The digital world has always had a dark side of hackers and viruses that can latch onto your computer or network to devastating effect. The pace of attacks isn’t slowing and a number of high-profile viruses have emerged over recent weeks such as ‘HeartBleed’ and the ‘Bash’ bug.
Web users are, or should be, wary of the sites they access and even more careful when making purchases online or sending sensitive personal information. Site owners can give themselves an edge by securing their web real estate using HTTPS. Not only will this deliver increased site credibility but it can help with search engine optimisation (SEO) too.
HTTP stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, and refers to data being transferred between a user’s browser and the website they are visiting. HTTP makes up part of all domains – for example, http://www.themarketingcampaigncompany.co.uk – and modern browsers display it automatically.
HTTPS stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure, which is simply layering the standard Hyper Text Transfer Protocol on top of an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) protocol. HTTPS encrypts data sent over the web, which prevents anyone intercepting the transfer from understanding the information. By doing this transmission of information is significantly more secure than if HTTP were being used.
Your browser indicates whether or not you are on a secure page in the URL box.
For example, this is an image of Wikipedia.org (viewed in the Chrome browser) using HTTP:
Compared to this image is from https://www.wikipedia.org/:
SEO and HTTPS
HTTPS was previously the preserve of payment screens and pages where sensitive information was transmitted – for example, when paying for an item on Amazon or using online banking. However, one of Google’s aims is to make the internet a more secure place and, with the change in their algorithms favouring domains using HTTPS, it is becoming more common to find this standard on non-ecommerce websites. With Google giving an SEO edge to sites that have started using an HTTPS domain it’s well worth looking to make this part of your website too.
Keep in mind, however, that at this time Google is using HTTPS as a ‘lightweight’ indicator from an SEO perspective, so don’t expect to jump to the first page of your targeted key phrases. If your HTTPS page is equal to another site’s HTTP page in Google’s eyes, however, yours may well rank above theirs. Despite this the powers-that-be at Google have indicated the wish to encourage the use of HTTPS, so the effect on SEO of HTTPS may well increase.