Back in 2018, Google began displaying red errors in the address bars of unsecure websites — namely, those without the HTTPS protocol.
In addition, browsers often asked users to confirm before proceeding to the “potentially harmful website,” publicly shaming the sites that hadn’t yet migrated from HTTP to HTTPS.
Today, HTTPS is the standard on the web – it provides a safer environment for users who are already concerned about their privacy online. Moreover, HTTPS is one of the major SEO ranking factors.
Besides, a huge red warning saying your website isn’t secure doesn’t create the most flattering brand reputation among users, does it?
So, if you have been delaying your website’s migration to HTTPS because you’re not sure how to do it or why it’s important, worry not — it’s better late than never.
In this blog, we’ll explore the benefits of implementing HTTPS, how to find the best certificate for your website and share the best tips on migrating from HTTP to HTTPS.
HTTP vs. HTTPS
HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol — a specified syntax for how information is presented online. Today, HTTP represents the most fundamental method for data transfer online
Data is transferred via HTTP messages. Two main types are requests and responses. HTTP requests are created by the users’ browsers as they interact with the website properties.
For example, when you opened this article, whether it showed up in the Google search results or as a hyperlink on another website, your browser generated an HTTP request.
Your request went into an origin server or a proxy caching server, thus generating an HTTP response that opened the page in your browser.
HTTPS is an extended version of HTTP, with the “S” denoting the added security level of encryption in the communication protocol. The encryption is established via the TLS (Transport Layer Security) protocol, formerly known as the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer).
This improved protocol allows encrypted and safe data transfer between a web browser and a website, which is especially important when users send personal data, such as bank account details, use email services, or share login information.
HTTPS uses an asymmetric public key infrastructure, where two different keys – private and public – are used to encrypt intercommunications between parties.
Benefits of Migrating to HTTPS
Implementing HTTPS will help your website rank higher on Google (and other search engines), promote user trust, and boost your website’s performance by improving loading speed and referral data.
HTTPS is a Google Search Ranking Signal
Implementing the security protocol is one of the 200+ Google search ranking signals.
Although it’s not among the most important ranking factors, migrating to HTTPS positively correlates to the moderate rise in a website’s ranking, according to a joint analysis by Backlinko, SEMRush, Ahrefs, and other major SEO platforms.
We asked SEO specialists from some of the top New York web design companies about their opinion of HTTPS’s importance in SEO.
They noted that besides the improved rankings, the security protocol has a powerful psychological effect on website visitors.
This brings us to the next benefit of HTTPS.
HTTPS Indicates Security and Trustworthiness
According to a survey by GlobalSign, 79% of internet users are concerned about their data being misused online. Furthermore, 46% of users reported they leave the website if the address bar turns red.
So, the lack of HTTPS can be a huge drawback for users. By contrast, the green padlock gives your website credibility and signifies that the users’ private data will be protected.
With HTTPS, your visitors will be more willing to share their personal information with you, such as credit card details, social security numbers, and login credentials.
As HTTPS adds an extra layer of protection, you won’t be losing any more customers due to their fear of data abuse.
Useful HTTP to HTTPS Migration Tips
Securing Multiple Domains
If you have multiple domains, such as subdomains that are a part of your main domain (e.g., “subdomain.domain.com”), you will need a wildcard SSL certificate.
So, if you run a multinational business, let’s say, a web design company in NY with branches in London and Paris, you could have “website.com,” “uk.website.com,” and “fr.website.com” domains, and a wildcard certificate covers them all.
Update Your Robots.txt, Sitemaps, and Google Services
As you will practically have a new domain after migrating to HTTPS, you will need to update all relevant files to match the change.
When it comes to Google’s platforms, you will need to create new profiles on Google Analytics and in the Google Search Console.
Let’s Encrypt: Alternative for SSLs?
Since its launch in 2021, Let’s Encrypt grew into the largest certificate authority, with nearly 2 billion certificates issued to date.
Let’s Encrypt is a free certificate authority created by the nonprofit Internet Security Research Group (ISRG).
Let’s Encrypt has several benefits, such as:
- It has no requirement for a dedicated IP address
- It’s totally free
- It’s recognized by all the major browsers
- It’s easy to install and setup via your hosting control panel
However, there are some drawbacks too, such as:
- Lack of a trusted root certificate
- Domain validated certificates might be your only option
- A 90-day validity for issued certificates
4 Steps to Effortlessly Migrate From HTTP to HTTPS
#1: Set the Stage for Migration
Your first step is to purchase a certificate adequate for your business needs and the information users generally leave on your site.
There are three types of SSL certificates – or as the current improved version is called, TSL (Transport Layer Security) – domain validated, organization validated, and extended validation certificates.
- Domain validated SSLs represent the lowest level of protection and guarantee that the organization has authority over the specific domain.
- Organization validated SSLs verify you as a legitimate organization behind the website.
- Extended validation SSLs represent the strictest level of security where your business’ ownership, location, legal aspects, and so on are thoroughly checked. Compared to the other two, this type of validation is usually more expensive and takes longer to be issued.
Once you’ve chosen a specific certificate, you should contact your hosting provider and discuss potential extra server configurations that will ensure a smooth transition to HTTPS.
Moreover, your developers and SEO experts should closely follow the process in case things go south.
Finally, integrating HTTPS may cause website downtime, so make sure not to schedule the migration during peak traffic times.
#2: Install Your SSL
Once you’ve purchased your SSL, you will receive an email with a bundle of certificates. One of them is the actual certificate, and the others are the certificate authority.
Copy the certificate text from the email or the zip file attached and paste it into the SSL/TLS section in the Security settings of your hosting platform.
Then, click ‘Install’ to finalize the process and check whether you still receive the security warnings on your website.
You might need to clear your browser cache to see the change. Also, ask someone who hasn’t visited your website before to open it and see whether the certificate displays correctly for them.
#3: Update URLs in Accordance
Once you’ve set up your HTTPS, your website will be available on both HTTP and HTTPS. Thus, you’ll have to alter your URLs to match the certificate installation.
#4: Set Up 301 Redirects
Even though your website has an SSL, the old HTTP URLs are still live and discoverable. This is where 301 redirects come in.
Go to the files section in your hosting control panel, find public_html and look for a .htaccess file which you should edit with several lines of code.
Tomas is a digital marketing specialist and a freelance blogger. His work is focusing on new web tech trends and digital voice distribution across different channels.
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