We have turned digital. From conducting purchases/selling to availing/delivering services, we make use of the internet every day or almost every other day. With such digitization, the security of each online buyer and seller becomes a major concern, especially when the virtual world is prone to data thefts & breaches. Thus, hosting unsecured websites in time like this is surely not the best move.
So how to tell if you host an unsecured website?
It’s simple to evaluate if your website is secured or not. If you haven’t purchased & installed an SSL certificate for HTTPS for websites, it means you are still operating on HTTP (which is an older protocol and now is considered as punishable conduct by search engines like Google).
So what is HTTPS?
HTTPS is a contraction of the Hypertext transfer protocol. This is a protocol via which data is transferred between the web browser and the website. How is it different from HTTP? Here the data is transferred in the encrypted form which makes it difficult for the malicious party to enter the communication to mess with the data. With HTTPS updates over any websites, the online transactions between the buyer and the seller become safe and sound.
What is the SSL certificate & how does it work?
SSL aka security sockets layer is a security technology that helps in creating the encrypted link between the web browsers & servers.
This link helps to transfer or exchange the information between the web browser and server without any fear of being hijacked or misused by some malicious third party. Thus, with this, websites and its users’ data stays private & integral at all costs.
If you do not install the SSL certificate, you cannot create HTTPS for websites with a green padlock symbol alongside URL. A green padlock alongside the web URL area proclaims that the website has installed the SSL certificates & have enabled HTTPS updates successfully.
3 ways how SSL certificates & HTTPS websites are critical for any digital business
Here are some of the reasons to make your websites, HTTPS updated:
- SSL helps to encrypt the personal & sensitive information
Any intruder can enter the communication between browsers and servers with an intent to tamper the data or steal it. The data could be anything – credit card credentials, username or passwords or other personal information. If such information is not encrypted, it gets quick and easy for the intruders to hack the information to succeed in their malicious intent, which could be anything either to spoil the website’s reputation or to fetch the rich compensation or maybe both.
SSL helps to encrypt the sensitive information exchanged between the browsers and the servers. The information becomes unreadable or hard to decode by the third-parties and only servers and browsers could understand the information’s meaning.
- Enabling HTTPS for websites via SSL certificates helps with cybersecurity
It is next to impossible to save yourself from cyber-attacks if your websites are not yet HTTPS updated.
To avoid the onset of transit-based hacks or interruption, installing SSL certificates is a key thing to do.
According to cybersecurity ventures, it has been concluded that by 2021, the cybercrimes will cost businesses $6 trillion annually. If you do not want to be a part of such voluminous cost burdens, it is better to have your SSL certificates installed to enable HTTPS for websites.
- Build a trusted brand for the audience
When you enable HTTPS on the website by installing SSL certificates, you get a green padlock around your URL address, which states that your website is secure from any web threat. When your audience sees that padlock, they automatically infer that you are a trusted brand that can store & safeguard their pivotal & personal information.
Doing this small significant change will make you a trusted and credible brand in the market.
How HTTPS is one of the ranking factors for websites?
Google has never signaled out HTTPS as a direct ranking factor but has definitely stated that if the unsecured websites with HTTP tag present over search engines won’t switch to HTTPS, they will be flagged and will be unprioritized for the ranking process.
Since Google wouldn’t want to put their search users’ data at stake, it has been continuously asking websites to switch to safer tags. Not enabling as HTTPS websites may not lose you on the ranking part that heavy, but it will definitely result in a downfall in the ranking graph. Also, by chance, you might be ranking high, what is the use if the website visitors are leaving the session early without giving a good read or navigation inside your website (just after experiencing that your website is not one of the HTTPS websites)? You are someway or sometime later going to climb down the top-ranking spot.
What are the SEO implications of turning unsecured websites into HTTPS ones?
There are going to be slight changes when you make a switch to HTTPS, changes could be a drop in rankings, but don’t worry these changes would be avoided if you treat them beforehand. Following are the few SEO implications that you may observe after making a switch, it’s best to stay prepared for them:
- Certain web pages might still be hosted on HTTP
There might be some content pages inside the website that might get left behind and continue getting hosted on HTTP. This might still result in showing the entire website as “unsecured” for users. Thus, while making a shift, it is important to look through each and every page that needs to be converted.
- Your old sitemaps needs revision
After switching to HTTPS, to make the site accessible for Google’s crawling and indexing, it is required to update the old sitemap. Otherwise, Google would have a tough time in fetching your website for the ranking process.
- Forgetting to update the canonical tags
Canonical tags help with indexing. With shifting the websites to HTTPS, it is important to do that with canonical tags as well, otherwise, search engines like Google would be confused about which page to rank as Googe treats HTTP and HTTPS ones as two different websites.
- Forgetting to update the internal links
While making a shift to HTTPS, don’t forget to shift the internal links to HTTPS pages as well. Otherwise, it could lead to a slight drop in rankings. While if you have a website with relative pages like www.website.com/page1, www.website.com/2 and so on….there you may not need to change or update the internal links. Whereas, if you have internal linking to different pages with absolute URLs, you need to ensure that the internal linking follows redirects to HTTPS pages.
- Ensure when your SSL certificate is expiring
Your SSL certificates tend to be of some duration, keep a note of when your certificate is expiring, otherwise, Google will roll out a warning to the search users with tagging your website as unsecured.
- Not authenticating your URLs redirects properly
When making a shift to HTTPS, it is important to ensure that your website’s URL has 301 redirects to HTTPS versions. There might be a possibility where you redirect your homepage to the HTTPS version but forget to do so with the internal pages. There you might have a serious problem as the search engine would tag your certain pages as unsecure. Make sure you put 301 redirects on each and every page.
- Your websites is going live with both HTTP and HTTPS versions
There is no way you can go with both the HTTPS & HTTP versions of the same website, it might put you in a duplicate content category.
If you host a smaller site, there won’t be much of a problem as Google would be easy in identifying which page is best to rank for the final users. But if you own a large website with a variety of number of pages, there Google might have to do the heavy lifting to crawl your pages of both the versions, which on the other hand would not only cost you on your crawling budget but would also waste Google’s time, the time which it should have been using to crawl only the secured & quality pages of HTTPS version.
- Not treating canonical issues on domain level
While migrating to the HTTPS version, make sure all the components of your website or URL are successfully migrated as well. There are certain sites when accessed like – https://www.website.com gets a redirect to HTTPS, whereas if someone tries to access the same website without putting the www., they get redirected to HTTP versions (an unsecured version of the site). Therefore, it is necessary to treat the canonical issues on domain level as well. No matter how users end up searching for your websites, the redirects to HTTPS versions should be properly done.
It is time to turn those unsecured websites into HTTPS websites asap, otherwise, it could severely affect the website security, load times and the rankings and would as well deter the audience from exploring the website as soon as they discover a big full screen warning page claiming “this website is non-secure”. To continue performing well in the rankings game and keep the integrity and safety of the audience alive, it is time to migrate to HTTPS.