Security is a constant concern in the digital space. With a myriad of data breaches taking place over the past decade, retailers must take the necessary precautions for safeguarding customer information.
Today, one of the most common ways to protect a site’s information is the implementation of an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate. For reference, SSL is a security protocol that overlays HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) to secure connections from a web server to a browser.
Emphasizing its importance this July, Google Chrome began to display address bar warnings next to sites that do not feature SSL encryption, advising site visitors of potential dangers. This can be a huge deterrent for potential buyers.
However, this is not the only incentive for merchants to move their eCommerce stores to HTTPS.
Why Your Store Should Move to HTTPS
The reason HTTPS has become such an imperative online is that domains use an encrypted SSL server to scramble the information sent from a customer’s computer. This means that nefarious sources are unable to decode the data, enabling personal info (such as payment details) to remain secure from potential threats.
eCommerce merchants can’t afford to let such sensitive information fall into the wrong hands; therefore, HTTPS is essential for preserving site security and a retailer’s reputation.
A recent GlobalSign study reported that nine out of 10 internet users are more likely to trust and use sites that display security markers. The study showed that the green HTTPS lock appearing on browsers provides consumers with a sense of safety.
If this isn’t reason enough, it’s important to know that Google has confirmed HTTPS to be a ranking factor since 2014. That said, here is how merchants can go about making the migration from HTTP to HTTPS.
How to Move to HTTPS
To begin, merchants need to purchase an SSL certificate. There are many SSL certificate vendors to choose from, like SSLs.com or GlobalSign. Depending on your server software, the installation process will vary. As an additional resource, here’s a great document on installation on different web servers.
Once the installation is complete, you can begin diving into the various implementation tasks:
- Redirect Your Maps: When moving to HTTPS, it’s unnecessary to individually map new URLs; however, you should update or create new redirect rules to point to HTTPS destinations.
- Revamp Forced HTTP: Depending on your eCommerce provider, your checkout process might already be using HTTPS, even if the rest of the site is not. If this is the case, remove the rule forcing HTTP.
- Expand Forced HTTPS Rules: If your store leverages a third-party site, it is likely that you will have to initiate the SSL setup from scratch. If so, utilize this Google guide to walk you through the process.
- Update Page Resources: This includes any images, fonts, CSS, scripts, etc. Failure to do so will result in browser warnings.
- Eliminate Mixed Content: When transferring pages to HTTPS, there will likely be linked resources on a page still using HTTP. This is called mixed content. Since mixed content can result in browser warnings, identify and remedy this issue by using a web crawler like Screaming Frog. With this tool, simply run a crawl and export Insecure Content from the Reports tab. You can then mass replace the URLs with a tool like Search Replace DB.
- Employ Permanent 301 Redirects: Temporary redirects can result in delayed indexing of new URLs. Also, ensure that redirect chains are eliminated as these can have a similar impact and create lag.
- Update Internal Links: Updating internal links is important as redirects. Be sure to update these as well to preserve your site’s performance.
While this should cover a full transition to HTTPS, it is important to note that doing so could negatively impact your eCommerce site’s rankings and traffic. Here are some additional steps to mitigate any unwanted migration SEO side effects.
To properly preserve your site’s search performance, various steps will need to be performed. While these can be time-consuming, they are necessary for your store’s overall health.
- Utilize Absolute URL Canonicals: When using relative canonicals, merchants really have two after moving to HTTPS: one for https:// and for http://. This means that retailers need to clarify the preferred version by starting canonicals with https://.
- Update Your Tags: In addition to canonical tags, retailers should update their pagination, hreflang, header and other SEO tags to use https:// to prevent issues in the SERPs.
- Amend URL parameters and disavow files: If either of these elements are present in your HTTP structure, be sure to reproduce them using the new HTTPS protocol.
- Generate a New Sitemap: Don’t simply update your existing XML sitemap. Produce a new one using the https:// addresses and ensure both are registered. This won’t create any duplicate content, but it will enable you to track HTTP addresses as they are removed from the index. That way, you can verify that the new HTTPS destinations have taken their place.
- Eliminate HTTPS Blocks from robots.txt: Leverage absolute canonicals to consolidate pages; otherwise, pages may still be indexed, thereby creating duplicate content.
- Test Crawling and Indexing: Utilize the Google Search Console’s Fetch tool to verify that the search engine is capable of crawling and indexing your new pages. Check various pages of your website to ensure that Google is redirecting correctly.
Security is a massive concern for eCommerce consumers. Without the proper measures in place, a site is not only vulnerable to cyber criminals, but it stands to lose traffic and sales, due to low trust levels from search engines and consumers alike.
Take the time to make the move to HTTPS to help protect your site’s customers, rankings, reputation and sales.
However, if you aren’t well-versed enough to dive into your website’s more technical aspects, Visiture’s eCommerce website development expertise can help you migrate your site to HTTPS without all the hassle, headaches and hindrances that can result from such a process.