HTTP -vs- HTTPS web addresses, what is this all about anyway?

Why should you as a small business owner care about it at all? It was once just about security, but now it's also about user experience and page position in search. If you have a website, even if you are not doing e-commerce, read on...

Web security is nothing to be ignored, and it's a serious topic for your site and your visitors.  Having a secure, encrypted connection to a web page that you are about to enter your credit card number into has been and still is a must. The same goes for a page that asks for your password.

If you are doing commerce on your website or, on certain pages of your website, you have no doubt noticed that the URL of those pages begins with https://.  A secure (https) page ensures an encrypted connection between the visitor's browser and your page. Nothing has changed in this instance, but what about the rest of your site? Should all of your web pages be secured with an encrypted connection? Should every page URL start with https://?

Google thinks so, and they are starting to forcefully "nudge" people in that direction. Google announced in late 2016 that they would start showing a warning in the address bar if a page that asks for credit card information or a password is not served over https.
In January of 2017 Google announced that the warnings would become more prevalent, showing up below the form itself in the Chrome 57 browser which was scheduled for release in mid-March.
Why should you as a small business care about this? Google wants all web traffic to be secure eventually. Security is one of Google's top priorities and as you may know when it comes to the web Google usually gets what Google wants, one way or another.

How can Google force this on you? Easy, they make it part of the algorithm they use to determine what results show in search and how they are ranked. Secure pages, even those without a credit card or password field will be weighted higher is search. If you want to show up, serve pages over https, that's the bottom line.

No one outside of Google knows for sure when this will happen, but it may be starting to happen now.  Users already see "Non-Secure" warnings, and they are more verbose than before.

Do you want a visitor seeing a message like "Warning Your connection is not private" when they visit your site? What will that do to your page views? What will it do to your lead capture or sales?

Have a look at your current web pages if their URL doesn't start with https://. It's time to get secure, and the sooner, the better.

Will this require a new website? Will it cost a lot? Can I do it myself? How long will it take? These questions are probably going through your mind right now.

To serve encrypted pages, you have to have a security certificate. I won't go into what that is in this article, suffice to say, it is a must have. The good news is that you can get one for very low cost or even free.

But there is more to it than just getting and installing a security certificate. You will also need to make changes that will automatically send nonsecure traffic (where someone types in, or clicks a link that starts with http://) to your new secure page.

There are other possible issues as well. Internal links on your site may need to be changed as well if you are hosting content on your page from an outside source, that source will need to be secure as well. Including things like; calls to javascript routines, fonts, videos, ads, etc.  

How much will it cost? How long will it take? The only way to know is to do a comprehensive site audit of your current website.  

While this may not be the best news, it's better to look at it as an opportunity.  It may be the excuse you need to do a long overdue site makeover. And, if it gives your visitors a better experience then that has long-term benefits as well. And hey, if you get there first it may be the thing that pushes you above your competitors in search results.

Whatever the justification you need, find it, don't ignore this, and, the sooner, the better.

 Cotts, Inc. is a digital marketing agency specializing in helping small businesses. We are located in the small city of Pottsville in Schuylkill County, PA 17901.

We build results-driven websites, expert social media content & strategies, custom interactive kiosk systems, digital signage systems and print campaigns so your business can compete in this digital world.

If your small business needs help with marketing in the digital world, reach out to us, our contact information is:
Phone: 570.399.5662