Difference Between HTTP and HTTPS

difference between http and https

When it comes to understanding the difference between HTTP and HTTPS really comes down to security. As we move more into companies asking for user information over the internet it is important to understand why HTTPS is a standard for websites and encrypting your information. 

As a website owner you may think that you do not need an SSL certificate for your website if you are not tracking any delicate information. 

Take a step back and really review your website and you will notice if you have the following on your site it should be HTTPS. 

  • Email signup
  • Contact form
  • eCommerce
  • And anything that involves asking for information through your website

What is HTTP and Is It Secure?

HTTP is (Hypertext Transfer protocol) and it is not a secure way of users visiting your website. HTTP uses port 80 while HTTPS is using port 443. You will find yourself in a position that not only will your users know this but so will the most popular browsers you use such as Chrome and Safari. 

http domain name

What Does HTTPS Stand For?

HTTPS stands for (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) and it is an internet communication protocol that protects the integrity and provides confidentiality of data between the user’s computer and the website they are sharing said information. 

User’s want a secure and private online experience and they want to make sure their information is safe and secure. As an SEO company we watch and follow a lot of the different guidelines set by Google and one of them is that they encourage websites to adopt HTTPS to protect users who visit your website regardless of the content on the site.

It does not matter if you do not take any information and store it for users it is important to understand the last part of the sentence. “To protect users who visit your website regardless of the content on the site”. 

secure https

How Does HTTPS Works

Data is sent securely via HTTPS to Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol. This provides three key layers of protection: 

  1. Encryption
  2. Data integrity
  3. Authentication

Encryption

Your data is secure and encrypted so it is not stolen from those who are looking to steal your information as a user. Encrypting the information you share on a website provides security for your page.  

Data Integrity

Keeping data integrity will make sure any information you transfer from a form or online order is not modified or corrupted. You want your information to transfer through the website to a different location without that data being modified without it first detecting the changes. 

Data integrity is key to keeping your information accurate whether you fill out a form online for services from a small business or purchasing any items from an eCommerce store.

Authentication

This is key for online retailers and small business owners. If your information is shared through the website you are visiting you do not want your information to end up with a third-party website who could use your information.

Businesses must be credible and if any business uses their website to provide context to a third party site they can lose their credibility and even have a lawsuit on their hands. Losing your customer’s trust by moving their information to a 3rd party website without the user consent will put your small business in hot water. 

Having an SSL certificate on your website that provides proper encryption, data integrity and authentication will not only provide a secure user experience but protect your business. By not securing your website your audience will not trust you and your browser now provides users with a way of knowing if it is a secure website.

difference between http and https

How Secure is HTTPS

When it comes to the overall security for HTTPS it is important to understand that authoritative sites are not the only ones that have HTTPS. Phishing or spam sites have used SSL certificates in order to also sell themselves as secure websites. 

Having an HTTPS URL is beneficial to show your audience know that they can submit their information through your website. 

Ultimately as a user visiting any website you want to make sure that it is a viable resource and safe to visit as a user. 

How To Get An SSL Certificate

When it comes to getting a SSL certificate there are a few options available when it comes to purchasing one for your website. The easiest way is by purchasing your SSL right through your hosting provider. The pricing will vary depending on the host. 

There are many WordPress dedicated hosting providers that include SSL certification as part of their hosting service. Many hosting providers offer SSL purchase as well as a free certification called Let’s Encrypt.

Let’s Encrypt

Let’s Encrypt was launched on April 12, 2016 and it is a non-profit certificate provided by Internet Security Research group. This particular SSL has provided over 225 million websites with a secure certificate as many site owners tend to be hesitant to purchase one due to the overall cost.

This non-profit provides website owners to enable HTTPS (SSL/TLS) for free. Their reason for doing so is to help create a more secure and privacy respected web experience.

not secure connection

Web Browsers Warn About Not Secure Connection

Whether you are using Chrome, Mozilla, Edge or Safari just to name a few, they are all now providing “Not Secure Connection” messages on their browsers.

This can hurt a lot of business owners who have not set up their SSL Certificate with a paid version or the free Let’s Encrypt option. 

You can find articles below from both Apple and Google on why they took these steps.

In many instances Chrome will not let you visit the website without giving you a warning and if you still want to visit the site it is at your own discretion. 

Sources:

As we discussed above your information can quickly get redirected to a third party website and your information can be used without your approval.

How to Redirect HTTP to HTTPS

There are a few ways to redirect from HTTP to HTTPS. 

  • Update HTACCESS file
  • WordPress Plugin

Doing a 301 redirect to your HTACCESS file can be tricky if you have never done this before or had a bit of coding experience. This file is critical to your website’s success and even I have ruined websites because of my poor knowledge of this file. 

By using a 301 redirect it makes it a permanent change not a temporary change that can happen if you use 302. For the purpose of avoiding any more confusion let’s focus on 301 redirect.

When you create the 301 redirect use the following code: 

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^yourdomain.com [NC]
RewriteCond %{SERVER_PORT} 80
RewriteRule ^(.*)$  [R,L]

You will notice above that RewriteCond and RewriteRule are focusing on redirecting your domain to HTTPS. RewriteCond will grab your URL and RewriteRule will make the change from HTTP to HTTPS whenever a user visits the website. When this is done via the HTACCESS file you will not have to worry about making any other changes.

How to Change HTTP to HTTPS in WordPress

For myself and many of the websites that I handle are built in WordPress. This platform makes it easy to do a lot that helps clients accomplish a lot and even in some cases manage it on their own. 

The great thing about WordPress is that you do not need to know any coding to implement an SSL certificate that will make your website HTTPS. 

Using a plugin like Really Simple SSL takes all the hard work out of your hands. Just by turning this plugin on it will convert your URL and media library secure. One click and your website is secure. It really is that simple like the plugin is named. It is a free plugin that has been installed over 4 million times.

HTTPs Is An SEO Ranking Signal

When HTTPS started getting the attention of SEO companies was when Google on August 6, 2014 shared that HTTPS is a ranking signal. 

The first seven words said it all: “Security is a top priority for Google”

HTTPS websites were no longer an eCommerce only option it became an EVERY website option. On whether or not it is a major ranking factor is one that is up for debate. 

There are many articles that say it is a small portion of what the algorithm is looking for and only provides a small boost but not enough to separate yourself from the competition.

There are other articles that switching to an HTTPS provides a much larger impact to your search result than you expect. 

Yes, there is a positive impact from this ranking signal but I believe it is not as big of an impact as many think. No matter what you may think of it ultimately the user experience is what will provide the largest impact and if a browser says you are providing a non-secure connection the user is more likely to leave your website and go to the competition.

Google provides basic tips when it comes to HTTPS:

  • Decide the kind of certificate you need: single, multi-domain, or wildcard certificate
  • Use 2048-bit key certificates
  • Use relative URLs for resources that reside on the same secure domain
  • Use protocol relative URLs for all other domains
  • Check out our Site move article for more guidelines on how to change your website’s address
  • Don’t block your HTTPS site from crawling using robots.txt
  • Allow indexing of your pages by search engines where possible. Avoid the noindex robots meta tag.

Should I Convert My Site To HTTPS?

The answer is Yes. As Google focuses more on user experience with their AI and algorithm updates it is important that you are capable of providing users with a chance to visit your website securely. 

You do not want to find yourself in a position where you it is a non-secure connection and you lose leads and customers because you are trying to save money or because you do not believe it will impact your business.

I have had many conversations with clients in the past about HTTPS and the importance of making their site secure. Do not hesitate or assume that it will not impact your website because as long as you are taking information via a form or selling a product an SSL certificate will save you money in the long term. 

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