When you are surfing the web, do you notice this variation in the URLs? For some sites, the “Secure” label is present and the URL starts with “https” (Figure 1). On the other hand, there are sites where both the label and “https” are missing (Figure 1).
These indicators tell us that Zalora is a secure site (HTTPS) while Singapore Airlines is a non-secure site (HTTP). What’s the difference between the two and what are the implications of having either? In today’s article, we will help you understand both HTTP and HTTPS, as well as the benefits that HTTPS bring.
HTTP vs HTTPS
HTTP stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol. It is a system that works on transmitting and receiving information over the web. The function of HTTP is to retrieve the coding (HTML) that is required to load a page on the user’s web browser. Therefore, its focus is on how the information is presented rather than how it is transmitted. Additionally, HTTP is a stateless protocol. This means that it does not store any information from previous web sessions, which allows it to be faster. HTTP is widely used to access HTML pages and most websites use it.
The ‘S’ in HTTPS stands for Secure. The basic function and features of HTTP and HTTPS are almost identical. However, HTTPS adds an extra level of security to the information it transmits. This enables confidential information to be moved without compromising its privacy. HTTPS is secure due to its use of SSL/TLS, which is an additional protocol that helps to move the information safely. (We will spare you from the details of SSL/TLS since they may be too technical but click here if you want to learn more!)
Benefits of HTTPS
1) Security and Privacy
Like we mentioned briefly above, the additional benefit of using HTTPS is that it provides extra security and privacy.
HTTPS protects the information in 3 ways:
Encryption – It encrypts the information to keep it safe from outsiders. This prevents others from monitoring the users’ activities on the site or stealing private information. This is especially important if the site involves the usage of personal data such as identification number, address or credit card information.
Data integrity – It prevents the data from being corrupted and stops third parties from modifying the information (intentionally or unintentionally) during the transmission.
Authentication – It guarantees that users are engaging with the intended website. This builds user trust and also reduces the risk of users being deceived by fake websites.
2) Boosted rankings
In order to encourage the switch from HTTP to HTTPS, Google announced that switching to HTTPS will give your site a slight ranking boost. Of course, compared to major signals, the effect that this has is really minor. But, do keep in mind that as the adoption rate of HTTPS increases (in April 2017: 50% of page 1 Google results uses HTTPS), you’ll be losing out on both SEO and users if your site is still non-secure.
3) More referrer data
Before we go into the details, let’s use the chance to explain referrer data and the types of web traffic. Referrer data allows you to know where your traffic comes from. There are 4 main types of web traffic, namely direct, referral, organic and social.
Direct traffic: Visitors who land on your site by typing the address or clicking on a bookmark
Referral traffic: People who are directed to your site by links located on other sites
Organic traffic: Visitors who arrive at your site through Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).
Social traffic: People who reach your site from links on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube
So, why does HTTPS provide more referrer data?
When a HTTPS site gets traffic, the referral information is preserved so you know where the visitor came from. However, for a HTTP site, this information is not available and the traffic will just be registered as direct. Accurate referrer data is important for you to understand your major sources of traffic so you can cater your web strategy to favour those sources.
HTTP/HTTPS site to HTTPS site – Referral information preserved
HTTPS site to HTTP site – Registered as direct
Thus, as more sites make the switch to HTTPS, becoming secure gets increasingly important.
Now that you know the benefits that HTTPS bring, are you ready to make the switch? Our next article will talk about how you can make your site secure so stay tuned for that! Alternatively, if you would like an expert to help you instead, don’t be afraid to contact us! We are always here to help!