What is HTTPS? Everything You Need to Know

By Raghav Tayal

Web encoding has been around for several years. But it became popular when Google began inspiring website owners to switch to HTTPS to protect their visitors’ privacy in 2015. The original HTTPS protocol was published in 1995. It facilitated businesses to manage credit card payments online while safeguarding payment information. TLS (Transport Layer Security), the successor to SSL (Secure Socket Layer), took several years to get used outside of payment for e-commerce services.

As a benefit to swapping over, Google announced that HTTPS sites would receive a slight ranking boost. Thus effectively punishing sites that did not switch over by giving an advantage to competitors who did.

You might be thinking why it’s so critical that you shift to HTTPS. Is it worth going through all the trouble? Will choosing HTTPS over HTTP have any effect on your SEO strategies? This article will break everything down for you. It will not only answer these commonly asked questions but also provide you with a deeper understanding of HTTP vs HTTPS overall.

What are Protocols?

Protocols configure your data and dictate how it is used in online communications. Programs, for example, use the File Transfer Protocol to upload files to a Web server and to conduct maintenance actions like updating files and generating directories. Most Web pages are loaded using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP, by browser services such as Firefox and Internet Explorer. HTTP, on the other hand, is not safe. A determined hacker can oversee your data traffic and determine which Web pages you visit. To resolve this concern, network engineers created the HTTPS protocol, which uses safe methods to transmit files.

What is HTTP?

HTTP is an abbreviation for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. In its most primitive form, it enables interactions between two processes. It is most frequently used to send data from a web server to a search engine. Thus, allowing users to access web pages. It was used by almost all early online sites.

What is HTTPS?

HTTPS is an abbreviation for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. The issue with the standard HTTP protocol is that the data that flows from server to web page is not encoded, making it possible to get hacked. HTTPS protocols address this by using the SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate, which aids in the creation of a safely encrypted channel between both the browser and the server. Thus preventing sensitive personal data from being stolen as it is transferred from the server to the browser.

What does ‘s’ in HTTPS stand for?

E-commerce web pages, like any other, rely on a secured network between your desktop and the site’s server. Hackers and cybercriminals would be able to intercept your session and steal crucial data if this security was not in place. HTTPS enables the browser to encrypt data as it travels across the channel, rendering it pointless to anyone who does not have the appropriate security codes. The site’s Internet address starts with the particular prefix “https,” where the “s” stands for “secure,” to recognise the encrypted connection.

What is the function of HTTPS?

The SSL certificate is the most significant distinction between these two protocols. HTTPS is nothing more than an HTTP protocol with extra security. HTTPS employs TLS to encode all user interactions.

This added protection, however, can be critical, especially for websites that collect sensitive information from their users, such as credit card details and passwords.

The SSL certificate encrypts the information that people provide to the website, effectively converting the information into a code. Even if somebody were to intercept the data being sent between the sender and the receiver, they will be unable to understand it due to encrypted communications.

As a result, HTTPS is known to ensure the confidentiality, privacy, and protection of your website as well as your customers. Website visitors can easily determine whether your website is using HTTPS protocol by the website address.

What is a port?

In general, a port is used to inform the desktop about the sort of data received from or sent to another desktop via a comparable data connection. Each port is assigned a unique feature as well as a port number, such as Port 80, 21, 25, 443, and so on. A port is a virtual numbered address that serves as an endpoint for interaction with different Transport Layer Protocols.

Transfer Control Protocol (TCP) and User Datagram Protocol (UDP) are Transport Layer protocols that are used in data transmission over the Internet.

UDP is most widely used for large amounts of data transfer where security isn’t as important, whereas TCP is used when data security is critical. When data transmission occurs, every data pack is assigned a port number, and the protocol accurately guides each data pack to the suitable Port. As per the SMB vulnerability study, 65% of attacks target the three most commonly used ports: HTTPS-443/TCP, SSH-22/TCP, and HTTP-80/TCP.

Port 80

By default, HTTP connections use HTTP port 80. It is a well-known and widely used port all over the world. Tim Berners-Lee created port 80 in the HTTP 0.9 document in 1991. According to the documentation, if no port is designated for an HTTP connection, it automatically uses Port 80. It connects you to the internet (WWW). With the help of this port, a user can connect to sites on the web. It means that using this port, unencoded data is exchanged between the user’s server and the browser. This port is associated with TCP (Transfer Control Protocol- a protocol used in data transfer).

Port 443

HTTPS on port 443 is a secure HTTP version in which all traffic is bound with a strong encryption technology and passes through 443. This port is also TCP-connected, and it establishes a secure network between the webpages and the search engine. HTTPS Port 443 was requested by “Kipp E.B. Hickman” and was officially authored in RFC 1700. The main distinction between Port 80 and Port 443 is the high level of security. Port-443 allows data transfer over a secure server, whereas Port 80 allows plain text data transfer. If a user tries to access a non-HTTPS web page, he will receive a non – secure warning. Before data transfer, Port 443 authenticates data transmission packets.

Port 80 vs Port 443

HTTPS Port 443 enables encoded communication between the web server and the browser. Thus, rendering the data unreadable in the event of a data breach. As a result, connecting via HTTPS Port 443 for browsing the web clearly outperforms constructing an unsafe HTTP Port 80 connection for web surfing.

Port 80, on the other hand, provides an HTTP connection via the TCP protocol. This port establishes an unencrypted linkage between the internet browser and the web servers. Therefore, leaving sensitive information vulnerable to malicious hackers and potentially leading to severe information leakage.

How HTTPS Aids SEO

Almost all of the advantages of HTTPS are related to SEO:

  • Lightweight ranking signal
  • Improved security and privacy
  • Preserving referral data
  • Allows for the use of modern protocols that improve safety and website speed.
  • Lightweight ranking signal Back in 2014, Google announced that HTTPS is a compact ranking factor. It’s more of a decision than something that’ll catapult your ranking if the other ranking factors stayed unchanged. This is essentially Google’s contribution to accelerating global HTTPS implementation.
  • Improve the Rankings of Your Website Leaving aside the fact that Google has declared that web pages that have switched to HTTPS will receive a small boost in rankings. Doing so can result in a ranking boost for your website over time in any case since visitors will be more probable to browse through web pages that they know are safe.
  • Keep Referrer Information The use of an HTTPS site improves the effectiveness of Google Analytics. This is because the security data of the webpage that alludes to you are saved when HTTPS is used – it is not the same with HTTP websites. Referral channels will only show up as “direct traffic” on HTTP sites. This gives HTTPS a significant SEO benefit.
  • Allows for the use of modern protocols that improve safety and website speed. We’ve already discussed it. But how does this relate to SEO? When you see the message ‘Your connection to this site is insecure’ =, it bothers you right? Isn’t it true that it doesn’t promote trust? If we notice this, we usually form a bad first impression about any website.

    Switching to HTTPS, in my opinion, can increase retention time and avoid pogo-sticking. While these are only hypothesized (not confirmed) ranking factors, keeping people ‘stuck’ to your website is something you want irrespective of SEO. An HTTPS website authenticates all interactions. So, website visitors’ sensitive information, such as passwords and credit card details, as well as their internet history, are protected.

The Method of Converting From Http to Https

On the exterior, switching from http to https appears to be simple:

  • Get an SSL certificate.
  • Install your SSL certificate on the web server for your website.
  • Set up 301 redirects from HTTP to HTTPS so that search results are notified that your site’s addresses have changed.
  • Anyone who has bookmarked a page on your site is instantly rerouted to the https address after you turn the switch.

It’s really that simple. There are a massive number of options provided by SSL certificate vendors and packages provided by hosting providers. So, this simple process can quickly become perplexing.

The scenario is exacerbated by the fact that switching your website from http to https necessitates dealing with more technology than most small business owners prefer. As a result, we’ll only go as deep into the four steps above. It is required to make the required business decisions and understand the technical aspects on a basic level.

Why not delve a little deeper into the technical side of things? For one major purpose that will facilitate the transition from http to https:

The majority of the process can be handled by your hosting company.

If you already have the technical knowledge necessary to turn your site from http to https, go ahead and handle the whole process from beginning to end. Many small business owners, on the other hand, are unfamiliar with the technical aspects of this method. As you’ll see, there’s a major learning graph on the corporate side.

As the owner of a small business, you must be involved in making business decisions. However, you might be better off delegating the technology to someone who understands what they’re doing. Someone you can accept. Having your website hosting company could be one option.

Many hosting providers offer packages that include an SSL certificate, certificate installation, and 301 reroute setups. That leaves you with only one technical task: modifying your site’s links to point to https rather than http.

Purchasing a bundle may cost you a little more. However, the length of time and distress you’ll save by delegating the technological aspects of the process to your hosting service will do more than compensate for the cost.

Configuring 301 Redirects

As previously stated, 301 reroutes both notify search results that your site’s servers have altered and instantly redirect anyone who has bookmarked a page on your site to the new https address.

It’s probably that your hosting provider will make this transformation for you (ask if it’s included in their bundle), but if you want to do it yourself, edit the.htaccess file in your root folder by adding:

RewriteEngine On

RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off

RewriteRule (.*) https:// % HTTP HOST % URI REQUEST [R=301,L]

Obtain an SSL Certificate

An SSL certificate can be obtained in two ways:

  • From your hosting company, or
  • From a provider of SSL certificates.

While it’s easier to purchase the certificate from your hosting site ( particularly if it’s part of a special-priced package), they don’t always provide the type of credential you need.

Yes, there are various types of SSL certificates. You must choose one based on your company’s requirements. The various types of SSL certificates are compiled below:

  • By validation level (important for marketing) and then
  • By the level of coverage.

You can choose a certificate that is as close to your goals in both places as possible.

SSL Certificates Arranged according to Validation Level

When you switch your site to https, the change is reflected in your browser and visible to your web users. There are three levels of validation, each of which gives your prospective consumers more confirmation than the one before it. As a result, the level of validation you choose is also a marketing move.

All three levels result in a closed lock appearing in the address bar of a browser. It indicates that the linkage to your website is secure. Aside from that, there are discrepancies in the info available when viewing the certificate in a browser, and also in the browser’s address bar at the highest level of verification. These distinctions can be seen in the pictures included in the descriptions of each verification level.

Money and time are two other variables to consider when deciding on the level of verification for your certificate:
The higher the affirmation, the more effort and time it takes to receive your certificate. This is because each major upgrade provides more validation of the domain’s holder (i.e. your company) than the one before it. It also necessitates more documentation on your part and more scrutiny on the part of the issuer. Furthermore, the higher levels of validation, the more expensive the SSL certificate.

SSL certificate validation has three levels:

Domain Validation — It is the most basic level of verification. Domain validated SSL certificates will display a closed lock image next to the website link. This indicates that the site is secure. When viewing the details of this type of credential in a browser, the “Subject Name” section displays the most basic information. It informs a potential customer that the domain is secure. However, it does not specify which company registered the domain. And the lack of a corporation can be a source of distrust among prospective consumers. For example, it can result in a situation in which someone can set up a fraud domain (for example, “jobwhos.com” instead of “jobwhois.com”) and steal sensitive information from those who fall for it.

Organization Validation (also referred to as Company Validation) – When you obtain an SSL certificate with this second level of verification, the issuer confirms that the business requesting the certificate owns the web address for which the certificate is being issued. When you observe this type of certificate in a browser, the “Subject Name” section presents more details, including the corporation name, as shown below. This additional amount of detail assures prospective consumers that the site is valid and safe to continue doing business with.

Extended Validation — Extended SSL certificates just provide the greatest level of assurance that a website is valid and credible. Not only is there more information in the “Subject Name” section, but the company’s name is also displayed directly in the browser ‘s address bar. (In fact, when the site is seen, the entire address bar in some browsers went green.) An extended SSL certificate declares that the company controls the domain and meets the stringent evaluation standards required for this level of verification. That is excellent branding!

SSL Certificates Organized by Coverage Level

Another way to categorize SSL certificates is based on the level of coverage they provide. SSL certificate coverage is divided into three levels:

Single Domain SSL Certificates — This category of SSL certificate will only cover one domain. For example, you can secure mysmallbusiness.com with a subdomain SSL certificate but not support.my small business.com.

Wildcard Domain SSL Certificates — This category of SSL certificate covers a single domain as well as all sub – domains within that domain. A wildcard domain SSL certificate, for example, can be used to secure mysmallbusiness.com, support.small business.com, and any other subnet.

SSL Certificates for Multiple Domains — This category of SSL certificate can be used to cover various domains.

TLS certificates and how they work

Obtaining a TLS registration and installing it on your server is the only way to enable HTTPS on your website. You may also see it referred to as an SSL or SSL/TLS certificate, but don’t fret, it all refers to the same topic. Although we all use its successor TLS, the term SSL is still broadly used.
Certificate Authorities issue TLS certificates (CA). CA’s role in the client-server relationship is to be managed by a third party. TLS certificates can be issued by anybody, but only publicly reliable CAs are endorsed by browsers.

By tapping on the lock logo in your browser’s address bar, you can verify each website’s TLS certificate and grant CA. So, you can verify the name of the Certification Authority (CA) and its authenticity through it. You can understand more about the certificate by clicking on it. The “Issued to:” line is essential in this case. This is where we get to understand the various types of TLS certificate validation benchmarks. That is what primarily distinguishes paid and free certificates.

Let’s Encrypt, a non-profit CA, issues the most popular DV TLS certificate. That is the method used by the large number of companies that provide free instantly renewing TLS certificates.
There should be nothing false with DV-only credentials. After all, they are the only sort of TLS certificate that can be declared at scale immediately. HTTPS, on the other hand, is only as secure as the fundamental certificate that verifies the server you’re interacting with.

If your website accepts logins or payouts, you should purchase a TLS certificate with organization validation (OV) or prolonged validation (EV) (EV). The verification process for these two types differs, with the EV being much more stringent.

If you only want to buy one, I’d suggest going with the EV TLS certificate. It’s reliable and isn’t more expensive than OV.

What is the difference between DV, OV, and EV, and how will you choose?

Free TLS certificates included with hosting and CDN schemes only perform domain verification (DV). This verifies that a certificate owner owns a specific web domain. A simple validation technique like this is adequate for websites and blogs that do not handle sensitive data, but it is not ideal for those who do.
Websites that use a DV TLS certificate seem to be protected, but you will not see the “Issued to” line when you click the lock.

How to Configure HTTPS

This is dependent on your circumstance. You’re getting ready to launch a new website. If you use HTTPS from the beginning, you would never have to worry about HTTP or migratory errors.

All you need is a reliable hosting distributor who will walk you through the procedure and claims to support the most recent HTTP and TLS protocol versions. After everything is up – and – running, the final step is to implement HSTS to seal the security.

You already have a webpage that is HTTPS-enabled.

The fact that you’re reading this post indicates that it’s presumably not properly configured. Check for common mistakes by following the guidance in the subsequent sections.

You have an HTTP-based website.

It will take some time to prepare and complete everything. The migration’s intricacies is determined by:

  • Your website’s size and scope
  • What CMS are you using?
  • Your hosting/CDN service providers
  • Your technical skills

While we believe that small business owners can run their websites on popular CMS and can do the hosting migration themselves, there are many variables involved. We recommend that you review the supporting documents for your CMS/server/hosting/CDN and proceed cautiously. There are a bunch of steps to take. So make or follow a migration checklist and don’t try to squeeze in some other activities. Contact a professional if all of this sounds too technical for you. It will save you a lot of time and effort. It also ensures future-proof execution.

Qualification for Creating an AMP Page

If you want to use AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), you must have HTTPS. Google launched AMP as a way to load information onto mobile devices many ways quicker. At its core, AMP is similar to simplified HTML. To provide a good phone experience for smartphone and tablet users, AMP content is displayed prominently on Google’s SERPs.

If creating a mobile-friendly webpage is important to you (and it should be, given the widespread use of mobile search rankings and local SEO), then you must swap to HTTPS.

If your site is still using HTTP and you use website analytics services, we have unfortunate news for you. No referral information is passed from HTTPS to HTTP pages. Because most web pages now use HTTPS. It is the origin of the majority of referral traffic (clicks on links from other websites) that will be labeled as straightforward in most software solutions. Additionally, using an HTTPS site improves the effectiveness of Google Analytics. This is attributable to the fact that the security information of the website that referred you is saved when HTTPS is used. It is not the case with HTTP sites. Referral channels will only appear as “direct traffic” on HTTP sites. This gives HTTPS a significant SEO benefit.

One drawback is that it muddles and skews your data. Another issue is that you can’t see your best referral sources, which is a lost opportunity for backlinks.

Allows for the use of modern procedures that improve protection and website speed.

Because of the enhanced security characteristics, HTTPS appears to be slower than HTTP. However, having HTTPS is necessary to use the most up-to-date security and web performance technology.

In other words, in addition to security, HTTPS allows your website to improve page load speed when using protocols such as TLS 1.3 and HTTP/2. Besides providing a better customer experience, Google considers page speed to be lightweight search rankings. It is similar to HTTPS.

How to Identify Potential HTTPS Migration Errors

Even if you completed the entire HTTPS migratory checklist, chances are you’ll run into some problems.

Back in 2016, 10,000 top-ranking domains had various HTTPS flaws as mentioned below:

  • 90.9% of sites had inadequate HTTPS integration.
  • On 65.39% of domains, HTTPS was not operating right.
  • Temporary 302 redirects were used by 23.01% of domains rather than permanent 301 redirects.

While much has improved since then, we still advise you to take a look at the five common HTTPS migration mistakes listed below. It won’t take long, and most of them aren’t too hard to correct.

  1. 1. HTTP pages are no longer available.

    Firstly, ensure that all sections on your site are already HTTPS. By thoroughly scooting the website, you can find any remaining HTTP pages. If you followed the HTTPS migration checklist, this must not come as a surprise. Simply ensure that the crawler has all of the necessary URL sources so that it does not leave pages behind.

  2. 2. HTTPS pages with HTTP content.

    This error happens when the earlier HTML file is loaded over HTTPS but the resource files (pictures, CSS, JavaScript) have not been upgraded to HTTPS. If this is a problem with your website, it will be visible in both the crawl overview and the Internal pages report. All mistakes cautions and notices in the site audit include an overview of the problem and advice on how to resolve it.

  3. 3. Internal links are not HTTPS-enabled.

    Internal links that are not updated to HTTPS result in unwarranted redirects. That’s certainly preferable to landing on an HTTP page, but we’ve already made that mistake. These gaps are simple to identify and repair. Simply change the URLs to https:// and it is done. This is only applicable when you’ve already ensured that no HTTP pages are left behind by following the mistakes in the first point.

Tags that have not been updated to HTTPS

You may be using two types of tags on your webpage that require their URLs to be updated to HTTPS: Canonical tags and Open Graph tags.

Canonical tags tell Google which page you believe is the most important among a group of comparable similar pages. Pointing that to an HTTP version will almost certainly send a negative notification to Google and will most probably be neglected.

Facebook requires URL tags if you use Open Graph tags to boost your posts on social media. They should be identical to canonical URLs. Given a fully completed migration, all that remains is to rewrite them to https://. When you click the “View Affected URLs” button, you’ll be taken to a report with additional standard metrics and columns.

The best part is that you’ll be able to see all of the impacted URLs, including those that have been redirected. Also, those that are part of a reroute chain, and those that link to the rerouted ones.

There are two factors you should do in this situation.

The first is to separate the reroutes.

This ensures that all backlinks pointing to both the pages would only be redirected once. That’s fine for external backlinks because contacting website owners with link edit requests would be counterproductive and irksome. We can, however, improve internally.

You should aim for the fewest reroutes possible. The number of inlinks columns plays a role at this point.

Inlinks are links that point to the URL that is being rerouted by the redirect chain. You should replace the links on those web pages with URLs that return a 200 HTTP status code. You’ll see all of them if you click through the number of inlinks. Of course, the next step would be to check the inlinks of the URLs in the reroute chain. However, because we’ve already broken the reroute chain, that’s a lesser priority. Upon the next crawl, those should be labeled as standard 301 reroutes in the 3XX Redirects report.

Concerns About SEO When Switching To HTTPS

While there are numerous advantages to swapping from HTTP to HTTPS, there are a few potential issues that you may face. The following are some pointers to keep in mind when transitioning to HTTPS. These will help avoid potential SEO issues:

Notify Google that you have changed from HTTP to HTTPS.

There is no automatic confirmation that informs them when you swap. This means that the assured ranking boost may not occur till they optimize your website again. That can take some time unless you inform them immediately.

Other than the SSL certificate, there are many others.

This would include SSL certificates for a specific domain, multiple domains, and wildcards. A Single Domain certificate is issued for a specific domain or subdomain. Multiple Domain certificate is also known as a Unified Communications certificate. It allows you to protect a primary web domain as well as up to 99 additional Subject Alternative Names. You can secure your website URL as well as an endless amount of subdomains with a wildcard certificate.

When referencing resources, make sure to use relative URLs.

All other domains will share the same secure web address and procedure relative URLs.

Check to see if you’re stopping Google from crawling your HTTPS site.

If they are unable to reach your robots.txt file to obtain detailed guidelines on crawling through your site, it may jeopardize your chance to enhance your SEO. As a result, your possible search standings may not be boosted. This usually occurs when you fail to refresh your test server to enable bots.

Make sure that search results can index your pages.

You can discourage search engines from using it, but this will harm your SEO efforts because your site rankings will be wiped out. It may take some time to reclaim them.

Keep a close eye on your HTTP to HTTPS relocation.

To make sure everything is running smoothly, use Google Webmaster Tools and other analytics software. It’s also a good idea to catch any problem as quickly as possible so they don’t impact your SEO.

Last Insights

We hope that by working together, we can make Web browsing faster and more secure.

As per w3techs.com, HTTPS is used by default on 59.4% of the websites in their survey sample. In comparison, Google claims that between 88 and 99% of Chrome browsing time will be spent on HTTPS websites.

According to this data, the great majority of major websites with high traffic already have switched to HTTPS. If you’re wondering why there’s such a significant difference between those two data points, we’d attribute it to Chinese websites. They aren’t included in Google’s data. However, there is still much to be desired in terms of TLS support reliability. As you’ve seen, HTTPS configuration doesn’t end with the transition. Keeping up with web performance and safety trends, as well as introducing new features, helps everyone associated.