When it all comes down to SEO, there are those who simply cannot stand the thought of it, and those who are absolutely in love with all that is technical. If you are an enthusiast of HTTPS, chances are, you have already had a good amount of experience with converting http to https. If you are in that first group, however, the thought of HTTPS likely brings forth feelings of trepidation. It is perfectly understandable. And even though most of HTTPS is relatively simple, there are aspects that just seem to scream complexity.
The good news is that, in addition to being largely simple, in order to utilize HTTPS on your website, you don’t need to have a complete understanding of the work that goes on behind the magic curtain.
Converting HTTP to HTTPS and Assigning Importance
HTTPS has been around for a long time and, in truth, was long ago adapted by many leading businesses. That’s because it’s always been a good idea. But what has just become apparent to some is an announcement by Google stating that one significant ranking factor will be HTTPS. That got the attention of many SEO experts.
At the time of the announcement, affecting global searches of less than 1%, it was a minimal ranking factor. It isn’t a major factor, even now. But here’s the thing – with security a real issue these days, it is something that is taken very seriously by Google. And that seriousness will only heighten over time. So, it’s understandable why a good number of SEO experts immediately switched to HTTPS, quickly jumping on the bandwagon.
Whether initial improvement was immediately seen or not, the fact remained that now their site had the Chrome and Firefox symbol, assuring visitors of a high level of security.
The Basics of HTTPS
First of all, HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. So why is it so secure?
When data is submitted by a user, it is protected by multiple layers. Those layers are as follows:
- Authentication prevents your customers from getting tricked into giving away data. Your SSL certificate comes into play here.
- There will be no corruption involving your data thanks to data integrity.
- Only you have the decryption key, making all your data completely resistant to interception. This is called encryption.
Who Needs HTTPS?
HTTPS is a good thing for, at least, two reasons: in addition to your site becoming more secure for your users, you will experience at least a mild rankings boost. And though a bigger impact should be noticed in the future, particularly if you’re just getting started, a big difference won’t be seen immediately.
Whose pages need HTTPS? You should at least have HTTPS on any site pages to which people post personal information or if you accept payment on those pages.
Who might not require HTTPS? Security reasons and the need for HTTPS may not be high on your list if all you have going on is a blog. If your users just want to get added to your mailing list, and all they give you is their email address, there’s no real danger of personal information getting out.
If you have decided that more security and better ratings are for you, you’ll need an SSL certificate. You can purchase one from any number of websites, online, or buy one from your hosting company (recommended). Here is a list of oversimplified steps that you can follow to implement HTTPS.
First Step: You will need to decide on an SSL certificates which comes in three types:
- Extended validation provides the greatest security and is frequently used by sites that get a lot of important information and by e-commerce sites.
- Organization validation is good if you receive high amounts of personal information from your users and it includes authentication.
- Domain validation is the most basic of the cheapest but doesn’t cover much more than encryption.
Note: If you think you may have trouble installing your certificate, going through your hosting company is recommended because they will assist you with the installation.
Second Step: The creation of a URL map and redirect, though simple, takes time and effort. In essence, what you’re doing is re-directing everyone from all the pages of your old site to your new HTTPS site. One way of doing this is to use a simple spreadsheet as your URL map. It will contain the former URLs and the new URLs that correspond to them.
Third Step: This is another one that is time-consuming but necessary. All the internal links on all the pages of your website will need to be linked to your new HTTPS pages.
Fourth Step: Of course, you’ll need to change more than just the links to your pages. Resource links to scripts, style sheets, images, and more must be replaced. HTTPS must now be used by all files served and used on your site.
Note: Many CDN’s do not support HTTPS. So, if you are using one, you’re going to have to make sure that HTTPS is supported by your CDN. This does complicate things a bit further.
Fifth Step: Once your site is all put back together, you’ll need to add it to WMT (Google Web Master Tools) again. This will limit negative effects on your traffic because Google will once again be crawling it. Your former sitemap should also be re-submitted.
Final Step: Execute a test run to make sure that everything is up and running and that the entire procedure was a success. Test everything that you changed. If in the very near future, you notice a small drop in your traffic, this could point to a problem that you may have missed during your test run.
Maybe it’s because it’s so important, and we tend to shy away from the crucial things, but not everyone is a huge fan of technical SEO. Hopefully, by now, you at least have a better idea of how to change your site over to HTTPS and whether or not it is appropriate for you.
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