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What is HTTPS? A guide to safe on-site experience for marketers

What is HTTPS?  A guide to safe on-site experience for marketers

Want to give your users a more secure experience and help your Google rankings? One way to do both is to secure your site with HTTPS. In this post, we explain what HTTPS is, why you need it, and how to get it.

The difference between HTTP and HTTPS

HTTP stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol. This protocol contains the rules within the application layer for web browsers to communicate with web servers. It is the basis of communication to the Internet.

HTTP requests are sent by a user’s browser. Web servers send an HTTP response to the request and load the web page using hypertext links.

S on HTTPS stands for Secure. HTTPS enables secure communication between web browsers and web servers.

How HTTPS works

HTTPS works via SSL or TLS. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is the predecessor of TLS.

Transport Layer Security (TLS) provides privacy and data integrity via encryption protocols in communication between two or more applications.

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The goal of this protocol in the application layer is to prevent eavesdropping and tampering with secure data transfer.

While most sites still refer to securing your site with HTTPS via SSL certificates, TLS is the modern version of SSL used today. We’ll discuss how to get this to your site later in the post.

Why HTTPS matters

HTTPS prevents intermediaries from injecting content into the Site without the knowledge of the owner. Without HTTPS, a bad player can inject online ads, for example, to monetize your web traffic.

According to the HTTP archive, about 92% of desktops and 91% of mobile requests are from URLs with HTTPS in the prefix. W3Techs reports that HTTPS is used by 75.2% of the sites. BuiltWith has found over 155 million SSL certificates installed on Web sites throughout the Internet.

It is also important for two reasons that are specific to marketing. First, when visitors come to an HTTP site, browsers like Google Chrome mark the site as Insecure in the address bar.

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In mobile browsers, unsecured websites are displayed with a warning triangle next to the domain.

Screenshot of Washington.edu, August 2021

Second, HTTPS can also affect your rankings in search results. In 2014, Google announced HTTPS as part of the algorithm that ranks web pages in Google’s search engine results.

Following the implementation of HTTPS for Google services, Google announced the “HTTPS Everywhere” initiative to encourage webmasters across the web to do the same.

At the moment, it is only a very light signal – affecting less than 1% of global queries and carries less weight than other signals such as high quality content – while giving webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it because we would like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe online. ”

How secure is HTTPS

HTTPS does not imply that a website is 100% secure or secure. HTTPS only secures the communication between two computers, e.g. A user’s computer via web browser and a web server.

HTTPS offers stronger security than HTTP, it does not protect the user’s computer or the web server itself from attacks by hackers or malware.

This is why webmasters need to secure their site and users need to use virus and spyware protection on their computers.

How to get HTTPS for your site

To add HTTPS to your site, you may need an SSL certificate. But first you need to look in your current web hosting provider’s documentation on how to enable or enforce HTTPS. It may already be included in your current hosting plan.

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If not, you should be able to purchase a TLS / SSL certificate from your current web host or upgrade to a new hosting plan that includes TLS / SSL.

Alternatively, you can get a TLS / SSL from content delivery networks (CDNs) like Cloudflare or get a TSL / SSL from Digicert.

How to redirect HTTP to HTTPS sites

How you redirect your site from HTTP to HTTPS depends on your web server. If you do not have an option from your hosting control panel to switch to or enforce HTTPS, you will need to redirect or rewrite your URLs from HTTP to HTTPS.

You can search for directions specific to your hosting provider by searching on Google for your hosting company name + HTTP to HTTPS. Most companies will have specific documentation on how you can redirect specifically to your hosting plan and web server.

Google also offers in-depth documentation on how to migrate from HTTP to HTTPS in Google Search Central’s Advanced SEO section. They also link to information on setting up the Google Search Console for your HTTPS site.

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How to secure your site in addition to SSL

There are several ways you can secure your site in addition to HTTPS. This is important to do because Google can determine if your site has been hacked or infected with malware.

“Pages or sites that are affected by a security issue may appear with a warning label in search results or an intermediate warning page in the browser when a user attempts to visit them.”

Google warns webmasters if their sites have been hacked through the Google Search Console and the report on security issues.

To protect your site, start by updating your passwords. Any service you use for your site – domain registrar, web host, control panel, admin panel, etc. – can give the wrong person too much access to your site and leave it vulnerable.

If you use the same password across multiple services, you can change them to ensure that an attack on one does not turn into an attack on all of them.

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To save your unique, secure passwords, avoid using your browser and choose a more secure application such as 1Password or LastPass.

Then look at your web hosting service. Many providers offer plans with upgraded security features. Look for plans that include a security firewall, malware scan, virus scan, DDoS protection, and automatic backups should anything happen.

If you cannot get protection from your web host, try services like Sucuri. They include advanced security scans, a firewall, block list monitoring, SSL support, and advanced DDoS mitigation.

Their plans also include cleaning up sites and removing malware if your site is compromised.

WordPress users can try the Jetpack plugin (formerly VaultPress) from Automattic. Their security plans include backups, security scans, downtime monitoring, brutal force protection and spam protection.

Finally, review everything you are considering adding to your site.

Plugins, add-ons, and extensions can create vulnerabilities for your site and your users.

Look for user reviews and select only plugins that play a crucial role in your marketing or sales.

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How to get HTTPS as a user

HTTPS Everywhere is an extension that works for popular web browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Opera.

Android users can install it on Firefox. Alternatively, HTTPS is included in the Brave and Tor browsers for desktops and Android / iOS mobile devices.

Screenshot from Brave, August 2021

This extension or integration with the Brave and Tor browsers allows you to upgrade to a more secure connection when a website does not offer HTTPS or has not rewritten / redirected its URLs from HTTP to HTTPS.

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Important takeaways

HTTPS plays an important role in giving users a secure experience and a positive ranking signal in the Google algorithm.

Protect your site with HTTPS by obtaining a TSL / SSL certificate from your web hosting service, CDN or other provider.

More resources:

Selected image: BestForBest / Shutterstock

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