HTTP vs HTTPS: What’s the Difference?

http vs https

Have you ever noticed some URL’s start with HTTP while others have HTTPS? This single letter isn’t a minor variation. It makes all the difference in your website’s security and ranking.

But what is it, exactly?

More importantly, how do you get that little “s” to be part of your URL?

Discover everything you need to know about HTTP vs HTTPS, from how to acquire this essential extra letter to what it does for you and your site visitors.

What’s the Difference Between HTTP vs HTTPS?

There is a big hint beside your URL that reveals the major difference between HTTP and HTTPS. If you look closely, you’ll notice a keylock graphic along with the words “Secure” or “Not Secure” beside it.

The “S” in HTTPS signifies the website you’re viewing has a Secure Socket Layer, often referred to as an SSL. It’s a form of security that protects your users by encrypting data exchanged between the web server and the user’s browser.

HTTP doesn’t have this highly secure addition, which leaves the data provided by the customer vulnerable. This is especially important if your website deals with sensitive information, such as credit card information used to complete an online transaction.

Why Does an SSL Matter?

The subtlety of your SSL’s presence may make it seem like a minute detail, yet its crucial to many things, including:

  • Your Security
  • Your Online Credibility
  • Your Search Engine Rankings

Without it, you put sensitive data at risk while incurring penalties from Google’s algorithm.

How SSL’s Impact Security

We already touched briefly on how SSL’s impact your site’s security. However, let’s dig a little deeper. SSL’s use two keys in order to establish a secure connection between the website’s server and the user’s browser: a private key and a public key.

Both keys reside on your server. By working together, the pair encrypts data exchanged between the two locations so that others can’t intercept it.

Every SSL has a “subject” that identifies the website’s owner.

You acquire your certificate and keys through a Certificate Authority, or CA, who has been legally authorized to distribute SSL’s. This ensures your SSL’s security while maintaining accountability.

Why Your SSL is Important to Your Online Credibility

SSL’s are highly secure, but what exactly does that mean for your credibility? A recent Google algorithm update made having an SSL mandatory. Websites who do not wear this subtle security badge will automatically have a pop-up warning displayed to users who try to visit their URL.

This warning states clearly that the website they are about to visit is not secure. Imagine what kind of first impression that will leave! Visitors will think twice before proceeding, which will hurt not only your website traffic but also your credibility.

Companies without a secure connection challenge their visitor’s trust. It conveys the message that your company doesn’t take care of its online presence or it simply doesn’t care about the security of its visitors.

Neither are good for your brand’s reputation.

How SSL’s Reduce Your Search Engine Rankings

In addition to compromising your credibility, not having an SSL will incur a penalty that reflects upon your website’s search engine rankings. Because Google’s algorithm focuses on providing the best sources for its user’s inquiries, it will push unsafe URL’s to the lower end of the search results.

It doesn’t matter if your webpage or blog post satisfies the user’s inquiry or is optimized with keywords, technical SEO, and quality content. If you don’t have an SSL, you won’t be within the top pick of populated search results.

How Do I Get an HTTPS?

So now that you know an SSL is an essential part of your website, how do you go about getting one? The good news is acquiring an SSL is relatively simple. All you have to do is purchase one from a Certificate Authority.

Often, your hosting provider falls under this category. How much your SSL costs depends on the type you purchase and where you purchase it from. They can range anywhere from free to $199 or more.

Whatever package you buy, you’ll want to make sure it is digitally signed by a CA. This is the only kind of SSL that browsers will recognize, as the companies issuing them are audited to ensure they meet security standards.

You’ll want to do some research to determine which SSL is right for you.

Activating Your SSL

Once you purchase it, you’ll need to activate and install the SSL on your server. This process can vary depending on your server.

Many website hosting companies will do this process for you. It’s always best to go with this option whenever it’s available. Activating and installing an SSL on your own can be pretty complicated, especially if you’re unfamiliar with web development.

SSL’s are activated through your hosting service’s control panel where you’ll generate a certificate and signing request. You’ll receive a block of text. This is known as your CSR.

This should be given to the service that issued your SSL. They will then attach your identity to your SSL, which confirms your ownership of it.

Installing Your SSL

Once this step is complete, you can begin the install process. Again, your hosting provider may execute this process for you. If they don’t, no need to worry, for this is the easiest part of the SSL process.

Most backends have a section designated for this installation on the control panel menu. If not, you may have to do a bit of research. Once you locate the right section of your backend, simply paste your certificate into the appropriate section and click submit.

Afterward, you should see your URL change from HTTP to HTTPS.

Discover More Website Tips and Tricks

You’re now a master of understanding HTTP vs HTTPS, but that is only a fraction of what you should know about optimizing your website’s design, security, and functionality.

Learn more website tips and tricks through our free online articles. From increasing your load times to troubleshooting, branding, and SEO, you’ll discover numerous ways to elevate your site’s performance.