privacy.

HTTPS guarantees the security and privacy in your websites, so that users can easily navigate them without any apprehensions.

  • It verifies that the website is the one the server is supposed to be talking to.
  • It prevents tampering by third parties.
  • It makes your site more secure for visitors.
  • It encrypts all communication, including URLs, which protects things like browsing history and credit card numbers.

Can Switching to HTTPS have an adverse impact on existing SEO campaign?

Switching to HTTPS has no negative impact on SEO tools that you may have used. There’s a process to go through to get certified, but that is not a very complicated one.

Once you’re done, make sure to notify Google that you moved your site from HTTP to HTTPS.

Below is a quick list of steps to get an outline of the process:

  1. Provide your CSR: You need to generate a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) on your web server.
  2. Select the server software used to generate the CSR.
  3. Select the hash algorithm you prefer to use.
  4. Select the validity period for your Certificate.

The Takeaway

So, there is no denying the fact that opting for HTTPS will help you get along with Google, and therefore be good for your online business. Not just from an SEO point of view, but to establish the credibility and security of your site in the long run. A business can only thrive if it stays ahead of its game. In this day and age, it wouldn’t and won’t take long for users to understand exactly the difference between HTTP and HTTPS. Before that happens, it’s good to get down with the program.