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What Is HTTPS / SSL and What’s All the Hype Around It?

What Is HTTPS / SSL and What’s All the Hype Around It?

HTTP stands for “Hyper Text Transfer Protocol” – when you add an “S” on the end, it stands for “Secure.”

The primary difference is that transfers of data from pages on this website are encrypted. In other words, when you submit information via a website form – perhaps to reach out to a company about their services or to buy something on an ecommerce site – the transfer of data is encrypted, keeping payments and customer information private & secure from online hackers or other third parties.

With this encryption, the danger of data theft is greatly reduced. It’s like locking a door with a combination lock vs. a plain old “button lock”.

Webmasters can secure their sites with an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate – these can be purchased from most reputable host providers and installed on the website’s server to give that site the security of encryption, and the peace of mind of the HTTPS designation in the URL bar up top.

Why Should I Secure My Site?

Ecommerce already demands secure connections – customers transmit sensitive payment information through these sites. But even non-ecommerce sites can benefit from secure connections. First and foremost, your customers’ data will be safe – truly, really safe. Just as importantly (especially with higher-end product companies with longer customer buying cycles), it will bring those customers the peace of mind brought by secure websites.

This builds trust and adds to a company’s professional appeal, which ultimately may result in greater conversions online, which can lead to greater sales. You will start to notice the little lock pad in browsers, some may have a green bar to make it more obvious.

With the recent Heartbleed scare, more and more website owners are turning to investing in SSL Certificates and more and more customers are looking for sites that secure their information. The trend will only grow more over time as Google and other search engines start to require websites to have SSL certificates (just a speculation, we are not sure if Google will make it mandatory to be considered for rankings).

There are a lot of things that users want to keep private other than credit cards and social securities, so by having your webmaster implement an SSL will only protect your customers data, giving everyone peace of mind that their data is secure.

Is It Good For SEO, Google?

Yes. Google has officially declared HTTPS encryption to be a positive ranking factor.

It’s a lightweight ranking factor, though – it will not make or break an entire SEO campaign on its own. It’s just a drop in a bucket full of hundreds of ranking factors.

So, then, if it’s lightweight, is it really worth the cost?

Yes. Absolutely.

We believe that positive SEO effects, in conjunction with building trust with customers, is worth the cost of an SSL certificate. (You can get one for a single domain for less than $100 per year.)

What Does the Future Hold For HTTPS?

We can only speculate what’s down the line (no crystal balls here), but historically, one thing is consistent: Google always changes. There are hundreds of algorithmic changes every year – more than one per day on average – and this recent announcement is just one of those changes. They’ve been saying for years that webmasters ought to provide SSL certificates for their sites, because it provides a safer (and therefore preferable) user experience. Since Google’s mission is to guide its users to the most preferable user experience, it’s no surprise that HTTPS sites now receive some preferential rankings in search results.

Google’s logic might be: if a customer wants to buy a product or reach out to a company using a web form, they are only trying to reach someone at the company – not the masses. If a webmaster knowingly does not secure that form, it is knowingly putting customers’ information at risk, allowing access to potentially confidential information. If you don’t care about your customers’ privacy, why should a search engine (that cares about user experience) rank your website higher than other, more secure websites?

How Do I Install an SSL?

Buying the SSL certificate is pretty straight forward. There is some work ahead to install your SSL correct so we recommend you follow Google’s best practices.

For switching to a secure server, there are basically four steps:

  1. Procure the SSL certificate from a reputable host.
  2. Install the certificate on the server where you host your website. You should be able to do this from your hosting control panel.
  3. Redirect your site at the server level from HTTP to HTTPS. You can use your .htaccess file, or some hosts offer this option via their control panel.
  4. Notify Google via Google Webmaster Tools of the new settings. Google has specific guidelines on moving a site to a new URL (and yes, HTTP to HTTPS counts as a new URL).

NOTE – There are 3 types of SSL Certificates that you need to choose from: Single site, Multi-site, and Wildcard. Make sure you select the one best for your business.

This sounds simple enough, but beware: if you do it wrong, it could hurt your current rankings and, if not redirected properly, could create dead pages. We encourage business owners to use a professional.   Moz has created a very useful checklist for those planning to switch over to HTTPS and want to preserve their rankings. We urge all business owners to talk to their webmasters about getting their sites secured. If you don’t have a webmaster for this sort of thing, we may be able to help out. Give us a call (818-865-1267) or shoot us an email.

We’d be glad to help you buy, install and implement your SSL and make your website safe and secure while instilling confidence in your customers to continue to browse your website as this becomes a standard over time.

Author: Rahul Alim
Custom Creatives was established to serve as your full-service one-stop Digital Marketing Company, offering graphic design, web design and web development agency, catering to businesses of all sizes. Custom Creatives has designed and deployed over 100,000 banner ads, as well as thousands of websites and landing pages and print collateral for small businesses and large international corporations. Providing exceptional quality services and products with a high return on investment is at the heart of everything we do.

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