Would you like to launch an e-commerce website and ensure that it is secure for payments? Do you require the ability to submit confidential information on your website? Do you just want to secure your website for any future needs that ever come along? No matter your reasons, switching your website from HTTP to HTTPS by purchasing an SSL certificate is definitely a smart idea. However, before recommending that you switch over, it is important to familiarize yourself with the benefits and drawbacks of switching over to HTTPS.
The Benefits of Making the Switch
1. Protecting Sensitive Information
One of the most obvious reasons for securing your website by buying a digital certificate is to protect confidential and sensitive information such as social security numbers, credit card information, addresses, medical data, just to mention a few. If you store files containing confidential information on-site or have an e-commerce store, it is important to invest in a digital certificate. Investing in the certificate helps protect sensitive information from hackers and let your customers know that their data will be safe.
2. Receive a Boost in Your Website’s Ranking in the Search Results
If your website’s URL has an HTTPS, you will enjoy a slight ranking boost from Google. Google announced in August 2014 that adding an SSL security certificate (2048-bit) on a website helps it earn a ranking benefit, even though quite minor. If you would like to improve your search engine optimization, one of the best ways to do is through HTTPS. However, according to Matthew Woodward’s blog, which recently went secure, the ranking factor is quite small, which is why you need to prioritize improving links, site structure, and content first.
HTTPS is Necessary for AMP
If you are serious about search, being found, or selling online, it is important to get on the mobile revolution bandwagon. A lot has been written and said about the need to make sites mobile friendly and mobile responsive. Technical considerations like page loading speed are important. With the introduction of the mobile friendly index by Google, the spotlight is now firmly on Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) once more.
AMP was introduced by Google for ensuring that content loads faster on mobile devices. AMP content features prominently in the search results and is designed for users that use mobile devices to access the Internet. AMP clearly has a key role to play in optimizing for mobile and HTTP is necessary for it to work.
Progressive web apps and modern browsers are increasingly requiring https to function properly, which means that if you have not added https to your website, it probably is just a matter of time before you have little say in the matter.
Neil Patel of QuickSprout.com who is a digital marketing expert has a detailed post outlining how to switch over from the regular https to https, which is more secure if you are ready to take the next step. You also need to reach out to your hosting company before switching over since they can offer you expert guidance based on what they know about your website.
Drawbacks of Making the Switch
1. Load Time May Slow Down
While switching to HTTPS can boost the ranking of your website slightly, it can affect the loading time of your website negatively. If your website has a digital certificate, an additional step of secure verification is included in the process. Your website may thus take an additional second to load. If your plan is to switch over to HTTPS purely for the purpose of improving search rankings, you should look into other more productive ways of doing so. Instead of buying a digital certificate that can slow down your site load time, you should try focusing on improving the content on your website.
2. Purchasing an SSL Certificate Costs Money
While the cost of an SSL certificate is not outrageous, it is important to realize that it is not free. If you don’t really have the money and don’t have a genuine reason for buying a secure certificate besides improving SEO, you can hold it off until it is totally necessary.
How Do You Switch over from HTTP to HTTPS?
The following is a brief outline of the steps to follow when migrating from HTTP to HTTPS:
- First move the site to a test server to test the move before you implement the permanent changes within the live site.
- Make sure that you crawl the website to know which resources and pages need moving.
- Buy and install a security certificate within the server.
- Update all references within the content of your website and ensure that references are updated to internal links using HTTPS.
- Repeat the above steps but within page templates.
- Update the canonical tags as well as hreflang tags if your CMS has not already completed them.
- Make sure that all modules/add-ons/plugins and their links are updated to ensure that nothing breaks or contains insecure content.
- Crawl the website once again to ensure that nothing is broke and that no links were missed.
- Make sure that external scripts that your site calls on are HTTPS and not HTTP.
- Use server-side HTTP 301 redirects to reinforce your HTTPS URLs and update any old redirects that may have been implemented to date.
- Update your sitemaps to make sure that they contain HTTPS URLs instead of HTTP and that the sitemap URLs have also been updated. You should also add the new sitemap URLS to the robots.txt file.
- Enable OCSP and HSTS standing.
- Update all disavow links that have been set up as well as the URL parameter settings.
- Add the HTTPS version of the site to Google Search Console as well as any other tools that you use.
- Push your new HTTPS website live!
- Ensure that you update the URL within Analytics and include an annotation note for keeping track pf the date the website was migrated.
- Update all the social media accounts, email, paid media, or marketing campaigns and other tools you typically use.
- If you have time, clean up the incoming links and then update them to HTTPS, but you should be aware that it quite a massive undertaking. It is thus advisable to focus on updating links you have control over such as social profiles.