UPDATE (12th Dec 2016): Google recently announced that HTTP websites that collect sensitive data (e.g. passwords, payment details) will soon be flagged as 'not secure' when someone attempts to view them on the Google Chrome web browser. This means that, if your website requires users to enter login details and/or personal information, it is now even more important that you follow the advice given below and secure your site by upgrading to HTTPS. Failure to do so ASAP may lead to a sharp decrease in site traffic as Chrome begins to warn people away from your site.
There’s lots of chatter on the internet, and particularly within the SEO community, about implementing site-wide HTTPS for websites, and you may be wondering why. In the first instance, website owners are making the shift predominantly because Google have (relatively recently) suggested that, because HTTPS is inherently more secure for internet users, they have added this as a ranking factor within their SERP algorithms. There are other reasons, of course (chiefly the added security), but most website owners whose websites were not previously secured by an SSL are having to think about the switch simply to stay ahead of the competition.
We’ve been building secure websites for ecommerce for over a decade; this is normal practice when handling transaction and customer details, but not so much for basic brochure-style websites. However, we recently converted a brochure-only website for one customer to a more secure HTTPS website; take a look at composite decking suppliers TimberTech.
Timbertech are among the first of our customers to switch to a site-wide HTTPS website, and we’re very closely monitoring their rankings to see if this has any effect on the SERPs. We anticipate carrying out this task for a great many of our customers over the coming months, and we think that if you have not already done so, then you should seriously start thinking about doing this for your website. Here are two reasons why:
1. A more secure browsing experience for your users.
All data sent via HTTPS is encrypted, meaning that it cannot be read by anyone but the intended recipient. As mentioned, we always use the HTTPS protocol at the checkout stage of our ecommerce websites
, thus ensuring that each customer's payment details and personal information are handled securely. However, many non-ecommerce site owners are now opting to switch to HTTPS too, and it's not hard to see why: even if no payment information is sent via your site, it can still give users extra peace of mind to know that any other sensitive information they enter (email addresses, telephone numbers, login details, etc.) will be safely encrypted by your website.
2. Potentially higher Google rankings.
The primary aim of any search engine is to deliver the best possible results to the end user, and since online security is a major concern for many web users right now, companies like Google and Bing are always looking for new ways to identify secure, high-quality websites.
Google announced some time ago that HTTPS had been incorporated into their algorithm as a "lightweight" ranking signal, potentially giving HTTPS websites a slight advantage over standard HTTP sites in the search engine's results. We've seen a lot of debate over how much difference HTTPS can actually make to a site's rankings, but while it would be foolish to suggest that HTTPS is some kind of miracle solution, it seems fairly safe to say that converting to HTTPS can at least make a small difference to a site's organic search positions. This blog post from ahrefs.com suggests that HTTPS, when implemented properly, does correlate with higher search rankings.
However, that brings us to an important point: if you're going to make the leap from HTTP to HTTPS, it's important to ensure that it's done properly. Among other things, you will need to implement the proper redirects throughout your site, and make sure that there is a single canonical version of each URL.
If you'd like the Designer Websites team to help you upgrade your site from HTTP to HTTPS, please get in touch
- we will ensure that the changeover is handled properly, giving you the best possible chance of achieving higher rankings and meeting the expectations of your users.