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HTTPS: What is it, and what ecommerce merchants need to know

What is HTTPS?

HTTPS (Hyper-Text Transfer Protocol Secure) is the secure version of HTTP, the system used to send information between a web browser and website. The ‘Secure’ aspect is supported by Transport Layer Security (TSL), formerly known as SSL, and helps protect personal user data like credit card numbers, passwords and addresses.

Why is it important?

US online spending is expected to grow 16% to $123.39 billion this festive season. With so many transactions, website visits, and personal data being entered, it’s more important than ever to use HTTPS.

It’s not just about keeping data safe, either. Here are three ways HTTPS could help your website:

1) It’s crucial for visibility in Google

In 2014, Google started using HTTPS as a ranking signal. It recognized the importance of security, and publicly called for an internet-wide use of HTTPS.  Essentially, Google wanted secure websites to be found more easily online, and so gave bigger ranking boosts to HTTPS websites.

While the new algorithm initially only affected 1% of global searches, Google took matters further in 2015 when it explained how HTTPS may serve as a ‘tiebreaker’. This means, if two websites have content of equal quality, the HTTPS site will rank higher. In other words, it could be what sets you apart from your competitors.

This was all backed up in a 2016 study by Brian Dean, who worked with various analytics companies, which found HTTPS had a ‘reasonably strong correlation’ with SEO rankings.

Google is still putting pressure on websites to improve their security. The search engine giants issued a ‘final warning’ in October 2018, which shows that strengthening the SEO impact of HTTPS is being taken very seriously, and so you should think about making the security switch sooner rather than later.

2) Trust trust trust

Chrome, the preferred browser for almost half of internet users, recently started flagging websites as ‘Not Secure’ with an unappealing red icon if they weren’t HTTPS. This new measure was brought in to essentially scare visitors away, and encourage them to find different, secure websites.

As you can imagine, that’s exactly what happened. After Chrome introduced this warning feature, non HTTPS websites saw their bounce rates increase. What does that mean for websites? Crucially, it’s a loss of sales and conversions, simply because customers don’t trust the site.

In fact, a 2016 survey found 84% of users would abandon a transaction if the website was shown to be insecure. This means if you’re thinking about choosing a platform for your online store or a new web hosting provider before the holidays, it’s important to read about its security offerings.

In summary, HTTPS won’t necessarily increase your online sales, but without it, you risk losing customers due to a lack of trust. It’s all about reducing the visitor anxiety- after all, would you feel comfortable using your credit card in a shop that didn’t feel safe?

3) Your site, customers, products and profits are protected

HTTPS provides a secure browsing experience by encrypting data, making it much harder for internet thieves to steal information. Why is this important? When making online transactions, data is passed between a number of computers, and if the site isn’t HTTPS, anyone can see it.

This means, with HTTPS, valuable data such as login IDs, home addresses, credit card details, and other personal information are kept more safe. It also protects online retailers and their customers from identity fraud, guaranteeing each transaction is from the right person.

The issue of identity can go both ways. What this means is, customers can also be at risk from imposter websites. This occurs when someone has set up a fake website to gather personal user information, such as a credit card number. So how do you know you’re on the right website?

The ‘https://’ and small padlock icon you see in the address bar indicate an HTTPS connection. While it cannot 100% guarantee it’s the correct web address,it is far more likely to be safe than a website with HTTP. In short, it minimizes the risk significantly.


HTTPS is important during this festive period because it does more than just make your website more secure. Yes, it makes your site harder to crack for internet thieves, but that’s not all.

Google turned HTTPS into a ranking factor, which means your website’s position and visibility in search results could be affected without it. This is crucial for customers to find your online store during the holidays, particularly when most people won’t scroll past the top five results. Switching to HTTPS also saves your website from Chrome branding it ‘Not Secure’ in bright red. This is really damaging for brand trust, which means visitors will bounce back from the site and you will lose sales. So, for customers to find your website this festive season, HTTPS is a must.

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