Does your website still use HTTP? Making the switch to HTTPS will make your site more secure while also improving your relationships with search engines and users.
Google announced that HTTPS encryption was a ranking factor in 2014. While it’s not clear exactly how much of an SEO boost this gives to websites, HTTPS sites now make up the majority of front-page search results, especially from established brands.
What is HTTPS?
HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) is the secure version of HTTP, which uses an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) or TSL (Transport Layer Security) certificate to encrypt information exchanged between browsers and servers.
While HTTP used to be the default communication protocol for most websites, recent years have seen a substantial shift in favour of HTTPS for the extra security it offers to site owners and users.
Why should I switch?
While the ranking boost from Google’s search algorithm may only be minor at present, it’s likely to increase over time and there are more good reasons to switch to HTTPS than just SEO.
With cyberattacks being considered one of the greatest threats to businesses of all sizes, leaving your website vulnerable to hackers exposes you and your customers to unnecessary risk. HTTPS sites lower privacy risks by verifying that the website is on the right server and helping to keep data such as credit card details secure.
Google is keen to remind users of its Chrome browser that HTTP websites are more vulnerable. If you have a HTTP site, it won’t have the trusted padlock icon next to the URL and visitors will be warned that the site and any personal details they enter may not be secure. This can be discouraging as it makes your business look less trustworthy or just behind the times.
HTTPS sites can be compromised if they contain what Google calls ‘mixed content’. This is resources such as images, video, audio and scripts that still use HTTP and might not have been migrated to HTTPS along with your site. Chrome users receive a warning when a page contains mixed content, and as of Chrome version 81, launched in February 2020, these elements are now blocked automatically. This means that some parts of your pages might no longer be displaying.
How to switch to HTTPS
The process of migrating your website from less secure HTTP to HTTPS depends on the web host or content management system you’re using. If you’re creating a new website in 2020, it’s likely to be HTTPS by default.
Some CMS such as WordPress and Blogger may give you the option of switching your old site to HTTPS automatically. If you host your own website, you’ll need to purchase and add an SSL certificate and set up page redirects manually, making sure all links to your old pages redirect to your new, secure site.
To find out more, read our guide to how to convert from HTTP to HTTPS.