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Head to Head Series: HTTP vs HTTPS

It was a “webmaster level: all” type of announcement on Google. They announced that HTTPS is a ranking signal and failing to switch could significantly affect your ranking. Lower ranking means less traffic, less traffic means less business. What does this mean for your HTTP website? Let’s weigh in on the difference between the two and what it will entail for your business:

HTTP

HTTP stands for hypertext transfer protocol. It is used to transfer from a web server to a browser to view web pages. The issue is that it is not encrypted, meaning it can be intercepted by any third parties while data is being transferred. Any data that is transferred can be insecure. There is no secure sockets layer (SSL) to protect through a secure encrypted connection between the web server and the web browser.

Most smaller B2B websites figure that the costs of uptake to HTTPS are not worth the minimal benefits. Other factors such as page optimization, the number of Google reviews, the total number of pages and backlinks actually had a far more significant impact on the SEO rankings. For smaller B2B websites, they figure that it isn’t worth going through the struggle of switching when they already had such a high SEO ranking. This comes with the risk of Google sometime in the near future switching to a more punitive policy on their “HTTPS as a ranking signal” mantra. All in all, it might be worth your time to future-proof that risk. HTTPS as a ranking factor may be of low importance now, but there is a high chance this may change in the very near future.

HTTPS

Switching to HTTPS is making your website more secure. Of course, it is important to note that it is not a web application firewall. It will not prevent your website from getting hacked and it will not stop phishing emails from getting sent. For content management systems (CMS) like WordPress, which require having a login with sensitive data, setting up an HTTPS login is a very fundamental precaution.

Setting up an SSL Certificate should be fairly easily accommodated by your web host.

The use of security seals can improve lead generation by over 40 percent. This is due to the fact that it improves trust between your online patrons when there is a known extra layer of security. According to GlobalSign, more than 80 percent of respondents would abandon a purchase if the website had no HTTPS in use.

Ultimately, it is far better to err on the side of caution when it comes to matters of web security.

The Process for Switching to HTTPS

If you are familiar with the backend of a website, then switching to HTTPS is fairly straightforward in practice. If not, this could get very technical. Grab onto your web developer and hold on:

  1. Purchase an SSL certificate and a dedicated IP address from your hosting company.
  2. Install and configure the SSL certificate.
  3. Perform a full back-up of your site in case you need to revert back.
  4. Configure any hard internal links within your website, from HTTP to HTTPS.
  5. Update any code libraries, such as JavaScript, Ajax and any third-party plugins.
  6. Redirect any external links you control to HTTPS, such as directory listings.
  7. Update htaccess applications, such as Apache Web Server, LiteSpeed, NGinx Config and your internet services manager function (such as Windows Web Server), to redirect HTTP traffic to HTTPS.
  8. If you are using a content delivery network (CDN), update your CDN’s SSL settings.
  9. Implement 301 redirects on a page-by-page basis.
  10. Update any links you use in marketing automation tools, such as email links.
  11. Update any landing pages and paid search links.
  12. Set up an HTTPS site in Google Search Console and Google Analytics.
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