Maybe you think your website is chugging right along – it looks nice, has content that’s valuable for your audience, and you believe your security to be in order. But if you’re paying attention to your web traffic, perhaps you are seeing it decline and can’t quite figure out why. Well, that “S” in HTTPS matters for your website, and it now affects your web traffic.
Chances are, you’ve visited a website lately and noticed that the little information button to the left of the address displays a message telling you the connection to the site is “not secure.” While it’s not necessarily a reason to think your website is being compromised, it is a call from the web browser that you need to take action. That S at the end of the HTTP in the address bar does stand for “secure,” and signifies is that there’s a major shift that’s been taking place in the web world that is making it more attractive to add that S – that “secure” – to websites. That “S” could mean better search rankings, more traffic, and greater confidence for your site visitors.
What is HTTPS?
HTTPS, or Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure, was originally reserved for sites that used logins and passwords to create accounts, or for online shopping sites where sensitive credit card information is shared and possibly stored. In general, sites that are identified as HTTPS are secured with a Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL, certificate which allows for an encrypted connection between the site and the visitor. In theory, no one can eavesdrop on the data transmitted since the data is encrypted and requires the appropriate key to translate the encryption. This allows for a more secure environment for sensitive data, like credit card or bank information, to be exchanged.
On the flip side, HTTPS traditionally hasn’t been a concern for websites which don’t require login or allow for the exchange of sensitive data. Therefore, many sites haven’t included an SSL certificate, and are displayed in the address bar simply as HTTP. If you’re not exchanging this type of information with your audience, chances are your website is HTTP. This means that data is transmitted in clear text and can easily be retrieved and viewed by an eavesdropper.
Why do I need to worry about HTTPS now?
You might be reading this and thinking: “I don’t require login or have any financial transactions happening on my website. Why do I need to be worried about HTTPS?”
Today, securing your website with an SSL certificate and creating the connection using HTTPS is becoming a requirement by most browsers. That’s why you’re seeing that little message in the address bar notifying you that your connection to the site is not secure. In fact, some browsers are even flagging HTTP sites as unsafe in search results, and giving priority to HTTPS sites in the search rankings. This could result not only in a potential customer visiting your site, but also may mean that your competitor whose site is HTTPS and secured with an SSL certificate gets more traffic because they rank higher and aren’t flagged as unsafe.
Quite simply, we’re seeing the internet as a whole adopt HTTPS as the standard, and it’s important that you’re prepared to move with it. As the owner of a website property, you want to ease the mind of your viewing audience and let them know that your site is a secure place to retrieve or share information. As the movement to HTTPS continues to progress, the messages and warnings for those who don’t conform will become more active and prominent. We expect that you’ll also begin to see more warnings appear to your visiting audience that your site is not secure. Visitors will be asked if they are sure about continuing to view the site. For many visitors (especially in today’s environment where hacking and viruses are often headlines in the evening news), this can seem like a scary thing to do.
What you risk by not converting to HTTPS
The move towards HTTPS isn’t just a fad. It’s here to stay, and there are many things at risk if you don’t conform:
- Your website is your chance to make a first impression. If your first impression is one of doubt and insecurity, you may lose the opportunity to build a new relationship.
- Your search ranking will be impacted. Search engines are beginning to penalize websites that do not have this protocol in place, and that means your potential audience may not find your website.
- Visitors may be frightened away by the warning messages and opt to visit your competitor’s website, which includes the HTTPS protocol, instead.
- You’ve likely invested a good deal of time and money into your website. That investment is at risk as the absence of the HTTPS protocol negatively impacts your site’s performance.
Now that you are informed on the difference between HTTPS and HTTP, the decision to convert your website to HTTPS is an important and timely one. Contact us today and we can discuss how we can help make this happen before you experience the consequences.