If you research statistics for what percentage of the population uses different internet browsers, you'll see that most individuals use Google Chrome. Data sourced by Ars Technica captures how Google Chrome's usership is at least 3.4 billion, whereas the next highest is Apple Safari at just over 1 billion. Research compiled by Fit Small Business shows that users perform around 8.5 million daily searches using Google as their go-to search engine.
When typing a website address into Chrome, you may have seen where the uniform resource locators (URLs) reformats to include either HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) or HTTPS (hypertext transfer protocol secure) in front of a colon (:), a double slash (//), and WWW (world wide web) before any site-specific naming is used).
Also, if you're a Chrome user, you may have noted where pages get "flagged" differently in the address bar area, depending on whether it's an HTTP or HTTPS site. A website that isn’t secure will typically feature a triangle with an exclamation mark inside of it with the words "Not secure," letting you know that a site is an HTTP one, whereas a secure website (HTTPS one) will feature a lock icon at the beginning of the web address bar in Google Chrome.
While many site users may never notice these subtleties nor second-guess them, even if they see them, they perhaps should. Also, businesses whose sites aren't yet migrated to HTTPS should reconsider doing this for the many reasons our Mitro Digital Marketing team will detail below.
What Is the Difference Between HTTP and HTTPS?
While we've already shared what the HTTP acronyms above stand for, we should clarify its purpose. HTTP resides in the application layer and relies on network-level protocols such as transmission control protocol (TCP). It serves as the basis of all data communication on the web. As a more tangible example of what all this means, when a client (the user's web browser, for instance) sends a request to the web server, it responds with the requested content.
Do you remember us mentioning how HTTP resides in the application layer above? Well, HTTPS adds an extra layer of security to HTTP by using either the secure sockets layer (SSL) or its successor, transport layer security (TLS). This security layer provides:
- Encryption: Makes the data traveling both ways in the client and server communication secure
- Data integrity: Ensures the data cannot be corrupted or altered during the transmission
- Authentication: Makes sure that the users themselves have a secure connection to the website
As you can likely tell from reading the differences between the protocols above, particularly the three above-referenced features, HTTPS is essential for online stores and other websites that collect sensitive data such as passwords or billing information.
Since an HTTP lacks the security of HTTPS, the former is vulnerable to attacks in which someone with malicious intent can intercept the data packets before they reach their destination. In other words, it's easy for a hacker to access private user information when using HTTP versus HTTPS.
Additional Dangers Associated With Not Using an HTTPS Site
An HTTPS site's ability to secure connections and data transfers is critically important for obvious reasons, as highlighted above. However, if that wasn't enough of a reason to switch over your site's protocol, perhaps the following concerns will motivate you to do so:
- HTTP websites often harbor intrusive ads: This can distract from the content you're trying to convey, diminishing the user experience
- HTTP sites are vulnerable to malware attacks: These can result in malicious code being placed in the coding on your website's back end, which can cause functional impairments that affect a computer's operability and also result in computer data being compromised
Secure Websites and Google Ranking
Research by Search Engine Journal shows that whether a website is an HTTP or HTTPS one is a ranking factor for Google -- albeit a minor consideration compared to other indicators, like the existence of high-quality content. Apparently, the protocol affects its ranking most when Google is considering how to best rank two sites with similar content. In that instance, the search engine algorithm is written to rank the secured website higher than the one with potential security risks.
How To Secure Your Website: HTTP to HTTPS Conversions
Your web traffic can take a hit if you're not careful when attempting to switch your HTTP to an HTTPS site. So, you should follow the following steps to ensure that doesn't happen before the conversion:
Step #1: Decide On the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate Your Site Needs
SSL certification options include single, multi-domain, or wildcard, as described in this article by PKI Consortium (Public Key Infrastructure Consortium).
Step #2: Create a 2048-bit Public Private Key Pair for Your Web Server
A public key is accessible to many users with access to a server, such as a web host (a hosting provider), whereas private keys should only be known to website owners. According to Science Direct, the public key encrypts messages, and the private one decrypts them through a process often called creating a digital signature.
Step #3: Generate a Certificate Signing Request (CSR)
It's necessary to generate a certificate signing request before placing an order for an SSL certificate. It is essentially a message sent from you to the SSL certification authority that manages the public key infrastructure. This CSR application process is necessary to request a digital identity certificate that you will embed into your public key.
Step #4: Install SSL Certificate on Your Web Server
You must place your SSL certificate in a non-web-accessible place on your servers to complete the conversion to HTTPS. At the same time, you should update your robots.txt file to ensure that your web pages will be crawled by search engine bots.
While we've simplified the steps you need to follow to obtain a secure socket layer (SSL) certificate and install it on your site, both of which are necessary to ensure your website is secure, we certainly understand how this information may still seem a bit overwhelming. However, there's no need to fear.
How Our Outer Banks and Raleigh Web Design and Digital Marketing Agency Can Make Your Site Secure
Mitro Digital Marketing, which has offices in both the Outer Banks and Raleigh, NC, employs web developers, website designers, and online marketing professionals adept at keeping up with current internet trends and the latest web technology, including best practices surrounding the use of HTTP and HTTPS.
Our North Carolina digital marketing company can easily switch your website from HTTP to HTTPS for you so you can offer your customers and visitors the safest and most immersive experience possible. And if you're due for a complete website redesign, we can help with that too. We'll ensure your new website is user-friendly, secure, and chock full of well-structured, informative, and optimized web content search engines like Google love and thus rank highly.
We also believe it's important to mention that content management systems like WordPress often require users to perform security patch updates to keep their sites working optimally. We offer web maintenance packages at Mitro Digital Marketing in Outer Banks to help with this and ensure your SSL certificate, a main delineator between an HTTP and HTTPS site, remains current (as they expire annually). We also perform site fixes when HTTP site compromises occur.
Additionally, Mitro Digital Marketing is a web hosting company. All of our customers who purchase web hosting plans receive an accompanying SSL security certificate.
We hope that it's been helpful exploring the differences between HTTP and HTTPS sites and the importance of having a secure website. Feel free to follow up with our Mitro Digital Marketing team if you have any questions about secure websites or need our assistance with your own webpage.