SSL Certificates and Switching to HTTPS
Here at Orange Geek, we install SSL Certificates provided by Let’s Encrypt which is a free service. SSL is an acronym for the now deprecated Secure Sockets Layer protocol but the term is also used in reference to the newer protocol TLS (Transport Layer Security). Whenever we use the term SSL we’re actually referring to TLS. Both are security protocols that are used to secure data between two machines using encryption. Websites use SSL encryption to secure data that is shared between a visitor and the server such as credit card, personal, or login information. The SSL certificate is used to authenticate the identity of the server.
Some of the signs that a website has an SSL certificate installed on the server are a padlock next to the URL, a browser bar turning green, or a secure site seal but it will always have https in the browser address bar.
Traditionally, an SSL certificate was only used on pages that actively collect sensitive information which requires a secure connection. SSL certificates were not considered as important for websites that consist primarily of publicly accessible content. However, since the Internet is ever evolving, SSL certificates are becoming standard for all websites. Here are some changes in regard to SSL:
- SEO Boost – The SEO boost that websites get when they install an SSL certificate is one of the biggest reasons that a lot of blog publishers have decided to make this change. It does not make a large impact on Google rankings, but every bit counts when trying to bump up a few extra spots on Google.
- Increased Speed – In the past, HTTPS actually caused load times to increase because of the computational overhead of encryption. This has changed and now it is the new standard for modern browsers to load secure sites faster then insecure sites.
- Push Notifications – Push notifications are similar to a notification you would receive on your mobile device when you get a message or email. Websites can now send out web push notifications; however, the only way to do this securely is to install a certificate and use encryption over https.
- Security – When SSL/TLS encryption is set up properly it helps to ensure that nobody else can view the content that’s transmitted between the server and browser. This is not quite as important for a content based website as it is for an e-commerce site but it will help protect your admin login information.
- Referral Traffic: One possible con to keep in mind, when linking from an https site to an http site, referrer info isn’t passed in the http headers. This means that the referral will be incorrectly recorded as a “Direct” referral in Google Analytics for the http site. Keep this in mind if you depend on referral links to non-https sites. Note this only affects https linking to http, not http to https, or https to https.
- Hot-linked Images: Something else to keep in mind before switching to https is hot linked images. A hot linked image is an image that is loading from a site that is on different server. Ideally whenever you display an image you would upload it to your server first and then load the image that is on your server. This helps prevent multiple problems, in regards to https a hot-linked image that is loading from a non-https url will not display.
When deciding on whether or not this switch to SSL is right for your website, you may also want to consider your ad network. When running an SSL site, all of its resources need to be SSL compatible including the advertisements. Orange Geek is aware that Mediavine and AdThrive do support SSL sites; however, if you have a different ad provider then these two then you will need to ask them if they support this change.
Steps for Switching to SSL Site
There are a few steps you are going to have to take if you want to have a smooth transition over to an SSL Certificate site.
Talk to your Ad Provider
You will want to check with your ad provider before you decide to install an SSL certificate on your website to make sure they support this. If they do, once it is installed you will want to let them know right away so they can make the necessary adjustments for your ads.
Talk to your Host
In order to install an SSL certificate on your website, this has to be installed on the server by your host. As mentioned above, this service is included with any plan through Orange Geek. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to let us know that you would like to have an SSL certificate installed.
If you use Webmaster Tools/Google Search Console or Google Analytics, you are going to want to update the properties and protocols listed in your settings.
Webmaster Tools/Google Search Console
Once the SSL certificate is installed, go to the Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools) and add the https variants. You will need to add all of the variants of your domain:
- Navigate to your Search Console home page
- Click Add a property and type in the following variants:http://domain.com
- Click Continue and the Site Verification page will open
- Select the verification method you would like to use and follow the directions to verify that you own the site
You will also want to set your preferred domain to match the one in your general settings of WordPress.
- Click the site you want to update on the Search Console home page
- Click the gear icon and select Site Settings
- Under the “Preferred domain” section, select the option that matches the URL in the general settings of your WordPress
In order to have Google Analytics register hits for your site, you will need to change the domain protocol in your Google Analytics to https. Be aware that Google Analytics stats might take a little while to sync back up once this change is made.
- Open your Google Analytics dashboard
- Click on the gear iron in the bottom left hand corner labeled “ADMIN”
- Your will need to change two urls in your settings:
- Click “Property Settings”, change the default url
- Click “View Settings”, change the website url
- Change the protocol to https for both url’s