Have you ever noticed a lock icon in the address bar while visiting certain websites? It simply means the website is using HTTPS.
But what is HTTPS? How does it work? What is the importance of HTTPS?
In today’s blog post, we will discuss everything you need to know about HTTPS. We will show you the differences between HTTP and HTTPS. What’s more, you will learn how to make sure that your website survives a migration from one protocol to another. So, let’s get started.
HTTP – The Basics
HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. It is an application layer protocol that is used for transferring the data of a web page over a network. It is actually the foundation of the World Wide Web or WWW.
An HTTP request is a method by which the web browser asks the server to send a copy of the information it needs to load a website. HTTP requests usually contain:
- HTTP Version Type
- An HTTP Method
- A URL
- HTTP Request Headers
- Optional HTTP Body
However, the problem with HTTP is that the information that is transferred over an HTTP connection is not encrypted. It means third-party attackers can steal the information. That’s why you should avoid submitting any sensitive data when you are on a website that uses HTTP.
HTTPS – The Basics
HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) is a secure version of HTTP. It protects the communication between your web browser and a website against attackers. This provides increased security of data transfer. It is particularly important when transmitting sensitive information such as credit/debit card details.
Web browsers mark websites that use HTTPS differently than those that do not. If there is a lock icon in the address bar, it means the webpage is served over HTTPS and is secure. Otherwise, a “Not Secure” warning will be displayed next to the website URL. Websites that require login credentials must use HTTPS.
How Does HTTPS Work?
HTTPS uses a Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol, formerly known as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), to encrypt communications between a server and a browser. It uses a secure certificate (SSL certificate) from a third-party vendor.
The encryption protocol uses an asymmetric public key infrastructure that uses two different keys (The Private Key and The Public Key) to secure communications. It helps protect sensitive data that you don’t want any third-party attacker to access.
If you run an e-commerce website, then you must consider using an SSL certificate. It will help you secure the transmission of transaction details and other information of the user.
Importance of HTTPS
HTTPS plays a crucial role in preventing intruders from tampering with the communications between your website and the browser of your user. When the information is sent over HTTP, it is broken into packets of data. Anyone can sniff them using free software. With HTTPS, if someone tries to sniff the packets, he will only be able to see nonsensical characters.
Another thing you need to know here is that Internet service providers or other intermediaries may inject ads into webpages without the permission of the website owner if the website doesn’t use HTTPS.
What is TLS?
As I said earlier, TLS is an abbreviation for Transport Layer Security. You need to get a TLS certificate and install it on your server to enable HTTPS on your site. These certificates are issued by CA or Certificate Authorities. To check the issuing Certificate Authority of a website’s TLS certificate, you just need to click on the lock icon in the address bar.
TLS uses cryptographic techniques. They are responsible for ensuring the information has not been tampered with since it was sent. They also ensure that the communications are with the person who sent the request.
A TLS handshake is the process that establishes an HTTPS connection. It involves a series of steps. It is where session keys are created.
Build Trust with HTTPS
Studies have shown that people buy from brands they know and trust. HTTPS can help you build trust with your audience.
Here’s an example that will give you a clear idea of how it works:
Suppose you run an online business that accepts online payments. Now, if there is a “Not Secure” warning sign in the browser’s address bar, people will think twice before entering their credit/debit card details.
On the other hand, the fact that there’s a lock icon in the address bar assures the users that no third-party attacker can access their private data such as credit card details, passwords, etc.
How Does HTTPS help SEO?
Here’s how enabling HTTPS can help you improve your site’s SEO performance:
- HTTPS is considered as a lightweight ranking signal.
- It preserves referral data.
- It will help you earn trust. People tend to stay longer on websites that use HTTPS because they are secure. It will improve dwell time which is an important ranking signal.
- It allows you to use TLS 1.3 and HTTP/2 to improve your website’s page speed.
How to Avoid Potential HTTPS Migration Issues?
Migrating from HTTP to HTTPS has a lot of benefits, especially from an SEO perspective. However, you must familiarize yourself with the process to avoid any migration SEO issues. Here are things you need to consider when moving from HTTP to HTTPS:
1. Inform Google
Set up a new Google Search Console profile for your site’s HTTPS version. In Google Analytics, set your profile to secure to be able to track the right data. Also, consider updating data collection parameters in Google Tag Manager where applicable.
2. Choose The Right Security Certificate
You can choose between an SSL and a Wildcard certificate. An SSL certificate for multiple domains allows you to secure the main domain and up to 99 SANs. On the other hand, with a wildcard certificate, you can secure your initial website URL and all its subdomains. However, a wildcard certificate costs more.
3. Properly Update All URLs
Whether you use relative or absolute URLs, it’s important to keep them updated on site. Consider prepending all your website URLs with “https://”.
4. Allow Google to Crawl Everything on Your Site
You should allow Google to crawl all elements on your website. In fact, you should consider allowing Google to crawl your CSS and JS files as well. Disallowing the rendering of CSS and JS files could create many problems.
So, this is how HTTPS works. It’s always a good idea to use HTTPS, especially if you run an online store or business that deals with sensitive data such as credit card details or other personal information of users. Also, there are both free and paid options when it comes to enabling HTTPS on your site. You can choose one as per your preferences.