In 2016 Mozilla found that more than 50% of all page loads made were encrypted with HTTPS. This signalled a tipping point where HTTPS would become the norm rather than the exception.
This was a huge milestone. But it does not mean that most websites are HTTPS encrypted: the majority of traffic just goes through a smaller collection of encrypted websites. But with Google leading the way, HTTPS is gathering momentum and more websites are switching. But apart from security, why are so many websites making the change – what are the benefits of switching to HTTPS?
As a publisher, your audience is your life force: you need to understand how you can earn their loyalty and keep them coming back. This is where one of the main benefits of switching to HTTPS comes into play.
Because leaks, hacks and snooping are dominating headlines today, concerns around online privacy and safety are important to internet users. A recent Mozilla community member survey shows that internet users lack confidence when it comes to protecting themselves online, too. The survey discovered that only 10% of people know how to protect themselves online, while a third of people feel like they have no control over their information online. As concerns around privacy and hacking continue to grow, HTTPS gives you a chance to show your audience that you care about their security.
As of January 2017, Chrome started displaying information about HTTPS settings in the address bar for users. This information warns users that they are using an insecure HTTP connection when sensitive information can be submitted on the page. This initiative will become more extreme as time goes on, as Google are planning to eventually mark effectively all HTTP pages as insecure when Version 62 of Chrome arrives around October.
When a website is HTTPS verified, that website has a green address bar with a padlock to represent that the page is running under a secure connection. Becoming HTTPS verified and getting the green address bar is a great way to demonstrate your commitment to security to your audience.
In 2014 Google confirmed that HTTPS would become a ranking signal, and therefore HTTPS websites would receive a slight boost in search engine rankings. This was a clear indication that HTTPS was a big deal for Google. Security and an open web is a top priority for the company, and this move showed that they are serious about websites switching to HTTPS.
MozCast has a feature graph (updated each night based on 10,000 SERPs) that shows HTTPS websites are in fact steadily appearing more and more within SERPs:
By activating HTTPS, you can strengthen your SEO. Findings of a report by Backlinko show HTTPS is linked with higher rankings on Google’s first page. It appears that it is just a matter of time until all HTTP pages are all but eliminated from SERPs. In addition to a ranking boost, there are still more benefits of switching to HTTPS.
Another way that Google is speeding the switch to HTTPS is by adjusting the Google Analytics Referrals tool.
HTTPS secured websites do not send referral data to non-secure websites, and the traffic instead shows up on the Referrals tool as “Direct”. This means that unsecured websites have lost a very important tool: whenever a user clicks through to their unsecured website from a HTTPS website, they lose the data that would let them accurately track referrals. As more and more websites switch over to HTTPS, unsecured websites will find it increasingly difficult to track their referrers. They will see rises in “direct” traffic instead.
If you create Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) versions of your content, you can see faster loading times, great accessibility features and a wider distribution on Google’s SERPs. The catch with AMPs is that a HTTPS website is necessary for almost all AMP functionality. This is another way that Google are incentivizing the transition to HTTPS.
In addition to AMPs, Progressive Web Apps require a valid and secure HTTPS connection to work. Users will feel much safer in granting the permissions that PWAs require when the connection runs on HTTPS. Both AMPs and PWAs can be indexed by search engines, so HTTPS is already becoming critical to being more visible and reaching your audience.