An SSL certificate gives your website an extra layer of security – but is it entirely necessary for your business?
What is HTTPS?
HTTPS is shorthand that designates a secure website. This prefix is part of the web address for any website that has a security certificate. When a web page has the HTTPS prefix, it means all of the data sent to or from that page is encrypted. In contrast, a website with the HTTP prefix isn’t secure, and the data it sends and receives isn’t encrypted.
Historically, the HTTPS designation has been reserved mainly for ecommerce websites, and sites that handle sensitive data. These days, however, even informational sites are starting to use HTTPS. Even if your site doesn’t sell products or services directly, there is still some benefit to be gained from using HTTPS.
However, there are some downsides to using the HTTPS designation. There are both good reasons to use it, and some drawbacks, so the choice to migrate to HTTPS is not necessarily an easy decision to make.
Why Migrate to HTTPS?
Adopting HTPPS has a wide range of potential benefits, including improved security, better SEO, and a higher level of trust from website users.
Virtually Anyone can Hack an Unsecured Website
Hacking an unsecured website is easier than most people realise. All it requires is a little knowledge and a browser plugin or tool designed to allow the hacker to hijack a website user’s public internet session. Once they gain access, they can see any data the user sends and receives over that connection, including the web content they’re looking at, and any information they input into a website—including login details.
If someone gets access to that data, they can steal the user’s website login info. If that user is you, the site owner, they can use your info to login to the site and modify it with malicious code that has the potential to steal personal information from anyone who uses the site. That includes highly sensitive information such as credit card information and passwords. And with a little more knowledge on the cyber criminal’s part, they can spread their net even wider to capture bank information and other financial data.
Once you migrate your site to HTTPS, it immediately becomes much harder for anyone to use your website for criminal purposes. This by itself is a good enough reason to migrate to HTTPS, but there are other advantages too.
HTTPS is a Google Ranking Factor
Aside from the primary issue of data security, it’s also a fact that HTTPS is a confirmed ranking factor that can and will affect your website’s Google rank. If your website is currently HTTP, then making the move to HTTPS can give you an advantage against non-secure sites. Of course, there are literally hundreds of confirmed and suspected ranking factors, and this is by no means the most important. But SEO is so highly competitive that it’s absolutely worthwhile to take advantage of every ranking factor you can.
Visitor Perception and Credibility
When a website has that all-important security certificate, they don’t just get the HTTPS prefix. There also some other visual cues that help clue website users into the fact that they’re using a secure website. And these visual cues are important because they contribute to the user perception that they’re using a safe website, where they’re not at risk of annoyances such as popup advertising, or of falling prey to malicious threats such as trojans, viruses, or phishing scams.
Simply put, your website gains credibility if it displays visual security cues—especially if you’re asking for contact information, or selling a product or service.
It’s the Future of the Web
Google’s official stance on HTTPS is that they want to move towards an internet where HTTPS is the norm. Partly due to Google’s focus on HTTPS security, many new web technologies only function on secure sites. If you want to run features such as accelerated mobile pages—which improves the performance of the web on mobile devices—then HTTPS is a necessity.
What are the Downsides to HTTPS Migration?
The main downside to HTTPS is that migration isn’t always a straightforward procedure. There can be some negative consequences that might affect your website if you choose to switch from HTTP to HTTPS.
- After the migration, you’ll need to make some essential website modifications, such as 301 redirects from HTTP to HTTPS, plus updates to all internal links on the website. These are essential to make sure the site still functions properly.
- You may also need to address “mixed content” issues. For instance, images hosted on HTTP may not appear properly on your site once it’s migrated to HTTPS.
- HTTPS is more resource intensive. After the migration, your hosting costs are likely to increase.
- Migrating to HTTPS may impact your website speed. However, you may find that adopting new web tech such as accelerated mobile pages mitigates this issue.
The Benefits are Worth Any Extra Hassle
While HTTPS migration might have some drawbacks, the benefits are clear and overwhelming. Migrating your website to HTTPS has some important advantages, including improved security and SEO. Just as important, HTTPS is where the internet as a whole is headed. Sites that don’t make the switch now risk being left behind, as it’s likely that most new web technologies will be developed specifically for HTTPS.