The HTTPS deadline and what it means for your website


2018, the year of deadlines. Or, more specifically, the year of internet security deadlines. It turns out that the EU isn’t the only entity setting deadlines for us to up our online security game. Now, Google is throwing its weight around too.

Google has slowly been encouraging stronger security practices over the past few years. Earlier this year, Google announced a deadline for websites to upgrade from HTTP to HTTPS. That deadline is almost upon us: July 2018.

But what’s the difference between HTTP and HTTPS, and what does the deadline mean for websites? Howard Williams, marketing director at Parker Software, investigates.

More than just a letter

First, what does the HTTP or HTTPS terminology mean? Both HTTP and HTTPS are protocols – a set of rules and procedures – for transmitting data between electronic devices. They are most commonly used to tell devices how to transfer data between your website pages and the web server.

The difference between HTTP and HTTPS is more than just sticking an ‘s’ on the end, it’s a question of security. HTTP stands for hypertext transfer protocol and HTTPS stands for hypertext transfer protocol secure.

Unlike HTTP, HTTPS encrypts the data you send and receive when using a website. So, if anyone tries to access the information you’re sending through your browsing session, they won’t be able to read it. HTTP, meanwhile, makes any data being transferred insecure. For ecommerce sites, this can include data such as card information for online payments, and login credentials.

Upgrading to HTTPS, then, means you’re providing a higher level of data protection and security to your website visitors.

Google and the deadline

As of July this year, with the release of Chrome 68, Google will be explicitly warning your website visitors if a site is insecure, based on whether it’s HTTP or not.

Chrome has a 58%+ market shareof worldwide internet browser use. For reference, the second highest used browser worldwide is Safari at around 14%. With such a monopoly on the way we access the web, Google’s deadline has some serious weight behind it. If you don’t make the change from HTTP to HTTPS, you could be facing a significant negative impact on your website’s performance.

After all, data protection and data security are a hot topic at the moment. Consumers are more awareof their data privacy than ever before, and less keen to take risks. This means that you need to go beyond compliance with new legislation like GDPR, and actively reach your visitor’s new security expectations. Google’s deadline might seem like a pain, but it could be helping you stay in the running for customer attention.

Impact of missing Google’s deadline

In our post-GDPR world, people are more in controlof the data they transmit and share with businesses online. So, when Google starts flagging up your website as ‘not secure’, even loyal customers will consider jumping ship.

The lack of security from HTTP sites means that Chrome – and your online visitors – will no longer trust your website. So, failing to meet Google’s deadline could cause a rise in website bounce rates, as the ‘not secure’ that will be predominantly displayed in the address bar scares visitors away. Sites that remain HTTP are also likely to take a hit to conversions, as customers won’t feel confident sharing payment information with your site.

To add salt to the wound, HTTPS is also a known ranking signalfor Google. So, when the deadline hits, it’s likely that any HTTP sites left will also see a drop in their organic search rankings. In other words, if you choose to ignore Google’s deadline, it will prove costly in more ways than one.

Benefits of updating to HTTPS

Complying with Google’s deadline will prevent the costs of staying HTTP. No alarm bells will ring upon site entry, and customers are less likely to feel concern around doing business with you.

Aside from the effect that Google’s influence will have, there are other benefits to having a HTTPS website rather than HTTP. Even if Google hadn’t imposed a July 2018 deadline, increased website security is another way to attract customers and start building a stronger relationship.

Using HTTPS means that you can use your website security to help you competefor customer attention. You can demonstrate that you are actively taking measures to meet their high security expectations. Once you have customer attention on your site, the promise of data security will help you build trust and confidence – two ingredients that are key to conversions.

So, using a HTTPS domain doesn’t just comply with Google’s deadline, but helps you attract and convert customers in a competitive online market.

Security isn’t an option

Putting Google’s deadline aside for moment, the most important reason for updating from HTTP to HTTPS is that you are offering a more secure website to your customers. Google is merely providing more of an incentive by penalising you for not offering it.

So, thanks (in part) to Google, a secure site is a necessity. But, with your new HTTPS label, you add another feather to your cap and are able to demonstrate to customers that you take their data security seriously.

So, if you haven’t already, now is the time to make the change to HTTPS.

– by Howard Williams

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