HTTPS/SSL: Why you should have it on your web site?

Everyone knows to look for the little green paddle lock to the left of where you enter a web address on your web browser when shopping online. We’re trained to be hesitant to enter sensitive information like credit card numbers or a social security number if that green paddle lock isn’t there. Savvy web site users are starting to see more and more non-commerce web sites sporting the green paddle lock showing that they are running HTTPS/SSL for all their pages.

So what does this mean exactly? Basically when a web page is ‘served’ to a viewer with HTTPS/SSL it is encrypted on the way from the server to the user’s computer. This is a two way street a well so if a user enters their email address, logs in to their account, all of that is encrypted making it harder for a hacker to intercept. More and more web sites are deciding to encrypt all their web pages for several reasons.

  1. Visitor confidence increases when they see the green paddle lock
  2. Web browsers may start to web pages that do not use HTTPS as ‘not secure’ which could scare people away
  3. Any data sent between the user and the web site is encrpted
  4. Search engines may see HTTP/SSL as an additional ranking signal so it could help boost your SEO

Sold on HTTPS/SSL yet? If so, it is fairly straight forward to add to your site. Every web site platform is different but in a nut shell, here are the steps.

  1. Get an SSL certificate installed on your web server. Your web host should be able to take care of this for which makes this step an easy one.
  2. You can confirm SSL is working on your domain name by going to HTTPS://www.yourdomain.com and looking for the green paddle lock. When SSL is working, now your site can be browsed both under HTTP and HTTPS so you want to take the necessary steps to force all HTTP traffic to redirect to the HTTPS version of those pages. Search engines will see these as two different pages so you need to be mindful of setting up the redirects property to preserve any SEO rankings you may have.
  3. Test your site and make sure HTTP URLS are redirecting to their HTTPS versions and also be sure to update your URL with any tracking tools like Google Analytics.

For most smaller web sites, especially those on platforms like WordPress, the process is quick and easy. More complex sites with established SEO rankings will need to be carefully managed to ensure there are no surprises.