If you pay attention to any digital marketing blogs or publications, then you’ll certainly be aware of HTTPS, or at very least you would have seen the acronym. HTTPS is a big deal, and over the next few years, it’s likely that the overwhelming majority of websites will switch to it.
In fact, we would recommend making the switch as soon as possible so that you can reap the benefits and dodge any potential negatives of not transitioning.
What is HTTPS?
HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, which it the secure version of the more common HTTP. You have likely seen both of these acronyms before in a URL, and the primary difference is that HTTP doesn’t allow for secure data transfer whereas HTTPS does.
Why is This Such a Big Deal?
The reason why HTTPS matters are because users want to keep their data secure and as a business, you often have a legal responsibility to secure their data. This securitization is particularly important if you’re taking credit card details and other sensitive data that could be potentially lucrative to a hacker.
With hacks becoming more and more common it’s vital that you make the switch to HTTPS so that you can transfer data more safely.
The leading search engine is Google, and if you want to rank at the top of the search engines, then you need to use SEO or search engine optimization. SEO is about optimizing your website using some known factors, and one of those elements is HTTPS.
Google has publicly admitted that they use HTTPS as a ranking signal. This means that they give a slight ranking boost to websites that use HTTPS instead of HTTP. How much of an increase? It’s hard to tell, but experts believe that the size of this boost is only going to get bigger.
In fact, there is some speculation that the boost will be so large that it will essentially represent a penalty to sites that refuse to adopt this new secure transfer method. Therefore, if you want to get a boost to your SEO in the short term and avoid a negative impact, in the long run, you must adopt HTTPS.
Do I Need HTTPS?
For now, it’s safe to say that this SEO benefit is marginal, but the size of this boost could easily depend on the type of site that you operate. That would make sense because websites that don’t transfer data do not need to be HTTPS, whereas an eCommerce site does.
Therefore, whether you need to adopt HTTPS will depend on what your site does, at least for now.
A recent implementation by Google might prompt you to make the change, however. On their Google Chrome browser, they have updated it so that when you go to an HTTP page with password and credit card fields, it’s displayed as ‘not secure’ very prominently.
This notification will obviously have a massive impact on your traffic, and it’s likely to cause people to go back and not use your website. As an eCommerce business, this can have a significant impact on your traffic and your revenue.
But the most important part of Googles announcement to implement this was at the end where they said ‘eventually, Chrome will show a Not Secure warning for all pages served over HTTP.’
The only long term solution to this is to switch to HTTPS. Google has been very open about their dedication to making the web a safer place, and this is a clear step in that direction. Therefore, yes, you do need HTTPS.
Who Don’t More Sites Transition?
The number one reason why more sites aren’t transitioning to HTTPS is that it can often be expensive depending on your provider. Many companies are charging hundreds per year for SSL certificates, and that can put them out of the reach of small businesses that are already struggling to make a sustainable profit.
Fortunately, services like Amazon Web Services allow you to get somewhat free access to an SSL certificate. This is going to make switching to HTTPS more accessible to everybody.
But the price isn’t the only deterrent; it’s also relatively complicated to install an SSL certificate, especially if you’re not technologically skilled. The most straightforward solution to this would be to have a company like us solve it on behalf of you, but this isn’t always possible for tiny businesses who don’t have a budget.
In this case, it can be impossible for these business owners to install an SSL certificate and therefore HTTPS is technologically prohibitive. It’s likely that in the future we will see easier methods which are designed to solve this problem for non-technical website owners.
Precautions When Switching
When you do choose to move to HTTPS, there are a few precautions that you should be aware of because transitioning to HTTPS isn’t without risk. However, if you follow the instructions carefully, you should be able to install your SSL certificate safely. Most commonly problems occur when non-technical people attempt the task.
As always, when you’re making changes to files on your website you should always ensure that you take a backup and keep it downloaded on your computer. This precaution will allow you to restore your site to its previous state if you make a mistake.
Secondly, you must remember to redirect all HTTP pages through to HTTPS using a 301 redirect within your .htaccess file. Forgetting to do this is probably the most common and most detrimental mistake that you can make.
Can I Wait?
Realistically, if you’re not running an eCommerce store or an app where you take passwords or credit card details, you can probably wait for a little while. But why would you bother?
Not only are you delaying the inevitable but you’re also missing out on a potential SEO boost which could drive more traffic to your website. You could wait, but we would highly recommend that you make the shift as soon as possible to avoid being caught out when the search engines and other browsers change their rules.