HTTPS – does your website need to make the switch?
Posted on 8th January 2018 at 12:44
Recently, Google announced that it would be marking all sites not encrypted with HTTPS as ‘not secure’ in Chrome.
Given that Chrome is the most popular web browser these days, accounting for around 60%* of UK traffic, you might want to consider switching your platform from HTTP to HTTPS if you haven’t already.
The ‘not secure’ warning has already been showing up for a while for certain websites: those that collect passwords and credit card details and more recently, websites where people enter data into an HTTP page. Going forward, the warning will apply on all sites using an HTTP platform.
This is the message that will appear when people visit these sites using Chrome.
To achieve HTTPS status for your site, you’ll need to obtain an SSL certificate. And whilst this needn’t cost you anything (see below), there are challenges as well as advantages in switching to HTTPS. Of course, you might decide you don’t need HTTPS encryption. But if you do want to go ahead, there are certain implications for your SEO status, so it’s important to get it right.
The benefits of HTTPS
• A small rankings boost
Google has confirmed that it will reward sites with HTTPS encryption with a small rankings boost. However, this has been described as ‘very lightweight’ and less important than other factors such as high quality content. This may change over time, however.
• Better referrals data
When traffic passes from an HTTPS site to an HTTP one, the referral information is lost and the visit will be marked on Google Analytics as ‘Direct’. On the other hand, HTTPS to HTTPS traffic will show up as a ‘Referral.’ So you’ll have better data about where your site visits are coming from.
• Security and privacy
This is a key consideration if your site collects payment information, passwords or any other sensitive data. An SSL certificate gives you extra layers of protection including server verification, third party tamper prevention and encrypted communications. The increased security levels give your customers more peace of mind, too.
• First impressions
A ‘not secure’ warning may not make a great first impression on your customers, potentially reducing dwell time whilst increasing your bounce rate. Whilst Google claims not to use bounce rate as a ranking factor, your SEO performance could still drop. On the other hand, if there’s no sensitive content or data collection on your website, it may not matter too much.
• Partial migration
It’s all too easy to miss out some pages or elements of your website when moving over to HTTPS. You’ll need to update everything, including internal links, widgets, images and so on. And don’t forget to update your canonical tag (the way you tell search engines that a specific URL represents the master copy of a page). Otherwise, you could end up with Google treating each HTTP page as separate from its HTTPS counterpart. The two pages will cannibalise each other, messing up your SEO rankings.
You'll need to check any add-in websites viewing in iFrames are also HTTPS links, so things like booking system add-ins and 3rd party sign up forms.
All kinds of problems can result from partial migration, or mistakes made during the process. Most can be easily fixed, but you could see your rankings drop in the meantime.
• Slower site speed
Implementing HTTPS could slow down your website, especially if it’s not very fast on HTTP. This is because secure sites need extra communications with servers to verify that they’re the right ones to talk to. This is an important point to consider, as Google uses site speed as a ranking factor, particularly on mobile sites.
Fortunately, you should be able to speed up your website by using new technologies and following best practice to optimise performance.
• Site not HTTPS ready
This won’t be a problem for most businesses, but some older web applications can’t support HTTPS URLs. If you use AdSense, you could also see your revenue go down, because Google will only display your ads on SSL-certificated sites.
Sound complicated? Leave it to It’seeze.
Here at It’seeze, we want to make life a little simpler (the clue’s in the name…) And we don’t believe small business owners should have to pay extra for SSL certificates. That’s why we include them in the cost of all our new websites. What’s more, we’re currently rolling them out retrospectively and free of charge to all existing clients.
So, for a better way to manage your business website, contact us today. Call 0115 777 3001 or fill in our online enquiry form and we’ll be in touch short
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