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HTTP vs HTTPS: Understanding the Difference & Picking the Best Option for Your Website

HTTP and HTTPS

Posted in Website Optimization. 4 min read

We're always looking for an edge when it comes to search and SEO. If you've been keeping track, back in 2014, Google officially announced that websites that made the switch from HTTP protocol to HTTPS will receive a bump in their ranking.

As Google's focus shifted toward local search, that one little letter can make the difference between your business or your competitors gaining a prime search keyword position.

What does the “S” in HTTPS stand for, and why does it make a difference with Google?

For years, hypertext transfer protocol, or HTTP, was the web standard that was used to allow communication between different systems.

Most commonly, HTTP is the protocol used for delivering data from a website or server to a web browser in order to view pages. The problem with HTTP is that as data is transferred, it is not encrypted, leaving it open for a third party to intercept the data as it is passing between the two systems.

HTTPS adds a layer of security to the process.

Let's look at the differences between HTTP and HTTPS protocols and what you should consider when choosing the best option for your website.

Understanding HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP)

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HTTP is the system that the Internet was built upon. It is basically how information is transmitted and received across the Internet.

HTTP is an application layer protocol, meaning that the focus is on the end result, or how information is presented to the user, without caring how the data is delivered from point A to point B.

HTTP is a “stateless protocol,” which basically means that it doesn't remember or store any information about the previous web session. The benefit is that because it is “stateless” there is less data that needs to be sent, increasing data transfer speeds.

HTTP does offer some benefits. It is commonly used to access html pages and other resources can be utilized through HTTP access. Most websites that do not contain any confidential information use HTTP protocol, and it is functional and efficient.

HTTPS: The “S” Stands For Secure

Add the “S” to HTTP and you have a “secured” version of HTTP.

HTTPS uses another protocol called an SSL certificate. SSL stands for secure sockets layer, and it creates a secure encrypted connection between the server and browser, which protects data as it is transferred between points A and B.

HTTPS has been traditionally used by ecommerce sites or any site where sensitive data is passed across the connection like credit card information, social security numbers, or other information like login pages that require users to enter personal information. The secure layer provided by the SSL protocol is the difference that Google values so highly.

The bottom line is that both HTTP and HTTPS do not care how the data arrives at its destination. The key is that SSL doesn't care what the data looks like, while HTTP does.

HTTPS offers users a balance of the best of both protocols. HTTPS, like HTTP, cares about what the user sees when they load a web page, but it does so with an extra layer of security provided by the SSL protocol.

Three Reasons For Making The Switch To HTTPS

The process for switching from HTTP to HTTPS protocol is not difficult but can be time consuming. It requires the purchase of an SSL certificate and a dedicated IP address from your host company.

The certificate is installed and configured, then you need to adjust some of your coding (redirecting external links to HTTPS and implementing 301 redirects, for example). You'll also need to update any code libraries like JavaScript, AJAX, and third party plugins, and you're basically good to go.

While it is a bit of work converting to HTTPS, it offers you three key benefits.

1. HTTPS Helps With Your SEO

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, HTTPS gives you an edge over another site that may be identical to yours that is vying for the same keyword. The addition of HTTPS could be enough to give you the higher ranking.

Google's algorithm looks for user experience when determining ranking, and a secure experience is preferred over a non-secure user experience. The bottom line: having a secure site can help you rank higher on Google, and that means more traffic.

2. HTTPS Keeps Your Website Secure

This is especially crucial if you ever handle ANY sensitive data. But the fact is, even if you don't, an unprotected HTTP request can potentially expose information about the behavior and identity of your users.

The SSL protocol protects the integrity of your site by preventing intruders from tampering with communication between your site and visitors (for example, injecting malware) as well as safeguarding privacy.

3. AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) Requires HTTPS

Mobile is here to stay, and if you're serious about search, selling, or being found online, you need to embrace it. Mobile responsiveness, page load speeds, and user experience are key.

Google developed AMP to ensure that mobile content loads faster. AMP content is prominently shown in search results and is designed for mobile users to provide them with an excellent experience. AMP plays an important role in optimizing for mobile and requires HTTPS in order to work.

If you're serious about your future on the web, it's important to consider making the switch to HTTPS. While there is a cost to obtain SSL certification, the price is small when compared to the benefits.

HTTPS is becoming more important as the Internet continues to evolve. Google has staked their claim in this protocol, mobile will rely on it, and as security becomes more important everyday, HTTPS will continue to grow. If you haven't already made the switch, it's time to consider the future!

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