Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure or HTTPS is similar to HTTP, but with an added layer of encryption. It allows a user to securely send and receive information over a network connection with no fear of being compromised by a third party or unapproved user.
You can tell if a site is secure by just checking on the left side of the URL field. If it’s a secure site, it should display a green padlock. Otherwise, that section will be blank, possibly with a browser warning icon.
Understanding Google’s SEO policy
In 2014, Google made an announcement that switched up the rules on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – it would henceforth favour secure and certified sites above others that aren’t. More recently, the tech giant has stated that effective July 2018, they will begin to mark HTTP sites as “unsecured.”
Of course, this should not come as a surprise because users are more likely to visit a website that is secure rather than one that isn’t; because they want to be sure that no unapproved parties can access their information.
Going by Google’s revised policies, it is now easier for secure websites to be ranked higher on the Search Engine Ranking Page (SERP).
Based on research by a bevvy of data analysts and even Google itself, we found that Google uses HTTPS as a ranking signal, although it is not the primary criteria.
What does this mean for you?
Well, if you want to boost your site traffic and rank higher on Google SERPs, your site MUST be secure, whether or not you request personal information from your users.
Why HTTPS is critical for SEO
HTTPS secures your information by way of SSL certificates. An SSL certificate uses a cryptographic key to “lock” your sensitive information so no one can view it without your permission.
Like we mentioned earlier, the two main advantages of having a secure site with regards to SEO is a higher ranking and more website traffic. Given these critical reasons, it’s quite astonishing that some businesses still lack a secure website.
HTTPS is a great way to get ahead of your competitors because due to the higher ranking of secure sites on search engine results, your business can achieve a higher conversion rate.
How does HTTPS secure users’ information?
Any data/information you transfer over HTTPS gets encrypted with Transport Layered Security (TLS). TLS is a stringent protocol that provides three layers of security to protect users:
Authentication to ensure users are sharing information and communicating with the intended site
Data security to ensure that the integrity of data is not compromised or modified in any way (At the point of data concession, TLS will detect it without fail).
Encryption of data to keep hackers away. Ensures users activity cannot be tracked, stored or collated by any third party.
While the Search Engine Optimization of the TLS protocol is excellent, it also comes with its a few performance challenges, mostly affecting web pages and applications.
TLS often slows down the load times of websites and applications. This problem is due to the TLS handshake – the process of creating a secure connection between server and browser.
Typically, load times for websites are slowed down for only a few seconds, but it may be longer if the internet connection is not so great.
Not to worry, there is a solution to address this problem, and it’s called TLS 1.3.
Before March 21, 2018, the previous version, TLS 1.2 had been in use for eight years by most web browsers. TLS 1.3 is the latest and most secure version of the TLS protocol.
How TLS 1.3 improves web performance
TLS 1.3 improves performance by reducing the TLS handshake period. It uses encrypted connections with advanced features such as Zero Round Trip Time (0-RTT) and TLS False Start.
With regards to site loading times, TLS 1.2 takes two round trips for TLS 1.2 to complete the required TLS handshake while TLS 1.3 takes only one round trip, making the loading times much shorter.
TLS 1.3 also resolves the security issues of TLS 1.2 by mutual authentication from both server and client side.
That said, if your website is not yet secured, do it now. The advantages of HTTPS far outweigh the limitations.
While HTTPS is a strong ranking signal for Google, it is not the only criteria. Quality content also plays a huge role.
Fusing quality content with HTTPS is a sure-fire way to have your website rank high on search engine results.