To HTTPS or not to HTTPS: That is the Question

HTTPS is the application of a secure socket layer, commonly referred to as SSL, on a website. In layman’s terms, HTTPS means a website is secure. E-commerce websites like Amazon, for example, often have “HTTPS” at the beginning of their domains rather than “HTTP,” which indicates the website is secure enough for financial transactions.

It seems obvious why e-commerce websites would need to be secure, given that they accept credit card information. But why would non e-commerce websites need to be secure? Should all websites have HTTPS implementation, even if they do not accept credit card and other financially sensitive information? That is the question.

A Little Background

Over the past couple years, there has been a lot of buzz about whether or not website owners should implement HTTPS on their websites. This debate is a direct result of Google becoming more focused on privacy and protecting the public online. In fact, a few years ago medical industries no longer had the option to do retargeting ads (or remarketing) in Google Adwords, Google’s pay-per-click platform, because it was considered an invasion of privacy. Other similar categories of “sensitive information” that can’t be utilized in retargeting ads include political affiliation, religious belief, etc.

In April 2014, it was announced that Google would give HTTPS pages a ranking boost over HTTP pages, implying that HTTPS would become a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm. As a result, many SEO (search engine optimization) companies suddenly began buying SSL certificates and transitioning their websites from HTTP to HTTPS, to ensure top placement in Google. Since then, there has been a huge debate over whether websites should transition from HTTP to HTTPS, just because of Google’s announcement on the web. So what’s the answer to this debate? That’s what we’re here to address.

The Goal of HTTPS

When it comes to SEO, there are many ranking factors in Google’s algorithm, over 200 in fact. These factors are available to the public, and we believe they should be used as a guideline, depending on what the goals and needs are of your website. So what does that mean as far as the argument of HTTP vs. HTTPS? Since Google is all about privacy now, if you have a website that contains sensitive information, we believe HTTPS is a great option to explore, regardless of whether your website accepts financial transactions. In general, we believe the best approach when it comes to making any type of marketing or website-related decision is to do some research on your own, and “dig deep” into the goals and needs of your business. If you have a website with sensitive products or services, and you believe in protecting your online audience, then HTTPS is the way to go. If you have a brochure website that you don’t care about ranking in Google and doesn’t contain sensitive products, but rather you just want to showcase work samples and services, then HTTPS may not be necessary. You may have noticed that our website has HTTPS, because we felt that this made the most sense for the goals and needs of our website.