March 28, 2017

Do you need to change your website to https?

You may have heard that your website needs to be more secure. So if you change it from http to https, does that really make it more secure? Is that something you need to do? And what’s all the talk about that helping your Google ranking?

The bare minimum

First, let’s talk about the bare minimum as far as security goes. If your website accepts any sort of sensitive information, like credit card numbers or social security numbers, then at the very least, the pages involved in that process should be secure. And in general, it’s not a bad idea for the admin section of your website to be secure as well.

So what if you want to go above the bare minimum? Does converting your entire website to https make it more secure?

Going the extra mile

Converting to https doesn’t magically fix most of the security holes that crop up from time to time, especially in an open source software like WordPress. In fact, the most beneficial thing you can do from that standpoint is keep your WordPress website backed up and the software (WordPress version, plugins, and themes) up to date.

What changing to https does mean is that information like usernames, passwords, and other sensitive information isn’t transferred in plain text. When that type of info is transmitted in plain text, any nefarious person on the same network as you could get the info.

So if you’re at a coffee shop and logging into a website that doesn’t show https instead of http, there’s always a chance your info can be stolen. That goes for your username, password, credit card number, and any other sensitive information you enter in.

But if your website doesn’t ever ask for the input of sensitive information like that, it’s not nearly as important to switch from a security standpoint.

The impact on SEO

“But what about SEO?” you might ask. “Doesn’t Google like websites that are https and give them a boost in the search engine results they show people?”

The short answer is yes, but it’s not magic.

Way back in 2014, Google announced that https would be considered what they call a “ranking signal.” In practice, what that actually means is it can be a tie-breaker.

Converting your website to https will not magically propel you to the top of the search engine results above all the other people with http websites. But if you’re neck and neck with a competitor, it can give you that slight advantage.

If you do decide to convert to https, you will need to install an SSL Certificate, which is often available through your host, and generally they can install it for you. There can be a lot of options, so talk to them about why you’re doing it, and they can help you pick the right one. And if you’re running WordPress, your web developer will probably need to help you convert your site to https.

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