If your business has a website (and of course it does!) but you haven’t yet switched it to HTTPS, you’re probably missing out on some very important visitor traffic. Unfortunately for you, missed website visitors means missed sales opportunities. Fortunately though, switching your site to HTTPS is a great way to improve your site’s overall appeal to both search engines and the potential customers who use it to connect with you. Let’s take a closer look at what HTTPS is, and why it’s important.
HTTPS v HTTP
HTTP, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol, is just a fancy term for the original network protocol that makes all websites possible. It works very well for what it was designed for, but what it lacks is robust security. That’s where HTTPS comes in. HTTPS is an updated, secure protocol that creates an encrypted connection between the website server and the visitor’s web browser. This prevents outsiders from tampering with your traffic by injecting their own code or ads into the stream, or performing so-called “Man in the Middle” intrusions, where they would attempt to intercept communications between your visitor’s computer and your web server. HTTPS automatically encrypts all connections, meaning sensitive user information is protected from this form of eavesdropping.
If you’re thinking “Why do I need a secure connection to my site? This sounds like something meant for banks or other financial institutions. That’s not what my website does.”, you’d be forgiven for making that assumption. Certainly banks, financial institutions, and anyone performing monetary transactions through their sites were the first to adopt HTTPS. It is absolutely essential that this type of internet traffic be encrypted. But the vast majority of websites on the internet aren’t handling money, so what about these sites? Why should they switch their sites to HTTPS? Why should you?
Even though it’s true that most website traffic does not involve the direct transfer of money, there is still plenty of sensitive personal information passing through the web. Most websites allow their users to sign up for their newsletter in return for some freebie of value. These names and email addresses are susceptible to hackers if not properly encrypted. It may not be as obviously damaging as a credit card number, but your users’ information can still be valuable to those seeking to use it improperly. HTTPS creates a secure connection between their web browser and your web server, ensuring all names, email addresses, and passwords are kept safe.
Google Loves HTTPS
In 2014 Google announced their “HTTPS everywhere” initiative and stated that HTTPS encryption was now a ranking factor of their search algorithm. This was huge. Google’s search algorithms are highly secretive. Although we can make educated guesses on some of the ranking factors, Google rarely acknowledges specifics. Google wants to provide the best possible search experience to their users, and a secure web is part of that experience. By default all Google products are secured with HTTPS, and by making it part of their ranking factor, they are encouraging the rest of the web to follow their lead. Google has indicated that when calculating search ranking position for two identical sites, the one running HTTPS will be given an edge over the non-secure HTTP site. It may not be as big a factor as great content or quality backlinks, but if you’re looking for a little boost to your search engine rankings, switching to HTTPS can help you achieve that. Chances are good that your competitors have switched, or are considering doing so.
The average web user doesn’t understand the ins and outs of encrypted traffic, but they DO know that they want their personal information kept safe. Consumer internet privacy has become a hot topic with several recent high profile company breaches reported. Modern web browsers will easily identify a site secured with HTTPS, using a small lock icon beside the web address. In addition, some browsers like Chrome, will highlight standard HTTP websites as insecure. Many users who do not see that lock icon (or worse, see the warning of an insecure site) are wary of leaving any information with the site. If you want your visitors to trust your website, not having that lock icon might very well be a deal-breaker for them.
HTTPS How To
Once you decide that making the switch to HTTPS is the right thing for your business website, the next question is obviously “How do I switch?”. The answer really depends on your technical prowess and comfort level for risk. There are several HTTPS checklists available online to help you migrate your site if you choose to do it yourself. Although the step-by-step procedure is not overly complex, there is an inherent risk involved. Failure to properly implement HTTPS could result in broken links, site slowness, or a drop in search rankings. Thankfully there are SEO companies who specialize in assisting businesses make this switch.
HTTPS isn’t going away. Google is firmly behind this network protocol and is actively pushing for its widespread adoption. They now consider whether your site is secure while calculating its place on the results page of keyword searches. Consumers demand better protection for their private information used online. HTTPS doesn’t eliminate all security concerns, but it does go a long way to reduce some of the more common ones. At the end of the day, if Google says it’s a good thing, and your website visitors are increasingly aware of the risks of NOT being on a secure website, we think the choice is obvious. Securing your website using HTTPS is an investment in your website, and your business.
Contact our team today to discuss how we can switch your website to HTTPS and see first-hand the benefits of this change.