If your website is using HTTP, you need to stop what you are doing and read this article.

HTTP is an acronym for “HyperText Transfer Protocol”. HTTP is the underlying protocol used by the World Wide Web that defines how messages are transmitted and formatted between web servers, websites, browsers, etc.

In a nutshell, HTTP is not secure. It does not properly protect devices that are communicating information. Essentially, its like having a conversation with people sitting next to you easily able to eavesdrop – your information is not safe. Back in 2014, Google announced that HTTPS is now a ranking factor. However, many websites still use HTTP. Why? They just haven’t switched yet.

Google wants the internet to be faster, more secure, and a better experience for users (because the more people that use Google the more money they make on advertisers. Aka if you’re website is not ‘secure’ then they wont be as nice about showing you favorably in their search engines. Makes sense right? If your site is “unsafe” why would they want to send their customers (the people using Google) to websites like that?

So, if you’re asking yourself “does my website need an SSL certificate?” or “do I need to switch to https?”, Well, the answer is – Yes. But feel free to read more if you want to understand the basics of HTTP vs. HTTPS.

1) HTTP vs HTTPS: The Basics

To get a grasp of what the difference between HTTP and HTTPS is, you must be able to understand what each one is. This is the base that will help you decide how to choose between HTTP vs HTTPS.

What Is HTTP?

HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. This is the protocol used to data to a browser from a server. This is the most basic form that allows users to view web pages. Early websites used this protocol back in the days.

So, What Is HTTPS about?

HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. The main issue that sets HTTP apart form HTTPS is the fact that the flow of information can be stolen since it is not encrypted. Through the use of an
SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate, HTTPS solves this by creating an encrypted connection between server and browser. In this way, any sensitive information being shared by the server and browser is protected and cannot be easily stolen.

The Main Difference Between HTTP and HTTPS

The SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate is then the main difference between HTTP and HTTPS. This extra layer of security is of vital importance, especially for those sites that collect sensitive information from their users such as passwords and credit card information. So, you can think of HTTPS as an HTTP with extra security.

But how exactly does HTTPS work? It protects information by encrypting it, this means that it translates the data and converts it into code. In this way, even if someone managed to steal the data being shared between the sender and the recipient, the encryption makes it impossible to read.

Another layer of security provided by HTTPS is TLS (Transport Layer Security) protocol. This protocol provides two distinct services: data integrity to prevent the data being transferred from being modified or corrupted and authentication, which proves that your users are in communication with the website they intended.

Identifying if a website uses the HTTPS protocol is actually pretty easy. All you have to do is look at the very beginning of a site’s web address (right before the “www”)-there you will see if the site uses HTTP or HTTPS protocol.

2) Advantage Of Switching To HTTPS for SEO

You can easily see now what a huge advantage does having HTTPS protocol have for your site. Who would not want to have an extra secure site? But if your website does not collect any sensitive information from your users like passwords or credit card numbers, you might think that switching over to HTTPS is not really necessary and it’s more a hassle than whatever good it could do.

But you have not considered that security is not the only benefit of HTTPS. Making the switch over to HTTPS also has a positive effect on boosting your SEO efforts. Check out the following ways in which HTTPS can help improve your SEO:

Improve Your Rankings

HTTPS has an impact on SEO! Google itself announced that they will be giving a small nudge in rankings to those sites that switch to HTTPS. But switching to HTTPS can also help boost your rankings over time. Visitors are more likely to visit sites they know are safe.

Keep Data From Your Referrals

Google Analytics is more effective on sites with HTTPS protocol. The reason for this is that the website referring you is saved when using HTTPS. It does not happen with HTTP sites, where referral sources show up simply as “direct traffic”. This fact alone gives HTTPS a huge SEO advantage to your site.

Trust-Building

Visitors to HTTPS sites not only get their sensitive info protected (passwords and credit card info) but also their browsing history. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that whatever they download, sign up for, or purchase will not put them at risk is a great way to build customer trust. This is vital for capturing leads and completing sales.

You must also come to think that you are protecting your site from potential security breaches, which can damage your reputation besides costing you money if they do happen.

Ability To Use AMP

In order for you to be able to use AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) you will need to have HTTPS. The purpos of AMP is to help load content on mobile devices at a much higher rate. You can think of it as stripped-down HTML. Google SERPs prominently feature AMP content to provide a smoother mobile experience for mobile device users.

You should aim towards creating a mobile-friendly website, especially considering the increase in mobile use and how important it is to search rankings and local SEO. Switching to HTTPS is then indispensable.

3) Concerns About SEO When Switching To HTTPS

We have seen the many benefits of switching over from HTTPS to HTTPS. But there are a few caveats that you could meet when doing so. The following are some things you should keep in mind when you switch to HTTPS in order to prevent any SEO-related issues.

  • Let Google know that you have made the switch from HTTP to HTTPS.

In order for you to see your ranking go up again, you must have Google crawl your site again. Unfortunately, Google does not get any sort of automatic notification that you have switched. So, make sure you notify them, otherwise, it will be a while before your rankings boost.

  • SSL certificate is not the only one out there.
    Some other certificates out there include Single Domain, Multiple Domain, and Wildcard SSL certificates.  Single Domain certificate is the one used when certifying one domain or subdomain. A Multiple Domain certificate, also known as a Unified Communications certificate, allows you to secure a primary domain name and above 99 additional Subject Alternative Names. Wildcard certificate lets you secure not only your website’s URL but unlimited subdomains too.
  • Use relative URLs for any resources.
    This process guarantees that you reside on the same secure domain and protocol-relative URLS for all domains. This is to reside on the same secure domain and protocol relative URLs for all other domains.
  • Make sure not to prevent Google from crawling your HTTPS site.
    Google must be able to use robots.txt. to crawl through your site. If this is not possible, you will see your ability to improve your SEO suffer. This will bring down your potential search ranking. Try not to forget to update your test server to enable the use of bots.
  • Search engines must be able to index your pages.
    You can toggle off having search engines not index your pages. However, this could damage your SEO efforts since your page rankings will be deleted. Regaining them could take a while.
  • Keep a vigilant tracking on your HTTP to HTTPS migration.
    To do this, you can use Google Webmaster Tools and other analytics software. This will ensure a smooth process and the possibility of detecting any potential issue as soon as possible preventing them from hurting your SEO.

4) Process Of Changing From HTTP To HTTPS

Steps to switch to HTTPS

After taking a look at the benefits of switching from HTTP to HTTPs and going over useful tips to prevent issues, it is time now to actually make the switch. This process is not really difficult. It takes a series of steps to complete, therefore, it takes time.

You will not see complete migration right away. But your patience will be worth at the end. Make sure that all the links throughout are updated. Double-check each one or they will break after migrating.

There are a number of reasons why you want your website to be secure. You do not only want your visitors’ sensitive information to be protected, but you also want these visitors to actually feel safe and comfortable while browsing your site. These two alone are good reasons for you to switch from HTTP to HTTPS. But then, if you also consider the overall positive effect it will have on your SEO, making the call is much easier.

Are you yet to switch your website to HTPPS? You should seriously consider the time to do so. It is a long process but the results are well worth the effort. HTTPS is quickly becoming the standards, so the more time you wait, the higher your chances of you falling behind of your competition.

We would like to hear about your results after switching your website from HTTP to HTTPS.

Please share with us your HTTP vs HTTPS experience. Tell us about when you migrated to HTTPS. What has been the major difference to you since you made the switch? How long was it before seeing results? What are these results? Have you encountered any issues? If so, which ones? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Devin Schumacher

Devin Schumacher

Devin Schumacher is a digital marketing consultant, search engine optimization (SEO) expert and Founder of SERP Co. Devin also serves as an advisor to numerous e-commerce companies helping businesses grow by constructing, implementing and overseeing tailor-made online marketing strategies.

8 thoughts on “HTTP vs. HTTPS”

  1. This blog gave me a light bulb moment. I didn’t know the difference between these two things and realize my web pages are running on http. I’m going to change things now that I know the difference (especially the security factor).

  2. Marvelous Marvin

    Hey man. Would this explain why I get a message on my browser saying “This site is unsecured”? or is there another reason for the message. Will start avoiding http sites.

  3. Tyler Hutchinson

    Thank you! No one has been able to tell me what the difference was. I had no idea other than one had an s on the end. Now I know, “s” is for secure.

  4. Badlands Bailey

    B is for Bailey. B is also for BIG difference between http and https. I’ll be more cautious now when I see an http compared to an https. Is http why I get an “unsecured” message on Google?

  5. I read on many pages that the one with https has a better position in google. I have several pages and some have SSL and others don’t and I don’t see the difference. Perhaps this is very insignificant about the position. At least I don’t see differences when it comes to positions.

    1. Devin Schumacher

      It is a factor with all other things being equal. If you aren’t seeing any ranking difference it is because other factors are in play.

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