I] The Basics: HTTP vs HTTPS
HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) is a structure for transferring and receiving information on the web, most frequently operated to retrieve HTML web pages. HTTP is considered an application layer protocol – it exists to present information to the web user no matter what channel it takes to do so. HTTP is stateless, which means it uses less data by forgetting earlier web sessions.
HTTPS, or Secure HyperText Transfer Protocol, was established to sanction secured transactions and authorization over the web. Exchanging information, like credit card numbers or access, requires security to avert unauthorized entry through HTTPS.
So what’s the difference between HTTP vs HTTPS? HTTPS is HTTP – just the secure version. HTTPS follows the same protocols as HTTP – the browser begins a connection to a server on a standard port. The additional layer of HTTPS security uses Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL, to transport data. HTTPS exercises TCP Port 443 by default, so they use two separate communications.
II] What Is HTTPS?
Let’s start with the basics. The “s” at the end of the “http” part of a URL means the website is secure. HTTPS (Hypertext Transport Protocol Security), or secure, sites include the SSL 2048-bit key and can protect a site connection through authentication and encryption. When installed on a web server, an SSL certificate activates the padlock and the https protocol and allows secure connections from a web server to a browser.
Secure websites can protect a user’s connection by securing information in three layers:
1.) Encryption ensures that a user’s activity cannot be tracked or their information stolen
2.) Data integrity prevents files from being corrupted as they’re transferred
3.) Authentication protects against attacks and builds user trust
But how, exactly, do SSL certificates affect search engine rankings and more?
What Is the Overall HTTPS SEO Impact?
1.) 84% of users would abandon a purchase if data was sent over an insecure connection, indicating that website insecurity could potentially impact sales.
2.) Google has hinted at a fully secure web in the future by saying they’ll “continue working towards a web that’s secure by default.”
3.) Google Chroma labels HTTP sites as increase, warning users that the connection is not secure.
4.) HTTPS websites load much faster than http sites, and sites with faster speeds are more likely to rank better.
5.) According to Google, more than 50% of all desktop page loads are HTTPS connections, which is all-time high.
6.) Multiple studies have found a slight correlation between HTTPS and Higher Search Ranking.
7.) About 40% of Google page one organic listings are HTTPS.
8.) HTTPS has been a signal in Google’s ranking algorithm since 2014.
III] The Process of Changing from HTTP to HTTPS
Migrating your website from HTTP to HTTPS is a straightforward process.
– Purchase an SSL certificate
– Install your SSL certificate on your site’s hosting account,
– Double check all of your links. Any URL not updated from HTTP to HTTPS will break after the migration.
– Notify Google and other search engines of your website change by setting up 301 redirects from HTTP to HTTPS. This way, anyone who has bookmarked a page on your site is automatically redirected to the new HTTPS address after you finish the switch. Since the Search Console treats HTTP and HTTPS separately, if you have pages that use both, you will need to create a separate Search Console property for each one.
IV] HTTPS and Google’s Opinion
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Google prefers sites that are trusted and certified.
This is because users can be guaranteed that the site will encrypt their information for that extra level of security. However, you should understand that getting a certificate can be an involved task (which is why it allows for higher ranking benefits).
Breaking it down: When a site goes through the motions of obtaining a certificate, the issuer becomes a trusted third party. When your browser recognizes a secure Web site, it uses the information in the certificate to verify that the site is what it claims to be. A user who knows the difference between HTTP and HTTPS can now buy with confidence, and thus, businesses can get started in electronic commerce because of this credibility.
With the announcement I addressed in the beginning, Google is now using HTTPS as a ranking signal. It is pretty clear from data analysis that HTTPS sites have a ranking advantage over http-URLs so this switch will now benefit all companies, confidential information or not.
To get a little bit more detailed, data sent using HTTPS is secured via Transport Layer Security protocol (TLS), which provides three key layers of protection:
– Encryption: Encrypting the exchanged data to keep it secure.
– Data Integrity: Data cannot be modified or corrupted during transfer without being detected.
– Authentication proves that your users communicate with the intended website.
Google claims that websites who use HTTPS will have a small ranking benefit because of these security aspects.
Still, HTTPS sites will only have the benefit of a “very lightweight signal” within the overall ranking algorithm, carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content.
According to Search Engine Land, Google said that based on their initial tests the HTTPS signal showed “positive results” in terms of relevancy and ranking in Google’s search results.
That same article predicted that this may change eventually, and Google may decide to strengthen the signal, or give more ranking benefit to HTTPS sites because they want to keep online users secure.
V] SEO Advantages of Switching to HTTPS
It is clear that HTTPS offers security, so it is definitely the choice to put you in Google’s good graces. There are also some additional SEO benefits for you to consider.
1. Increased rankings.
The obvious one. As stated, Google has confirmed the slight ranking boost of HTTPS sites. Like most ranking signals, it is very hard to isolate on its own, but this is still something to keep in mind. On the plus side, the value of switching to HTTPS is very likely to increase over time.
2. Referrer Data.
When traffic passes to an HTTPS site, the secure referral information is preserved. This is unlike what happens when traffic passes through an HTTP site, and it is stripped away “direct.”
3. Security and privacy.
HTTPS adds security for your SEO goals and website in several ways:
It verifies that the website is the one the server it is supposed to be talking to.
It prevents tampering by third parties.
It makes your site more secure for visitors.
It encrypts all communication, including URLs, which protects things like browsing history and credit card numbers.