So much goes into creating a fantastic website - the right content, relevant images, descriptive metadata - that an attractive finished product can lull site owners into a false sense of security. After all, if your site is engaging, mobile-responsive, and hitting all the right keywords, you're golden, right? Not if Google has anything to say about it. Beginning in early 2017, the search engine giant has started "cracking down" on sites that lack an "Https://" in their url, damaging their search engine results page placement and highlighting the security shortfalls to a hyper-aware, tech-savvy audience of billions. Unfortunately, the path from a Chrome SSL warning to a dip in views, visitors, and sales is a depressingly short one.
So Why is That Little "s" So Important?
Unsurprisingly, it stands for "secure" - as in, hypertext transfer protocol secure. If http is the casual, small-talk style conversation that your computer has with a website out in the open, think of https as a sensitive conversation in a meeting room with the door closed and locked. While there are certain things you'd be perfectly comfortable talking about in public, other topics - your credit card number or home address, for example - are better left for private conversations. "Identity theft victim" isn't just a really unpopular Halloween costume, it's an understandably negative experience for your site visitors; with so much customer-first focus in recent years, it's little wonder that Google is doing everything possible to stop it.
Yes, You Really Do Need It
Even if your site doesn't ask for sensitive information, failing to migrate to https with an TSL/SSL (Transport Layer Security and Secure Sockets Layer, respectively) could cost you a lot of marketing momentum. Moz's Dr. Peter J. Meyers made an important observation recently, noting that the percentage of "https" page one search results from a 10,000 keyword-tracking database had jumped from 30% to 50% in only nine months. When extrapolation enters the picture, suddenly, failing to hop on the https train might just bury your otherwise perfectly SERPS-worthy site on page 2 or worse. It all goes back to the customer / browser experience: people want to be able to trust what they click on, period, and their behaviors are communicating that to Google loud and clear. If Google were to ignore that trend, it wouldn't take long for the fickle masses to start doubting SERPS integrity, fostering an environment where a competitor could start to nip at the heels of the internet's de facto database.
HTTP Is Already a Literal Red Flag
In an ideal world, your potential customer would simply pop your url in a browser bar, or search your brand, and end up on your site in a few clicks. There would be no obstacles, no problems, and no waiting before they get to look directly at your message or products. With the Google-owned Chrome browser currently sitting as the world's most popular web browser , however, that scenario is increasingly unlikely without some work. While an otherwise-respectable http site once received a benign "info" icon in the browser bar, sites lacking https will now be receiving a big, ugly red X over an open lock icon in a Chrome SSL warning. A picture is worth a thousand words, and if your customer is greeted with a warning and the universal symbol for NO before they ever reach your site, what are the chances they'll still be comfortable reaching for their wallets?
The trend is clear: https is set to be the new law of the digital landscape, as far as Google and Chrome are concerned. Fair or not, savvy business owners should treat this looming requirement with at least as much consideration as their content and sales numbers; the best marketing campaign in the world won't work if the medium it requires is actively censoring it. Safeguard your site with an Google https checkup and give your brand the same peace of mind that https will give your customers.