What is SSL?
SSL stands for "secure sockets layer" and is a form of security for sites that handle sensitive information such as customer names, phone numbers, addresses and credit card numbers. It creates a secure connection between a customer’s web browser and the server of the company they’re interacting with. SSL is essential for any site that sells goods or services as it ensures that all information handled stays private and secure.
HTTP vs. HTTPS: Understanding the Basics
No matter what side you are on—being the user of a website or developing your own site—a good online experience tends to involve a trusted third party and good encryption.
In order to understand how to achieve this and better understand why Google favors these website elements, it’s important to first learn the difference between HTTP and HTTPS. Below explains the basics of the two options:
HTTP: HyperText Transfer Protocol
Hypertext Transfer Protocol (http) is a system for transmitting and receiving information across the Internet. HTTP is an “application layer protocol” which ultimately means that its focus is on how information is presented to the user, however, this option doesn’t really care how data gets from Point A to Point B.
It is said to be “stateless” which means it doesn’t attempt to remember anything about the previous web session. The benefit to being stateless it that there is less data to send, and that means increased speed.
HTTPS: Secure HyperText Transfer Protocol
HTTPS, or “Secure http”, was developed to allow authorization and secured transactions. Exchanging confidential information needs to be secured in order to prevent unauthorized access, and https makes this happen. In many ways, https is identical to http because it follows the same basic protocols. The http or https client, such as a Web browser, establishes a connection to a server on a standard port. However, https offers an extra layer of security because it uses SSL to move data.
For all intents and purposes, HTTPS is HTTP, it’s just the secure version.
HTTPS works in conjunction with another protocol, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), to transport data safely (which is really the key difference that Google cares about).
That is why HTTPS really offers the best of both worlds: Caring about what the user sees visually, but also having an extra layer of security when moving data from point A to point B.
SEO Advantages of Switching to HTTPS
It is clear that HTTPS offers security, so it is definitely the choice to put you in Google’s good graces. There are also some additional SEO benefits for you to consider.
- Increased rankings - Google has confirmed the slight ranking boost of HTTPS sites. Like most ranking signals, it is very hard to isolate on its own, but this is still something to keep in mind. On the plus side, the value of switching to HTTPS is very likely to increase over time.
- Referrer Data - When traffic passes to an HTTPS site, the secure referral information is preserved. This is unlike what happens when traffic passes through an HTTP site, and it is stripped away and looks as though it is “direct.”
- Security and privacy - HTTPS adds security for your SEO goals and website in several ways:
- It verifies that the website is the one the server it is supposed to be talking to.
- It prevents tampering by third parties.
- It makes your site more secure for visitors.
- It encrypts all communication, including URLs, which protects things like browsing history and credit card numbers.
The clear conclusion here is that switching to HTTPS will help you stay in good graces with Google. Along with all of the SEO benefits we discussed (which are only going to increase), HTTPS is a far more secure system for your website to operate. Security for your site and your users is the most important aspect of making the switch from HTTP to HTTPS.
HTTPS is not only good for security but also for referrer data and other SEO strategies. When looking at the issue holistically and considering the future of what Google is likely to do with HTTPS, I recommend switching over to HTTPS as soon as possible.