HTTPS: What it is and Why You Need to Use it

November 1, 2018 Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

What is HTTPS and How it Differs from HTTP?

HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) is a secure encrypted protocol for transferring data on the internet.

Since all actions on the web imply data transmission (that is, there’s always a request to the server and a response from it), we need some rules for such transmission, as well as a channel and a mechanism for transmission. The HTTP protocol combined it all -- it became a standard and was used everywhere. It was HTTP that let the browser of a personal computer or mobile device download and display web content.

However, HTTP has one (major) flaw: no transmitted data is protected or encrypted. If an intruder controls a spot on the way from the server and back, he’ll easily intercept the data. That issue had to be fixed, and HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure came to change.

  • HTTPS is a modified version of HTTP that provides data security. The data you transfer is protected from third parties.
  • All accidental or intentional changes or falsifications of data transmitted by the user are recorded.
  • The presence of HTTPS is a Google ranking factor.

How HTTPS Works: Features and Application Areas

HTTPS is secured by a standard cryptographic protocol SSL/TLS that doesn’t let third parties access the data.

Every time a user visits and browses a website on HTTPS, this protocol generates a random secret code. It’s impossible to guess that code because it has more than 100 symbols. Only the server and the user’s computer have access to it. Thanks to this key, all transmitted data is encrypted, i.e. based on this key, keys are generated for all the data. Thus, the browser and server can display a message or transfer a sum.

If you order a pizza online on the HTTP website, your payment information is transferred via a public channel, so it can be captured. If a website runs on HTTPS, the data is encrypted.

HTTPS protocol

To provide additional security, a digital certificate is used to identify the server of the resource. A user doesn’t need this certificate on its own, but if the website or server want to connect to the user, a certificate is needed to:

  1. Confirm that the person to whom it is released to actually exists (the certificate has a digital signature.)
  2. Prove that person actually owns the website/server.

This digital certificate is a critical document for a website. It’s released in certification centers. The authenticity of this certificate is the first thing that the browser checks when it connects to the site on HTTPS; only if the certificate is valid, the data transfer begins.

HTTPS is extremely important for websites that process various private information, for example, payment systems, banking sites, and sites where the user enters their personal information in general.

What Types of SSL Certificates are There?

  • DV, or Domain Validated -- this certificate is available to individuals and organizations that protect the data, but it cannot prove that the site owner is a trusted user. DV works for personal websites (a blog, portfolio, or a business page).
  • OV, or Organization Validated -- this certificate is available only to organizations (commercial, non-commercial, and state), it verifies the legal entity and domain owner. It works best for online stores and service providers.
  • EV SSL – Extended Validation SSL -- this one stands out visually in the browser and indicates that the domain has passed a multistage and detailed check. That’s why it’s used by banks, payment providers and big websites.

How Does HTTPS Influence a Website Ranking on Google?

As mentioned above, Google treats HTTPS as a signal to a higher ranking. The company’s position on this matter is crystal clear: Google wants to bring the whole internet to a “safety standard” -- HTTPS must become a rule, and they need to warn the users when they face any exceptions. That’s why Google removed the green badge from secure websites and marked insecure ones with red instead.

So if you promote your HTTP website on Google, you need to move to HTTPS.

A Guide How to Move from HTTP to HTTPS

If you want to keep your site’s ranking, an SEO specialist should control moving your site to HTTPS:

  • Install an SSL/TLS certificate.
  • Set up a 301 redirect on the new HTTPS pages.
  • Add the HTTPS version of your website to Search Console to let the system know you’ve moved.

In Search Console (Google Webmaster Tools), moving to HTTPS is governed according to recommendations in their Help Center, and you can also get help in the Webmaster Help Forum.

HTTPS: What it is and Why You Need to Use it
5 (3 votes)