How to Decide Whether to Switch to HTTPS

Topics: Google Algorithm, SEO Tips, Web Development Written on August 10, 2015 by Surfaced Media

When it comes to web content and writing your own code there are plenty of things to keep in mind. One such element is HTTP vs. HTTPS. Recently, Google announced that HTTPS would be a light ranking signal. This means money and time for many site owners who now have to decide if they should make the switch to HTTPS. There are plenty of things to consider with the switch, time, effort, and price just to name a few. One factor that is at the center of the debate however, is how this switch is going to affect rankings and the websites themselves.

HTTP or HTTPS

When it comes to this type of switch it is important that you understand both sides of the argument and both sides of the debate. HTTP is the long running standard when it comes to accessing websites. This is the HTTP that you see when you type in a familiar web address. HTTPS is a whole different ball game. This code is an added layer of security for sites by encrypting in SSL. This code also shares a difficult to hack key with the destination server. Though this may seem like a wonderful transition for many, the real debate comes when the site has to purchase an SSL certificate in order to handle this new secret information that is making its way across the internet. Essentially, the site will now have to pay to have the information being sent encrypted and to have it decoded. Depending on the certificate that you choose, the cost could be as low as $60 a year or as high as $2000 a year. The price differs according to the encryption strength, the overall interaction features, and the coverage you purchase to protect information in the event that you site is hacked.

From A Webmaster’s Perspective

Webmasters have one real issue to keep in mind with this switch. That issue is the overall safety of their clients and of the information that they deal in. This switch is not necessarily a horrible thing. For starters, you can now give your visitors the added security of knowing that their information is safe. While doing that, you can also cover all your bases and keep the information you deal in safe and sound. This is beneficial all around because it means that those visitors to your site are going to be far less likely to have their identity and information stolen. In the chart below, you’ll see statistically 1 in 26 Americans had their identities stolen last year. The fear of identity theft and hackers has started to dwindle down.

fraud-victims-chart

From an SEO perspective, Google reports that HTTPS affects less than one percent of queries. In August 2014, they announced,

“[…] so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now, it’s only a very lightweight signal, affecting fewer than 1 percent of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals, such as high-quality content, while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the Web.”

For those that are willing and ready to switch over, the change will be immediate and will be cataloged by Google. This means you can make the change seamlessly and quickly. Overall the main change is going to be in ranking between a site that is HTTP and one that is HTTPS. In the event that two sites are the same speed, the site that is HTTPS is going to be ranked first for the simple fact that it is HTTPS.

So Should You Switch?

In order to decide if you should switch there are some difficult decisions that need to be made. The main factor to keep in mind is the type of site that you are running. If you deal in large amounts of personal information for your visitors every day it may be well worth it to take the leap. If you want to earn the trust of your customers, the change may be worth the added trouble in order to assure your visitors that you are going to keep their best interest in mind and that you are working to keep their information safe.

If you run a blog or a standard site that does not collect the information of the people that visit it you may have a bit more of an issue to contend with. The HTTPS switch may affect your overall ranking and it really just depends on personal preference in this case. If you are worried about your ranking because of things like content quality, bounce rates, and more, you may still rank higher even without changing over to HTTPS.

If you have the money and the time on hand it is not overall a bad idea to make the change. It can make your site more secure for your users, can help to make your signal stronger, and can even help to improve your rankings. If you feel that your site may be vulnerable to hacking this is a safe bet. If you do not have the money to make the switch, it may not be a bad idea to just wait and see what the change does to other sites before you start making the switch yourself.

Overall this change is going to affect a great deal of people and you should consider looking at your overall options. You do have some time to wait however if you want some time to think about what you want to use. HTTPS can make a big difference and with the right consideration, you can make the decision that is right for your site.

If you need assistance switching to HTTPS or would like to learn more, don’t hesitate to contact the pros at Surfaced Media.


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