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Switching From HTTP or HTTPS: Why You Need a Secure Site

  • HTTP vs HTTPS: What’s the difference?
  • Benefits of migrating your e-commerce site from HTTP to HTTPS
  • Best practices for switching from HTTP to HTTPS
  • Common pitfalls to avoid when transferring to a HTTPS site

 

HTTPS, an acronym for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, is the encrypted version of HTTP and a must for every website these days, providing users with an extra layer of security when making a purchase.

The communication protocol for HTTPS is encrypted using Transport Layer Security (TLS), the successor of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), to protect the transfer of data and information.

If you’re scratching your head over this, we’re going to dive into the world of HTTP vs HTTPS, covering the benefits of switching to HTTPS protocol and common pitfalls to avoid when migrating your site.

Importance of HTTP and HTTPS Protocol Explained

Think of HTTP as the backbone of the world wide web, as this protocol is the dominant form of web page display, used to process, render and deliver websites from the server to the user’s browser.

Without HTTP or HTTPS, you would not be able to access the Internet.

How?

Let’s say a user searches for “Website SEO“. The request is sent to the server, which processes the query and displays that as relevant results on search engine result pages (SERPs) in a matter of seconds.

How Safe and Secure Is Your Website? Read our top tips to help protect your data

What is HTTP? 

HTTP is an acronym for Hypertext Transfer Protocol and is the foundation of data transfer on the net. The protocol fetches data from web pages stored on servers and presents them to the client as search results for them to access.

However, data transferred over an HTTP connection is not encrypted, and as a result, websites using this protocol run the risk of having data stolen by third-party hackers. In addition, as this information is not transferred over a private network, these sites should not offer products or services where users need to submit sensitive data.

What is HTTPS? 

HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP, with the “S” in the abbreviation meaning “secure”. With most websites prioritising protecting sensitive information, HTTPS has become the primary protocol used in data communications.

Websites that sell products or require users to enter personal information should use HTTPS. Some browsers, such as Google Chrome and Apple’s Safari, make it easy for users to identify whether a site uses HTTPS by displaying a padlock at the front of the URL bar.

HTTP vs HTTPS: The Difference Explained

So, we’ve outlined that, unlike HTTP, HTTPS uses an encryption protocol to secure connections, but what exactly is that protocol?

HTTPS websites use a third-party vendor to verify that the connection is legitimate and obtain a secure certificate. The secure certificate is called a Transport Layer Security (TLS), formerly known as a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate.

The TLS certificate encrypts the connection between browser and server to offer an extra layer of security to users when entering sensitive information into websites to complete online transactions or log into accounts.

The TLS certificate was designed to prevent hacking, tampering and message forgery, which is extremely important for e-commerce businesses as compromising customer data will damage your brand’s reputation and credibility.

The TLS certificate will safeguard against malicious attacks when:

  • Users enter sensitive information such as credit card details, phone numbers and physical addresses into the checkout
  • You run a lead generation campaign on your website that relies on gathering personal data from users

 

Although an HTTPS certificate comes at an extra cost, it’s a worthwhile investment that will bring about a swathe of benefits for your business. Here are the top reasons why you should switch from HTTP to HTTPS.

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What are the Benefits of Switching From HTTP to HTTPS?

Discover how HTTPS could benefit your business and improve your website’s SEO.

Improved Search Visibility

Security is a top priority for Google, and back in 2014, the tech giant confirmed that HTTPS is a ranking signal, calling for websites everywhere to implement the protocol.

Although it is only a lightweight ranking signal, Google said it might strengthen it to encourage web admins to migrate from HTTP to HTTPS.

A Searchmetrics study also found that HTTPS positively impacted website search visibility, helping to encourage click throughs by making sites appear more trustworthy and legitimate.

Gain Customers Trust

One of the main benefits of using HTTPS is giving customers who land on your site the confidence to purchase with your brand.

Several browsers, including Google Chrome, Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox, show whether a website is secure or not, and many customers now look for the padlock that appears in the search bar when shopping online.

Statistics have revealed that more than 80% of users would abandon their purchase if they know a site is not secure. With that being the case, having an HTTPS website can help e-commerce businesses build trust with their users.

If you offer a safe browsing experience, chances are you’ll increase conversions.

Protect Sensitive Data

Security is vital for users when entering sensitive information online, such as logging into bank accounts or ordering products and services from e-commerce sites.

If you want to avoid ruining your brand’s reputation by suffering a data breach issue, invest in HTTPS and obtain a TLS certificate, which provides three essential layers of protection:

  1. Encryption – A security method used to translate information into coded data that one can only access with the correct encryption key. Encryption aims to prevent hackers from “eavesdropping” to steal sensitive information.
  2. Data Integrity – Refers to the process of ensuring the accuracy, consistency and validity of data when stored or received to mitigate security risks.
  3. Data Authentication – Confirming the source and integrity of data helps build trust with your users by accurately identifying them before providing them access to sensitive information.

Studies show that nearly 30% of businesses that experience a breach of data result in a loss of revenue. Data breaches can have a devastating impact on business and induce far-reaching consequences, such as fines for non-compliance.

Obtain the Secure Padlock Icon

While due diligence is always necessary, you could start building trust and credibility with your audience by obtaining a TLS certificate and displaying the secure lock icon in the search bar.

With 77% of users concerned over the safety of personal data when entering sensitive information online, the secure padlock icon could significantly increase your conversion rates.

The secure padlock icon provides users with a way to quickly find out whether your website is secure and uses an encrypted connection.

Need HTTPS to Enable AMP

AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages is an open-source HTML framework that Google introduced to speed up web page loading times.

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And did you know that you can’t use AMP without HTTPS?

If we think about how important mobile optimisation is for SEO, failure to take advantage of AMP could result in slow page loading times and high bounce rates.

Although Google has since said that non-AMP pages will also be included as top results in SERPs, a SearchMetrics Features Monitor study showed that 80% of all organic search results in the top 10 contain at least one AMP result.

Google Analytics Prefers HTTPS

While you can measure data for HTTP websites in Google Analytics, the security and privacy of user data are of utmost importance to Google.

Google Analytics instructs browsers that support HTTP over HTTPS to implement a secure transmission using HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) protocol for data transfer between users, servers, and websites. Furthermore, there is no method to opt out of this encryption protocol.

Furthermore, Google Analytics reports when HTTPS directs a user to HTTP, which is vital to monitor, especially when migrating your website to the more secure protocol.

Most Websites do not Support HTTP

Although hundreds of websites use HTTP, browsers that support HTTPS now flag these websites as “not secure” when users land on them, negatively affecting business.

Some sites will also only serve HTTPS sites; this includes government sites and website builders such as Squarespace.

Moving from HTTP to HTTPS: Best Practices for Migrating Your Site

So, we’ve outlined the benefits of migrating your site from HTTP to HTTPS, but if you’re unfamiliar with the process, you could cause more harm than good.

When transitioning your website, it’s crucial that you inform Google and set up an account in Google Search Console (GSC) to update relevant URLs and submit your new sitemap.

Here’s how to go about the process and avoid common pitfalls.

Inform Google About the Transition and Mistakes to Avoid

Switching from HTTP to HTTPS sounds pretty simple on the surface, but due to the overwhelming number of TLS certificates available, this process can quickly become confusing.

Moving from HTTP to HTTPS tends to require more tech than most companies like to get involved in. Although your hosting server can manage most of the process for you, there are still some actions you’ll need to take yourself.

One of the first steps you’ll need to take after migrating to HTTPS is to create a Google Search Console (GSC) profile. Don’t deactivate your non-secure GSC account; keep all the profiles active and put the appropriate redirects in place so that you continue to collect accurate data.

We also advise creating a Google Analytics account, making sure your profile is set to secure to ensure you track accurate, valid data.

If you use the Bing Webmaster Tool, you’ll also need to update the system to reflect the switch from HTTP to HTTPS during the migration process and other data collection parameters in Google Tag Manager.

Don’t forget to install your SSL or TLS Certificate onto the site. If you’re unsure about how to go about this, have your hosting provider do it for you or download their step-to-step guide.

Following these steps will prevent inaccurate data collection, which could spell chaos for your overall marketing strategy, especially regarding SEO.

How to Avoid HTTPS Migration Mistakes

When migrating from HTTP to HTTPS and obtaining a TLS certificate, you should avoid these common pitfalls:

  • Ensure your TLS certificate is always up to date.
  • Double-check that you have obtained a TLS certificate that applies to all hostnames your site serves to avoid mismatch errors. If you have a multi-domain certificate, ensure that the Server Name Indication (SNI) allows the server to host multiple TLS Certificates safely, and all domains are added to the certificate.
  • Ensure your web server supports SNI, which is supported by most internet browsers. However, if your customers use older browsers, you’ll need to purchase a dedicated IP address to provide them with a valuable service.
  • Don’t use the robots.txt text to block crawls on your HTTPS website.
  • Ensure all of your pages are marked as “index” where possible to allow search engines to crawl your site and show your pages as results in SERPs.
  • Avoid using old protocol versions, which are more susceptible to data breaches. Always use the latest version of TLS and implement the newest protocol to protect users’ data.
  • Don’t mix security elements. If you’ve migrated your site to HTTPS, only embed HTTPS content across your web pages.
  • Check for broken links to make sure that users can access your HTTPS web pages. The 200 OK status code indicates that web pages are accessible, while 404 codes highlight broken pages.

Although the migration from HTTP to HTTPS can affect your traffic stats, this will only be a temporary issue if you’ve completed the switch correctly.

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