HTTP or HTTPS: What’s the Difference and Which One is Better to Use

By Jean S. Hartley – Search engines explicitly state that they give preference in their results to sites that work with the HTTPS protocol instead of HTTP (without S). What are these protocols, and why are search engines so incentivized to switch from one to the other? Whatis the difference between them, and is it worth listening to the arguments of the giants of the IT-market? About all this in as much detail as possible below.

What is HTTP and HTTPS

Everything you see on the Internet, from search engine pages to videos in your favorite online service, is data that is transmitted over a global network. We call it the Internet. Although in reality – this is a huge number of disparate local networks, which are combined into one only because of the stack of technologies and protocols TCP / IP. This stack includes many different protocols, such as FTP (used to transfer files), SMTP and POP3 (protocols for dealing with e-mail), but the most popular is HTTP.

HTTP is a protocol for transferring hypertext (an acronym derived from the words Hyper Text Transfer Protocol). We encounter this protocol every day when we open the browser. After all, hypertext is a familiar to all of us web-pages.

HTTPS is a special add-on for the HTTP protocol, which allows you to use encryption mechanisms when exchanging data between the server and the browser. That is, any site that works with HTTP can switch to HTTPS, it’s just enough to properly configure the existing server and connect it to the encryption mechanism.

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What is the difference between HTTP and HTTPS

As you might have guessed from the definitions, the main difference between plain HTTP and encrypted HTTPS is the protection of transmitted data. If using classic HTTP data is transmitted in the clear, the data transmitted via HTTPS is securely encrypted, and to prevent anyone from tampering with the encryption keys, they are “certified” by the keys of trusted organizations that are authorized to issue such “permission”.

This creates a double control: you can generate your own encryption key and connect it to your site, but until you “sign” it (this is the so-called “certificate” of the key) in a special Certificate Authority, the browser cannot trust it and will show the message of potential danger. You cannot tamper with a signed key, bypassing the control.

Benefits of using HTTPS

What does using HTTPS instead of HTTP-protocol? First of all, it is the security of end users. Since the Internet is a “network of networks”, it is difficult to control the security of its individual parts. There is always a possibility that someone will purposefully “listen” to all of your traffic and can use the obtained data for their own selfish purposes. For example, someone can steal your passwords, when they will be transmitted openly to the server, or the provider can “slip” in the code of the site their advertising, etc.

When using HTTPS, the browser encrypts the data even before the transmission through an open channel, so even if they intercept, they cannot read, because you need to have in their hands the second part of the key (private key), which is stored only on the server.

HTTPS and SEO-optimization

Why is Google talking about improving the position of sites that work with HTTPS? It’s very simple. They are potentially safer for their users, especially if the sites handle any personal data. And what sites do not accept any data from customers now (phone numbers, email addresses, bank card data, etc.)? There are very few of them.

To encourage people to switch to a secure protocol, IT giants are taking drastic measures: for example, all modern versions of browsers specially notify users of the insecure connection directly in the address bar.

It’s simply impossible not to notice it. How will the user react when he sees this when opening your site? That is correct, he will simply leave it and continue to search for safer pages.

Read: Understanding the Latest Cybersecurity Trends

All the benefits

From all of the above, we can formulate the main advantages of using HTTPS:

  • Increased security and privacy.
  • Increased position in search engine results (all other things being equal on the sites).
  • Increased user loyalty (they will know that the connection is secure, the browser will help them with this).
  • Improved behavioral factors (no one will leave your site because of the warning about the danger).

Note, for search engines HTTP and HTTPS are different versions of sites.

Disadvantages of HTTPS

It would be unfair not to mention the other side of the coin. Of the disadvantages of HTTPS, we will highlight the main:

The server must be reconfigured. If there is no control panel or support for out-of-the-box solutions to integrate encryption certificates, you need special knowledge and skills to do it yourself. Of course, you can always hire a dedicated professional.

Data encryption somehow increases the load on the server and increases the response time of the site, as it needs more time to process requests.

You can generate an SSL/TLS certificate, but it will not become trusted until it is validated by a special organization. Most trusted certificates are paid. They can be of different types (issued for a domain, for several related domains, or for an organization), but in any case, this is an additional cost for maintaining the site.

There are free alternatives, such as Let’s Encrypt, but they are issued for a short period of time and require frequent replacement.

After a complete switch from HTTP to HTTPS, the site may “drop out” of search results until the HTTPS version is indexed.

How to switch to HTTPS

At a minimum, you need to obtain a valid SSL/TLS certificate from an authorized organization to get started. If these are paid certificates, you can order them through a network of partners of certification centers. Hosting providers often act as such partners. Or you can contact the authorized organization directly.

When the required files are generated, signed with the CA’s key and received, they must be uploaded to the server. The server itself must be reconfigured so that the data is transmitted through a special port and encrypted/decrypted.

In order the browser does not show the warning of mixed content, all links on the page, both to their own resources, and to third-party sites, start with HTTPS (you may need to update the database, correct the links in templates and / or HTML-files, scripts, configure special redirect).

Read: How to Fully Optimize SEO’s Digital Marketing

Where to get free SSL-certificates

The first option. The most incorrect in terms of SEO is to generate it yourself. It uses special open source software. This certificate can be used only for testing/setting up the HTTPS protocol. When you try to visit a site with such a certificate, you will get a warning.

Some certification authorities or their partners sometimes offer promotions that give you free SSL/TLS certificates for a limited or unlimited time (renewable). They will be recognized by browsers as intended.

The most secure and simple way is to obtain a certificate through the Let’s Encrypt service. True, in this case you need your own server and install special software. Although many web hosting providers allow you to obtain such certificates directly from the hosting control panel. Therefore, if you do not want problems immediately after the launch of the site – choose hosting correctly and check the ability to work with HTTPS. For example, for WordPress sites, Bluehost is excellent, it has unlimited rates, one-click installation of CMS and quick connection of SSL/TLS-certificates.

Conclusions

If you are only thinking about launching your first website – be sure to configure support for HTTPS from the very beginning. This will save you from a lot of problems in the future. You will not need to edit links, templates and / or database. The site will get better rankings and will be guaranteed to be safe for end users.

If your site is still running with the unprotected HTTP protocol, it is urgent to switch to HTTPS. Even if it is the only landing page or a small business card site. When visiting HTTP pages, all modern browsers warn of the insecurity of the resource, which automatically reduces customer loyalty, their interest in the content and encourages them to leave your site. What can there be targeted actions or other useful activity?

 

Author: Jean S. Hartley is a professional writer for write my essay free service. For 6 years now, she has been helping students learn to write correctly, and also assists in preparing for exams. Jean worked in an IT company and she writes about it on her blog.

 


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