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The Importance of HTTPS

Lots of locks

There is a big push for making sure that your website is being served securely. The shift from HTTP to HTTPS is occurring at record rates and is being shepherded by Google. But better SEO isn’t the only reason to be paying attention to HTTPS. What was once only a requirement for sites engaged in ecommerce, should be considered a necessity for anyone who’s running a business website. Let’s take a look at what HTTPS is and why it’s more important now than ever before.

HTTP stands for hypertext transfer protocol and is the language of the internet. HTTPS adds a layer of security to the protocol and is known as HTTP over TLS, HTTP over SSL, or HTTP Secure. It provides two things. First, it requires the website and the server it’s hosted on to authenticate with a user confirming the identity of the site. Second, it provides bidirectional encryption of information that passes between the client and server which keeps outside agents from seeing the information being passed. These two factors create a much more secure connection than standard HTTP. The major tool to become HTTPS is an SSL or TLS certificate. This certificate can be purchased (or free – see Let’s Encrypt’s website and WP Engine) from most hosts or from third party sources.

HTTPS sites were originally relegated to being sites that were engaged in ecommerce. A proliferation of secure server notices would pepper every site that wanted to have a chance of selling you something. The green lock began to propagate, letting people know that their credit card information was being protected. Aside from protecting your vital financial information, HTTPS is a good idea for any site that is collecting information via form fields. Filling in a social media site’s profile page? Applying for an insurance policy? Receiving medical details from your doctor? All of this information is better protected on a secure site and gives your visitors the confidence they need to interact with these forms knowing that their information is safe.

In more recent years, secure sites are garnering more recognition from Google. There may be several reasons behind this from as simple as wanting a more secure web for everyone to pushing technology forward by making sure we’re HTTP/2-ready (see the next paragraph for details). Whatever the reason, if you want to satisfy another indicator for your website ranking, then you’re going to make sure that your website is being served securely. The importance of this indicator has also seemed to increase over the last few years and we expect it to continue to be a valuable SEO component for years to come. Google is also pushing HTTPS in more overt ways. Google’s Chrome browser, as of January 2017, is indicating that sites without an SSL certificate are “not secure.”

Finally, the web is in a state of constant change and the next big thing is on the horizon. HTTP/2 is the next major revision to the web’s protocols. It promises dramatically increased speeds via multiplexing (basically allowing multiple requests at the same time). Part of the specification for moving to HTTP/2 includes the requirement of a secure site. While the HTTP/2 details are still under negotiation and approval, in all likelihood, HTTP/2 is going to require that a site be secure.

Overall, if you want to have a strong ranking, secure, and fast running site you’re going to want to be serving your site over HTTPS. WP Engine and Let’s Encrypt have made applying an SSL certificate to your site as simple as a few clicks. Even if you require some assistance from a developer, the costs involved are easily outweighed by the benefits you can reap from HTTPS.

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