HTTP vs HTTPS
HTTP stands for ‘hypertext transfer protocol’ – you’ll recognize it from the beginning of website addresses (http://www.yourwebsite.com). HTTP is simply the protocol that allows for communication between different systems. For our purposes we’re talking about the web browsers that your website visitors are using (Explorer, Firefox, Safari) communicating with the servers where your website lives (hosting companies).
HTTPS is the same, but the ‘S’ stands for ‘secure’. HTTPS communication is encrypted, HTTP is not.
“[Google] announced that… not implementing HTTPS would be a ranking factor”
Why Does it Matter?
In the past, unless you were gathering personal information from visitors or engaging in ecommerce where credit card info was being shared, it didn’t really matter… but that has changed. Here’s why:
Google – In the interest of delivering more secure websites to their users, a few years ago they announced that implementing or NOT implementing HTTPS would be a ranking factor – helping your site or harming it. It’s certainly become more important to the Search giant, but MANY sites have yet to implement the change.
WordPress – This popular content management system (CMS) powers 28% of the internet, and is unfortunately quite vulnerable to being hacked. So if you’re running WordPress, switching to HTTPS is just a smart idea. It offers one more layer of protection.
Browsers – Chrome and Firefox warn visitors to HTTP sites that the connection is not secure (shown as an exclamation in the address bar). Even if you’re not collecting sensitive data, there is a red flag against any website that hasn’t switched to HTTPS.
Human Eyeballs – AKA your potential guests and customers. Any and all warnings and exclamation marks against your website simply freaks people out, especially if they don’t understand the warning (which is likely). It can make a bad first impression.
Competitors – If your competitors HAVE switched over to HTTPS then they have an online advantage over you, if they HAVEN’T switched over then this represents a competitive opportunity for you. Either way HTTPS ought to be implemented.
The good news is that once you switch too HTTPS you get a nice green padlock and ‘Secure’ notation (depending on the browser) next to your URL in the address bar. It’s like a warm blanket for visitors.
How do I Switch to HTTPS?
In short you must buy an SSL certificate and implement it on your server. Just as domain registration and hosting plans are necessary to have a website, an SSL certificate is now part of the list.
We’ll cover the process in the next post.