Why you need an SSL and HTTPS for your site and how to implement it

You might have heard people recommending you to switch your website to HTTPS by adding an SSL to your server. With Google’s announcement that HTTPS is a ranking signal sites with and SSL are going to rank a little better than those that don’t, it also adds extra security and builds trust with your users.

In July 2018, Google will be releasing Chrome 68, which will start to mark all HTTP sites as “not secure” in the address bar.(Note: almost 60% of internet users use Chrome as their browser). This may be bad for customer experience as it has the potential to deter clients when accessing your website.

Adding an SSL to your server can also improve your SEO ranking, it was indicated in 2014 that HTTPS is a ranking factor, and with their efforts to make the web more secure, it isn’t going away.

This means that if you’re still using HTTP, not only your SEO may suffer, but your overall user experience may be affected, do you want to take that risk?

In the following article we explain what is and SSL or HTTPS, how HTTPS can improve your SEO ranking, how you can implement it on your site, and 6 next steps to take once implemented including details on updating Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

Also, check out this useful guide on how to secure your WordPress site in 12 steps.

What is HTTPS

So, if Google recommends moving to HTTPS you probably should. However, it’s still important to understand what’s the difference between HTTP and HTTPS, and how to make the switch. HTTPS takes the well-known HTTP protocol, and adds an SSL/TLS layer of encryption on top of it. Servers and end users connections still work exactly the same as HTTP, but over a secure SSL connection that data is encrypted. The SSL layer has 2 main purposes:

  • Verifying that you are talking directly to the server that you think you are talking to
  • Ensuring that only the server can read what you send it and only you can read what it sends back

It doesn’t matter if you’re using Flothemes or not, a good online experience involves trust. It’s not a surprise that Google prefers websites that are trusted and using a certified SSL. In this way, users are guaranteed that the HTTPS website will encrypt their personal information for that extra level of security.

However, you should understand that adding a certificate to your site can be a complex task (which is why it allows for higher ranking benefits, and will soon be required by Chrome, then probably many other browsers). Need help, check out our SSL implementation service, we’ll make sure it’s added correctly for you. Or reach out to your hosting provider for more information (be careful some hosting providers don’t do a very good job of implementing SSL certificates to your site).

How switching to HTTPS can help your SEO?

As well as the added security benefit that HTTPS offers, there are also some additional SEO benefits for you to consider.

Increase in ranking – that’s the obvious one. As stated, Google has confirmed the slight ranking boost of HTTPS sites. Moreover, the value of switching to HTTPS is very likely to increase over time.

Security and Privacy – HTTPS adds security for your SEO goals and website. Sure, there are limits to this.

HTTPS is not like a web application firewall.

It’s not going to prevent your website from getting hacked.

It’s not going to stop fraudulent emails getting sent, either.

In reality, HTTPS is the basic price of security these days. It’s the very minimum you can offer your site visitors. Aside from security, HTTPS also improves trust. On the web building trust with potential clients is very important for converting them into paying customers.

How do you know if your site has HTTPS? Type in your websites to any browser, is it using HTTPS? Does it have a lock beside the name? If so then it’s secure and has HTTPS enabled:

Firefox

Safari

Chrome

How to Switch to HTTPS

Switching to HTTPS is fairly straightforward for smaller websites. For larger websites it’s more complicated, from an SEO perspective, and requires skilled technical expert to make the changes. A lot will also depend on your hosting provider for the complexity.

Thankfully lots of hosting providers are now offering simple 1 click deployment of SSL. However just be careful that after implementation all links are forced to use HTTPS. All of our recommended hosting providers offer free Let’s Encrypt and 1 click installs of SSL on your site.

Even if the process is straightforward we recommend to use a skilled technical expert to be sure all is redirected and setup properly.

In the best case scenario, wrong adaptation of SSL will negatively affect your Google ranking due to duplicated or missing content. In the worst case scenario, it will break your site.

So how can you switch to HTTPS, we’ve outlined the following steps for you below. We do recommend also referring to your hosting provider documentation as each provider will have a slightly different method to implement.

If you are not using an SSL provided by your hosting provider, such as the free Let’s Encrypt SSL, make sure it’s compatible before purchasing.

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9 Steps to Adding SSL to your WordPress Site

  1. Buy SSL certificate or get a free one if hosting provides such a possibility (Let’s Encrypt is a free SSL offered by most good hosting providers).
  2. Activate certificate from hosting account. If you access your site at this point HTTPS should be showing, it’s possible you’ll have mixed content and some errors at this point.
  3. Next Install the “Really simple SSL” plugin (and activate it like in the screenshots). Go to Plugins > Add New, then search for really simple SSL, click “activate”, make sure to check the box to Flush Rewrite rules on activation and then click “Go Ahead, activate SSL!”
  4. Next you’ll need to update the WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL) via Settings > General in the WordPress admin panel and save the settings.
  5. If website has any caching/minify plugins flush all caches.
  6. Check pages, posts and galleries if all of them are working right.
  7. Check your site paying attention to fonts, slideshow arrows, social media icons.
  8. Test your contact form and make sure that you are receiving emails
  9. Your site is now secure.

See the following video on how to add an SSL via SiteGround:

Useful SSL Articles from Popular Hosting Providers
Check out the following links to learn how you can implement free SSL’s from some of the most popular hosting providers.

SiteGround
GreenGeeks
Flywheel
A2 Hosting
InMotion
Bluehost

See a full list of hosting providers offering free Let’s encrypt here.

Now that you’ve added the SSL and have HTTPS on your site, there are some next steps that should be taken to make sure SEO performance isn’t affected, as Google will now see your site as brand new.

Next Steps After Implementing an SSL

You can do a few things to after switching to make sure the process is as smooth as possible. Follow these next steps and you’ll be up and tracking the right info again in no time:

1. Update your Google Analytics property to HTTPS in property and view

  • Go to Admin in Google Analytics (the cog icon bottom right)
  • In property column, click property settings
  • Change default URL to “HTTPS”
  • Scroll down and click “save”

Analytics Admin

Analytics Property Settings

Analytics Default URL

2. Re-link your Google Analytics profile in search console

  • Go to Admin in Google Analytics (the cog icon bottom right)
  • In property column, click property settings
  • Under Search Console Settings, click edit on the URL, update with HTTPS URL and click save.
  • You’ll be prompted to unlock HTTP click ok.
  • Scroll down and click “save”

3. Setup a new HTTPS property in Google Search Console (as it’s technically a new site).

https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/34592?hl=en

4. If you’ve linked to your site with third party tools in Google Tag Manager, make sure to update them to HTTPS, such as Facebook / Bing etc.

5. Generate and submit your new sitemap via Google Search console. We highly recommend using Yoast SEO for this.

6. Update any links you’ve added in Social Media accounts

Thats it, you should now be tracking the new HTTPS version of your site.

NOTE! that in search console you’ll have no data for a while as Google re-indexes your site with HTTPS. Your site may be affected in the short term as it is being ranked again, this is normal, and you can expect to see your site bounce back within 2-4 weeks.

Need help?

Want assistance with the setup? Check out our SEO Services. Our SSL Implementation service aims to set up your SSL and take care of any technical aspects that may affect your site and SEO links.  Normally our turn around time is 48 hours after form completion (in some cases it will be longer due to hosting restrictions).

Use code SSLME to save $30 off the SSL Implementation service package.

Flothemes Team,
Empowering You.

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