As of last year, the writing was on the wall in the debate between HTTP and HTTPS, since Google called HTTPS protocol the “future of the web” at the Chrome Dev Summit.[1] The summit offered a 28-minute presentation on the necessity of HTTPS and Google’s plans to encourage sites to adopt the protocol. Like the “mobilegeddon” of 2015, what started as a recommended best practice quickly became SEO law as Google started to penalize sites for failing to optimize them.

The Time Is Now

Google began giving sites with HTTPS a slight ranking boost in 2014.[2] HTTPS was treated as a “lightweight signal,” affecting less than 1% of all search queries. The number of sites using HTTPS in January 2017, Google announced plans to mark HTTP pages that collect confidential and personal information with a “not secure” sign next to the URL. This mark is part of Google’s long-term plan to mark all HTTP sites as “not secure.”

A Single Letter Makes All the Difference

HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP. When data is sent between the web browser and the site the data is encrypted. HTTPS was more commonly used for pages that exchanged confidential information like banking sites and ecommerce. Most pages will either use a type of Security Sockets Layer (SSL) to encrypt the link between browser and site, ensuring that the connection is private.

When you consider the benefits to user experience, Google’s move to enforce HTTPS makes sense. Protecting users from harmful cyber threats is one facet to a greater user experience. However, making the transition from HTTP to HTTPS could mean extensive redirects for the site, leading to a temporary loss in traffic. Yet, this temporary dip in traffic is nothing compared to the penalties handed by Google if a site fails to transition.

Enabling Your HTTPS

Changing your site to HTTPS has a few steps to be aware of. The first step is to get a Secure Socket Layer Certificate. This is the little padlock that you see next to a URL, informing visitors that the site they’re visiting is secure. Some organizations will create their own certificate, but it’s more common for sites to buy a certificate from a Certificate Authority (CA).

Once you have a certificate, you can work with your web hosting service to see if they can install it for you or you can paste the certificate into your web host control panel. Check to see if the HTTPS version of your site will load and change all target links to the new link – changing all inbound links and setting 301 redirects. It’s best to let your webmaster and SEO team handle this part of the change to mitigate traffic loss.

Changing from HTTP to HTTPS is inevitable as search engines like Google continue to apply the pressure. At the same time, changing to HTTPS should already be on the agenda for any site that is serious about ecommerce or conversions. Securing your site is one of many factors that help build a great customer experience.

SEO is challenging enough without search engines constantly changing their algorithm. Start seeing results with your SEO by speaking with an expert today by filling out our form! With 10-years of experience in developing successful SEO strategies, Strongpages has generated significant results for clients in a variety of competitive industries.

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[1]Kayce B. “Why HTTPS Matters”. Google Developers. https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/security/encrypt-in-transit/why-https
[2]Zineb B and Gary I. “HTTPS as a ranking signal”. Google Webmaster Central Blog”. https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2014/08/https-as-ranking-signal.html