Whenever you visit a website, you’ll notice a little lock icon appear next to the address you typed into your browser. This icon indicates that the website uses a secure protocol, called HTTPS (or HTTP over Transport Layer Security) for transporting data. The outdated protocol, HTTP, doesn’t encrypt data being exchanged between your browser and the web server. This led to security issues and information leaks, causing the new HTTPS protocol to gain traction. If you care about keeping your personal information secure, then using a reliable internet service is also an important factor.
E-commerce websites especially were quick to jump ship to HTTPS because it let them handle sensitive customer information in a secure way. However, slowly more and more websites have decided to migrate over to HTTPS. A major reason for this exodus is Google’s goal of having a more secure world wide web. HTTPS usage has skyrocketed since Google announced it was being considered as a ranking signal. This clear message from Google prompted webmasters to migrate over to the more secure HTTPS protocol.
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Migrating from HTTP to HTTPS
Most webmasters will hesitate to migrate to HTTPS because of the potential hassles involved. Google treats the HTTP to HTTPS migration as a site move and a URL change. This can potentially cause a dip in user traffic, a nightmare scenario for webmasters. You’ll also have to add the HTTPS property to your Search Console. This means if you operate both protocols, you’ll have to monitor two separate Search Consoles.
Here are a few statistics that show the extent of HTTPS usage (The numbers quoted here change over time, please follow the link to the source for updated figures).
- StatOperator—Out of the top 1 million websites, 424,773+ use HTTPS as default.
- SSL Pulse—60% of the internet’s top 138, 874 sites have implemented HTTPS.
- Let’s Encrypt—82% of web pages loaded in Firefox used HTTPS. (Feb 2023 Data)
These stats make it clear that most websites are willing to go through the hassle of migration. Here are five reasons why all webmasters should consider using HTTPS.
1. Improve Your Search Engine Rankings
Google made an announcement on their official Webmaster Central Blog that HTTPS is officially a part of the ranking signals that determine how the search engine determines PageRank and consequently a website’s rank in SERP (Search Engine Results Pages). This implies that websites using HTTPS instead of HTTP get a slight boost in their SEO ranks. Keep in mind that several hundred factors combine to determine how Google indexes your website. Focusing on one factor doesn’t make much of a difference. Nonetheless, shifting over to HTTPS will improve your search engine signals.
Check also: 5 Best Email Security Practices You should know
2. Create a Better Impression on Visitors
After July 2018, Google plans to mark all sites using HTTP as “not secure.” This announcement was made on the Google Security Blog and should serve as a stark warning to webmasters that have yet to migrate over to HTTPS. Chrome users who visit a website that runs on HTTP will receive a warning that declares the page as not meeting basic security standards. This sends a negative message regarding the site’s credibility. Losing visitors and customers is a major possibility if sites continue to use unsecured and outdated protocols.
3. Faster Page Load Speeds
HTTPS pages load significantly faster as compared to HTTP. This comes as a surprise because normally encrypted communication slows transmission speeds. The reason for faster communication is the introduction of a revised network communication protocol, HTTP/2.
All modern browsers support HTTP/2 so HTTPS works relatively fast, but there is a catch. Bowser support for HTTP/2 only works over secure connections. HTTP/2 will only work if the website is using the HTTPS protocol.
4. More Security and Better Encryption
Web encryption has been around for decades. The original version HTTPS, dubbed SSL or Secure Socket Layer, was released back in 1995. It enabled secure credit card transactions over the web by encrypting sensitive information. SSL was succeeded by TLS or Transport Layer Security protocol and this updated version has been widely used outside of credit card payments. The uptick in its usage happened because website owners realized that unencrypted user IDs and passwords could easily be stolen and sold to malicious parties.
As time went by, tech industry mammoths like Google, Facebook and major publishing platforms such as WIRED, the New York Times and Wikipedia also switched over to HTTPS. Smaller sites were usually reluctant to migrate over due to the costs involved, but this is rapidly starting to change with tools that automate the technical nuances and free SSL certificates.
Secure data transmission is a major reason HTTPS needs to become the norm for the entire web. End users and website owners will have peace of mind knowing that no malicious part is eavesdropping on the communication. HTTPS also protects any forms used to capture sensitive and/or personally identifiable data, such as login credentials, credit card information, etc. Another way HTTPS protects your site is by preventing the injection of any unwanted content, like advertisements.
See also: How to Create a Great Website Without Spending a Fortune
5. SSL Certificates are Available for Free
SSL certificates are required to run the site over HTTPS. These used to be quite expensive and the high cost was a major reason smaller websites avoided the update, but this has recently changed. It’s now possible to obtain free SSL digital certificates from open certificate authorities such as Let’s Encrypt. Another great option is to use a content delivery network (CDN) like Cloudflare.
Webmasters shouldn’t think of HTTPS as a silver bullet for website security. Just because you have implemented a secure protocol doesn’t mean all information security threats will be mitigated. There are lots of other security issues that also need to be addressed in order to properly secure your online assets. That being said, HTTPS is an important factor and all websites should switch over to HTTPS.