When Should You Use HTTPS vs HTTP?
Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) are both forms of web security governing how data is transferred over the world wide web and protecting users’ data from breaches.
Trends on the internet keep changing and evolving every second. Back in August 2014, Google launched the update to shift its platforms from HTTP to HTTPS and also made HTTPS one of the critical factors of its ranking system. But why did Google, the mega-giant, choose to take this huge step not just for itself but for every website searched from its search engine?
Well, for one, HTTPS is much more secure for the users, leading to a better and safer surfing experience. And Google is all about its users. The following blog unveils everything essential you need to know about HTTP and HTTPS to upgrade your website’s SEO.
HTTP vs. HTTPS: What Is the Difference?
HTTP is the backbone of communication between server and client, while HTTPS is an upgraded, safer HTTP version. But before you shift from HTTP to HTTPS, it would be beneficial to have a detailed understanding of what these two are –
What Is HTTP?
Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) has rules that determine how web browsers and servers communicate and transfer data with each other. HTTP works at the application layer network built on TCP. For HTTP to perform, different commands are separately executed as it cannot handle more than one command together. It is also called “stateless protocol” for this reason. The executed commands are independent of each other, which can reduce the speed of websites with complex commands.
What Is HTTPS?
Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the safer and more protective version as it combines HTTP and SSL (System Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) certificates. It works on the transport layer and provides bidirectional encryption for added privacy. It is helpful for YMYL web pages and websites that take private information from their users, such as passwords and pins for transactions.
How Does HTTPS Secure the Website?
When discussing HTTPS vs. HTTP, it is intriguing to know how exactly HTTPS secures the website.
1. SSL Certificate
The System Sockets Layer certificates ensures that the owner uses a secure network to conduct information transactions over their website. It also allows a bidirectional secure connection between the server and your browser.
2. Verifies Authenticity
An independent authority verifies the certificate holder’s identity. This additional verification gives every SSL certificate unique authentication details about the owner.
3. Uses Encryption Algorithm
HTTPS uses key-based encryption algorithms in its transaction protocols. The strength of this key is 40 or 120 bits.
4. Protects Data
HTTPS does not save data in the form of cookies on the client system, unlike HTTP. Cookies are used to save user preferences for given websites to enhance the experience. However, this data is open and can be breached and easily stolen by another party and used for personal benefit. Since HTTPS does not allow user data to be saved, it protects them from cybercrimes.
5. Restricts Permissions
Users can click on the authentication padlock present before the URL to check the website’s cookies and all the allowed permissions. Users can also change their preferences or leave the website before giving their personal information away.
Should You Use HTTPS vs. HTTP?
Every website shifting to HTTPS should mean it has got much more to offer than HTTP, right? Well, that’s not entirely correct. HTTP and HTTPS both have their advantages and limitations. You need to decide if your website really needs one over the other. It is essential to know the key differences setting these two things apart to make intelligent choices.
When You Should Stick to HTTP?
If your website does not require users to share their personal information, you certainly don’t need to go through the troubles of converting to HTTPS. Here are a few more reasons to stick with HTTP –
- It saves you money as you do not need to buy SSL and other certificates.
- No handshaking is required before data transfer, hence more communication.
- There is reduced work of encryption, decryption, and extra header inputs.
- You can quickly access HTTP pages because they are stored on the computer and caches.
- The codes are independent of each other, allowing cross-platform porting.
- Overrides firewalls, giving global access.
However, you should also remember where the HTTP loses the game to HTTPS—it does not use any encryption. Hence usernames and insecure passwords can be easily stolen by anyone who intercepts a transaction.
The question still remains, why HTTPS over HTTP. Although HTTP can provide faster information transfer, it is like an open channel where all the data is available to anyone. Netizens do not prefer this transparency for transactions involving money and data transfer. The following column will give you reasons other than security to choose your bidding.
More Reasons Why HTTPS Over HTTP?
Along with the benefits of security, HTTPS indirectly helps your website in multiple ways. Some of the advantages are –
1. Increased Ranking
Converting to HTTPS increases the security of your website, making your users more comfortable using your platform. Google prefers websites that use HTTPS protocols for ranking them on SERPs.
2. Affects SEO
If you check your referral data on an HTTP website using Google Analytics, it will show all the incoming traffic as “direct” traffic, making it unclear what you need to focus your SEO on. However, with HTTPS, you get more detailed information about your traffic, helping you craft a better SEO strategy.
3. Authenticity Proof
Google has added a padlock before the website’s URL with HTTPS, whereas websites with HTTP have an open padlock representing an unsecured network. Users can check the legitimacy of your website with details provided there.
4. Warning Pages
In most cases, you will be redirected to a warning page that the website you want to visit is not secure, and you will have to accept to continue.
5. Build Trust
Providing your viewers with a secure network to continue their activities builds their trust in them. HTTPS uses the SSL (System Sockets Layer) certificate for security. Moreover, it performs at the transport layer giving your user absolute encryption benefits. Trust is an essential factor for better ranking in Google’s UX core web vitals and E-A-T guidelines.
Can You Use Both HTTP and HTTPS?
It is possible for you to divide your resources into HTTP and HTTPS. By this method, the content on HTTPS will be secured, while that on HTTP will not. This form of content serving is called “mixed content protocol” since both the contents are available on the same page.
However, you should remember that hackers are always hunting for weaknesses in websites. If they find that you have mixed content on your website, they will steal user information and use your website to their benefit.
Web browsers warn the users about mixed content, just like HTTP insecure network, but by the time the user gets the warning, the data is already saved on the caches.
Moreover, with Google’s preferences for HTTPS, it has now become mandatory for every website to shift to HTTPS. Otherwise, you will never achieve a ranking on its Search Engine Ranking Pages.
How to Change Site From HTTP to HTTPS?
Step #1 – Schedule your shift since the shift can take some time. It is best done when your website does not have much traffic.
Step #2 – Choose which SSL certificate you need for your website, depending on your requirements.
Step #3 – Obtain and install the certificate from your website host.
Step #4 – Make sure you configure the certificate according to your website. Enabling HTTPS can be a lengthy task depending on your website’s complexity. Here are some things you need to update from HTTP to HTTPS –
- Website sitemaps
- Robot.txt files
- Content Delivery Network’s (CDN) SSL settings
- Links in marketing automation tools
- Landing page and paid search links
- Old URLs and redirects
- Images and videos references
- The more intricate internal links
Step #5 – Add 301 redirects or use CMS (Content Management System) to automatically redirect the traffic. They will enable the users to directly visit your updated website. The 301 redirect pages also inform search engines about your update so they can index your website.
Step #6 – Enable HSTS (HTTP Strict Transport Security), so your browsers use HTTPS every time.
Step #7 – Enable OCSP (Online Certificate Status Protocol) stapling, which will allow the servers to identify revoked security certificates, and no authority cross-referencing is required.
Step #8 – Add and verify the updated website on Google Search Console.
What Things Should You Remember When Switching?
- Inform Google about your shift from HTTP to HTTPS so they can crawl your website again for better ranking.
- Learn about all the different forms related to the SSL certifications that come with HTTPS. Although the security provided is the same for all three, the verification process is different. The three SSL certificates are- single domain, multiple domains, and wildcard SSL certificates.
- Use Google Analytics Tool to smoothly convert from HTTP to HTTPS.
- Allow essential bots like Google spiders to crawl and index your website.
- Add 301 redirect pages to every page, so your users are redirected to your new HTTPS pages.
What Is HTTP/2?
With the dynamic updates in online content, security and communications must improve too. HTTP updates have been on a halt for a long time, but now we have the all-new HTTP/2 with multiple new features.
There are certain upgrades in HTTP/2 over HTTP, like it can transfer multiple files at once, unlike HTTP, which uses a TCP connection. It uses binary protocols and not textual protocols, reducing the bandwidth. Moreover, it has increased security with encryption.
Additionally, HTTP/2 also offers advantages over HTTPS, like- reduced overhead and improved efficiency for more SEO friendliness. Moreover, with the introduction of HTTP/2, costs and overhead on SSL certificates have dropped, making HTTP/2 a good competitor for HTTPS.
1. Is It Necessary to Make the Shift From HTTP to HTTPS?
Google is known for its user experience. Security and Google both advocate for HTTPS websites because it enhances the E-A-T for the website owner. Ultimately, the user feels more comfortable using their website.
2. Why Is User Data Security Important?
As mentioned before, users will feel more confident while using your website for transactions because they know their data will not fall into the wrong hands and will not be misused. Increased trust improves their chances of returning to your website when they need more help.
3. Where Can I Get an SSL Certificate?
You can get your SSL certificate from your website host. Moreover, you can also ask them to configure it according to your website. But, if they do not provide it, you can reach out to other platforms that can avail the SSL certificates to you. You can get your SSL certificate from the places like ZeroSSL and Let’s Encrypt.
4. What Is TLS?
Transport Layer Security (TLS) is interchanged with System Sockets Layer (SSL). TLS is a standard protocol for Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). TLS and SSL provide authentication, privacy, and data integrity between two communicating web servers and browsers.
5. Can I Use VPN With HTTPS?
It is preferred to use VPN in every case as it provides added security to your data transfers and hides your IP address from hackers. You can easily use a VPN along with HTTP, HTTPS, and HTTP/2.
We looked intimately into the world of security that the internet has to offer. However, it entirely depends on you and your website’s purpose if you need to make the shift from HTTP to HTTPS and even HTTP/2 in the near future. The above blog guides you in deciding on the transfer and successfully shifting your website security from HTTP to HTTPS.
It may take some time and a lot of work, but shifting to HTTPS is better for your SEO and, ultimately, your ranking. Giving your visitors and users a trustworthy platform will increase their chances of returning to your website.