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When you go to enter a URL and find a website, it’s very unlikely that you ever type out the whole “https://” beforehand. In fact, some people don’t even go as far as typing the “www.”, but have you ever stopped for a moment to think about what any of that means? We’ll be explaining it over the course of today’s article.
We’re going to start by taking a look at what HTTPS is and how it differs from the less secure HTTP protocol (a bit of a redundancy, since the P already stands for “protocol”). After that, we’ll explore how you can implement HTTPS on your site to ensure that your site is more secure for visitors.
What Is HTTPS?
When you browse a website, you naturally assume that the only ones that are going to be able to see the details of your traffic will be the people running the site and your ISP. If you want to hide that from them, then you’ll have to use a VPN (Here is an excellent guide about the differences between VPNs and HTTPS) to ensure that your information is as secure as it can be.
HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) essentially makes sure that is the case and that no outsider can see the info that you’re transferring to the site and that the site is transferring to you. No matter what kind of content you’re hosting, visitors expect a secure experience, and HTTPS makes sure of that.
The Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol makes sure of that by using a three-step process. First, it encrypts your information and ensures that nobody can crack the info you’re submitting. Next, it makes sure that the data can’t be changed while it’s being sent over to the site or back to you. Finally, it authenticates the site and ensures that you’re really interacting with the website that you think you are.
How To Properly Implement HTTPS
If you like the sound of what HTTPS can do for both you and the people visiting your website, then you may be wondering how you can implement it so that everyone can have a more secure browsing experience. Here are the initial steps as well as a few common issues that people run into when doing so.
Get A Security Certificate
The first step to securing your website with HTTPS is ensuring that you have a security certificate that is issued by a legitimate certificate authority. This authority will see if your site actually belongs to you to ensure that your visitors aren’t vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks.
There are different kinds of certificates, and the most secure are those using a 2048-bit key, so ensure that you have one of those or upgrade from a less secure key. You’ll also have to decide whether you want a single certificate, a multi-domain certificate, or a wildcard certificate, all of which are designed for different kinds of domains.
HSTS (which stands for HTTP Strict Transport Security) is the protocol that redirects your visitors to HTTPS even if they type in an HTTP address. You’ve likely experienced this if you’ve ever manually typed in a URL or copy-pasted it and you were instead sent to the HTTPS equivalent domain.
This will also ensure that Google redirects people to the HTTPS version of your site when they click a search result on Google. You can even request to have your site added to the HSTS preload list, which is used by the most popular browsers, including Google Chrome.
How To Switch From HTTP To HTTPS
If your site is already set up for HTTP, then you may be worried that the move to HTTPS will be too complicated, but it’s actually pretty simple. One thing that you’ll have to expect is that this may temporarily affect your traffic statistics, though this should smooth out after you make your transition.
When you migrate to HTTPS from HTTP, then it will simply be seen as a site move by Google with a URL change. Keep in mind that you’ll have to add HTTPS to your Search Console because it will see it as separate from your previous HTTP layout.
Common Mistakes When Switching To HTTPS
One of the most common problems that sites run into when switching to HTTPS is allowing their certificates to expire. When this happens, there’s no guarantee that you’re the one running your site, so it can’t be deemed secure. You’ll also have to keep your protocols up to date by ensuring that you have the most recent TLS libraries.
Beyond that, make sure that your embedded content is all HTTPS content if the page hosting it is under HTTPS protocol, as it may otherwise result in conflicts.