Should you move to HTTPS?

Difficulty: Beginner

What is HTTPS?

Before you consider whether or not you should move to HTTPS, it’s important to understand exactly what it is.

Data, communication, content - it is all sent through HTTP, which is the abbreviation for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. Essentially, HTTPS is a more secure version of HTTP. The “S” stands for Secure Sockets Layer. If you’re using HTTPS, your data will be encrypted, and therefore harder for unauthorised people to intercept.

So why exactly is it important? Are there many benefits to using HTTPS over HTTP? There are a few reasons you may want to consider using HTTPS:

1. Google prefers it

Everyone wants to get to that number one spot on Google’s results page. So what happens when the top two results are fairly equal - how does Google decide which page should be number one?

In 2015, Google’s Gary Illyes said that HTTPS may be a deciding factor. Illyes stated “if all quality signals are equal for two results, then the one that is on HTTPS would get...or may get...the extra boost that is needed to trump the other result.”

2. Offers more privacy for users

Google’s rankings take into account the user experience. So it makes sense that HTTPS would get preference over HTTP. Using HTTPS improves the user experience as people can be rest assured their connection is private. HTTPS not only helps to keep information private, but also helps to prevent data breaches from occurring.

3. Labelled as not secure

Google announced that as of January 2017, it would begin labelling HTTP pages which collect information such as passwords or credit card details as “non-secure.” This is sure to prevent people from completing their transaction from a website that is still using HTTP.

4. Mobile users

Mobile use is becoming increasingly popular. In fact, Google now considers whether or not a website is mobile user-friendly when indexing. Businesses should try and follow Google’s best practices to ensure their website ranks at the highest possible position. One of the best practices is ensuring you have migrated to a secure site.

In fact, SSL is a requirement for AMP, which stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. AMP ensures pages on mobile devices load instantly. Web pages that are AMP ready will have better rankings. However, in order to be AMP ready, you will need SSL. If you’re wanting to achieve the best ranking, you’re going to have to think about the importance of mobile users.

How can you migrate to HTTPS?

You’ve read our reasons and now you’re convinced you need to migrate to HTTPS. But how exactly do you do that? There are a series of steps you will need to follow:

Get an SSL certificate: the first thing you’ll need to do is install an SSL certificate on your website. There are three types of SSL certificates to choose from. These are:
Extended Validation: this is the top of the line option with the best security, and issued almost immediately.
Organisation Validation: if you’re collecting private information but don’t want to choose the Extended Validation option, this is the choice for you.
Domain Validation: the most affordable, but also very basic, and is the only option that doesn’t offer 2048-bit encryption.
You can find SSL certificates on numerous websites. Generally your hosting will also offer this, and may even help you install it.
Make a URL list: you’ll need to make a list of every URL on your website which you need to redirect from HTTP to HTTPS. You can use a spreadsheet to make this list. If you’re considering to undertake a site restructure, do this before doing a URL list.
Update internal links and images: if you’ve got internal links within your website, you’ll have to update them too, so they are now a HTTPS link. This also applies for any linked resources that feature on your website, such as images. If these have a source, you’ll have to make sure that is also changed to HTTPS.
Set up 301 redirects: following your URL mapping, you’ll be able to set up 301 redirects from the old HTTP URLs to the new HTTPS URLs.
Add your site to Google webmaster tools: Once your site is good to go, you’ll want to get it crawled again to ensure there is no impact on your traffic flows. You’ll need to add your HTTPS website to Google’s Search Console. Submit your sitemap in a new listing. Make sure you also re-submit your old sitemap to ensure Google can see your 301 redirects. This will help Google to update its listings.
Monitor your website: once it is updated, make sure you continue to monitor your HTTPS website. Check to see if traffic continues or drops off - a drop off could signal a problem with migration or the installation of the SSL certificate. Keep an eye on your rankings to see what impact the migration had.

You may notice initial fluctuations in traffic or rankings, however in the long run switching to HTTPS has many SEO benefits.


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