Security has continued to be one of the biggest concerns for people on the internet, and rightfully so. We share A LOT of information on the internet today. From purchasing household items on Amazon to checking our bank accounts, odds are that you have entered credit card information or entered your bank account PIN to a website to access useful information or purchase something you need. It is absolutely critical that these, now very common, tasks are done safely without compromising sensitive information. Authorities like Google and Mozilla, makers of two popular web browsers, understand how important security is to users and are making a push for a more secure web. When you visit a website, like Amazon, on Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, you’ll typically see something like this in the address bar:
Simply put, when you see that in your address bar, your connection to the website is secure. But secure from what? Specifically, that green padlock means that the information transferred from your browser to the website is encrypted and extremely difficult for others to capture the information you are sending to the website. So, when you start entering your credit card information at checkout, that information is sent securely through the encrypted connection, all thanks to the HTTPS and SSL certificate so graciously installed!
What’s the Difference?
You might be asking, what is the difference between HTTP and HTTPS? First of all, we need to know what the HTTP acronym means. HTTP stands for hypertext transfer protocol. To put the term simply, it means that when someone visits a specific website, the information from the web server to your browser is sent in plain text and then rendered accordingly. With HTTPS, additional protocols are utilized which come in the form of SSL (secure sockets layer) and TLS (transport layer security). These additional protocols are previously validated and ensure the encryption of data being sent from the website’s servers to the end-user.
The image below simply illustrates the basic differences in the two protocols:
Why is Understanding HTTP v HTTPS Important for Digital Marketing?
Understanding the differences between HTTP and HTTPS is becoming more and more important for digital marketers for a number of reasons. As the digital marketing space continues to rapidly evolve, so will the need for HTTPS to evolve as well.
It was in 2014 that Google announced HTTPS as a ranking signal. At the time, Google clarified that this ranking signal was small and being tested in the search engine algorithm. Since then, many observations have been made about the impact of this announcement. One of the most important observations is that roughly half of first page SERPs were pages utilizing HTTPS. Google’s call for a more secure web seems to have been widely recognized.
Even in 2018, the potential ranking benefit of an HTTPS site over an HTTP site is still not the end-all to getting your site on the first page, but it is still important! Why? Because the visitors to your site matter. More than likely, your website serves as a medium for you to interact with potential customers. That interaction means that you want visitors to submit contact info or make a purchase. That requires them to fill out a form with a name and email, or enter their payment info to buy your product. It is critical that you show your visitors that you value the privacy of their information. HTTPS helps you accomplish that!
In October 2017, the newest version of Google Chrome began notifying their users of pages that were not secure. For example, if you were to visit a that contained a form or checkout and was not using HTTPS, a small notification would display like the one below:
More than likely, it could be expected that those who see this notification would be swayed from entering sensitive information over an insecure connection.
Conclusion: Know What Best Serves Your Website’s Goals
Common sense tells us that operating a site over a secure connection is good for everyone. You get the boost in ranking authority with HTTPS, and your visitors’ data will be encrypted. However, frantically migrating over to HTTPS may not always be the best step to take.
Be mindful of the factors that go into properly migrating. Consider the size of your site and the components that you utilize such as external sources that contribute to your site. When you do migrate, be sure to utilize Google Search Console to monitor any potential issues with pages properly loading on the proper URLs. After all, if you’ve migrated to HTTPS, but haven’t ensured that your visitors can reach the pages they need, you’re losing valuable traffic to your site. Most of all, provide as much value to your visitors as you can.