Every successful business today relies on SEO – which means relying pretty heavily on Google. Which means, every now and again, jumping through some hoops you might not otherwise bother with.

HTTPS vs HTTP is one of those hoops.

Here’s why you should think about upgrading.

HTTPS vs HTTP is about security

OK, we exaggerated a little. HTTPS vs HTTP isn’t ONLY a hoop you have to jump through. There are some very legitimate security reasons as to why you should think about upgrading.

First off, let’s get a better idea of what we’re dealing with. HTTP stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol. HTTPS stands for Text Transfer Protocol Secure.

Basically, HTTPS encrypts the data before it sends it anywhere using a Secure Socket Layer certificate (SSL).

To break this down a little more technically, HTTP and HTTPS are both ways of transferring data from a web page to a server. It’s what’s called a ‘stateless’ system, meaning that it doesn’t remember what was transferred before – it doesn’t remember anything. However, there’s a catch – as the data is being transferred between A and B (e.g. a web page and a server) it’s not secure. People could potentially peer in and see what’s going on.

When you’re just transferring a blog post from your server to a web page, you probably don’t care that much if someone looks in.

If you’re transferring credit card information, it gets a lot more relevant.

However, if an SSL certificate is encrypting the data, it means that someone can’t look at the data and see what’s going on.

It’s standard practice to use HTTPS vs HTTP for secure websites – banking, e-commerce, anything involving money. Those sorts of things.

However, it might be more relevant than you think for your site going forward.

What Google thinks

The reason this is suddenly more important is, as usual, Google.

In August 2014, they announced they were:

“Taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms.”

While they do maintain that it’s a very light signal, in the world of SEO and technical SEO in particular, every little bit helps to push you up the SERPs.

This change was set in motion in order to encourage webmasters and website owners to get SSL certificates and basically mimic Google’s own approach to HTTPS vs HTTP, which is “HTTPS everywhere.”

And in fairness to Google, it’s not like this is a terrible idea.

Why HTTPS is a good idea

First, it’s good for users. It makes their data more secure. And since the rate of data theft and cyber-crime seem to be on an endless trend upward (anyone remember Home Depot?), more security is hardly a bad thing.

Second, there’s an increasing amount of chat and information in the form of conversations, photos, and videos being shared online. With HTTPS, it makes these private moments a lot more difficult to eavesdrop on – regardless of whether it’s a hacker or a government agency.

Third, HTTPS is a requirement for AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages. Accelerated Mobile Pages is a technology that makes mobile web pages load extremely quickly – which is obviously what users are going to want.

So there are very real benefits to users that require the migration to HTTPS vs HTTP.

Finally, HTTPS is good for SEO.

HTTPS and SEO

We’ve mentioned already that HTTPS is good for SEO. But it goes beyond the simple implication of being a “light ranking factor” in the algorithm.

HTTPS with AMP speeds your mobile experience up, which is going to benefit your SEO (good mobile experiences get ranked better).

HTTPS also implicitly benefits your SEO by hanging on to referral data. If information passes from an HTTPS site to a standard HTTP site, the referral data is lost and the traffic shows up in your analytics as ‘direct’. However, if YOUR site is HTTPS secured than the referral information is preserved, which means that the traffic source tracks correctly. There are a few implications to call out here:

  • Without HTTPS encryption, you’ll find it difficult to make informed decisions about your website traffic.
  • As more sites switch to HTTPS, the information available to you will diminish.
  • You referral traffic impacts your SEO – if it all says it’s ‘direct’, your overall SEO profile will suffer.

The end result is that without an HTTPS, it becomes increasingly difficult to do well in the SERPs as your SEO continually degrades.

HTTPS is good for your brand (and your business)

Because of the rise in highly public cyber-attacks and the increase in online transactions, people are more concerned than ever about their online security.

HTTPS is an easy way for you to demonstrate to customers that you take their security seriously.

First, it’ll help prevent public relations meltdowns like the Home Depot example from before.

You do not want your company to be the next Home Depot.

Second, in 2017 Google is going to start to have ‘secure’ badges come up in search results, so it’s as clear as possible to users what sites are secure to use and which ones are not.

There is no quicker way to lose business if a browser is considering 5 links in a SERP and yours is the only one without a secure badge.

Conclusion

The debate of HTTPS vs HTTP is being driven forward by major forces online today. WordPress is even getting in on the action, making moves in early 2017 to push its 74.6 million websites to HTTPS.

But what it really comes down to is how you as a company want to be seen by your users. Site-wide HTTPS is an easy way to demonstrate that not only are you concerned about security when you have money on the table, but you are smart enough to be concerned even when you don’t.

It’s about respecting the people who visit your site, who in turn will respect (and spend) with you.

Got questions about SEM/SEO? We’ve got answers. Drop us a line on our (secure) contact page and we’ll get back to you before you know it.