Why should you switch your site from HTTP to HTTPS? In short, because Google said so and you better do it by October 2017.
Update 09/30/2017: Here is the follow up post for those who wants a step-by-step guide to updating their SEO/Google Analytics/Webmasters’ Tools: Transfer from HTTP to HTTPS | 10-Step SEO Checklist & Tutorial.
Updated 09/22/2017: Added a third option below via Cloudflare which is another great one-stop solution!
Last year, I undertook one of the biggest web development project – I wanted to see if I could switch my site from HTTP to HTTPS on my own. A major reason for doing so (and most relevant for us bloggers), is that Google tends to prefer sites with HTTPS as they are deemed more secure and therefore is used as a ranking signal on Google organic searches.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to many that HTTPS is becoming the more preferred protocol and that more and more site owners are realizing the value of having their site secured. It gained a lot of traction after the 2014 Heartbleed Bug (this bug allowed hackers to “listen” in the traffic being moved around the interweb, compromising the security of information that should otherwise be protected). I have included some helpful readings at the bottom of this post so you can get a better understanding of why switching from HTTP to HTTPS is becoming more of a big deal, and urgent too.
Why As a Blogger / Site Owner Should You Care?
In Short: Google says so. And you better do it by October 2017.
Peace of mind, improved ranking and protecting your hard work beyond relying on regular backups is something worth exploring, even if you haven’t even considered before. Like many of you, I’ve poured plenty of dollars into this blog, and theFantasia is – for lack of better words – my baby. It seems kind of silly to not take any action when you have the power to do so!
For bloggers, this switch is expedited by the fact that recently Google has emailed site owners, notifying them that their site would start showing a “Not Secure” (on the URL bar) warning on the blog/site if they aren’t running on HTTPS with an SSL certificate. There is a deadline to make this switch too – as of October 2017, if your site is not running on HTTPS with an SSL certificate, you’re looking at this kind of URL bar.
If you have received one of these emails and are wondering what the heck you can/should do now, keep reading! Oh and if at any time you need some emotional support or motivation, f you need some help, give me a shout over email!
Get Professional Help if You Can!
To convert your site from HTTP to HTTPS requires some tricky back end coding – one typo could lead to all sorts of error that would be super difficult to troubleshoot or debug. If you are not a coder, I strongly suggest you try one of the below methods to convert your site. The cost will justify itself more times over and save you the stress from having to try figure it out yourself. As a coder myself it took me a full 72 hours to get the site properly coded, SEO to be corrected, and all related services, social media accounts to be updated and debugged properly.
I am recommending one of the below methods to give you the path of least resistance. If you prefer to try going at it the inexpensive way, stay tuned for my upcoming tutorial and case study on how I converted my site from HTTP to HTTPS with tons of back-end work!
Your 5-Step Action Plan
The below reading can get quite long and dry, so I’ve summarized for you, what you should do in a few short steps to protect your Google ranking.
- Backup your entire blog
- Check with your webhost if they offer Let’s Encrypt, or Cloudflare (Options 1, and 3 below)
- If they offer one of the 2 options above, go to the tutorials I shared below to complete the 1-step process for installing an SSL certificate on the blog
- If you don’t have access to Cloudflare or Let’s Encrypt, consider the following:
- Sign up for a Cloudflare account and follow their tutorial to set up an SSL certificate on the blog without a cPanel plugin (Option 3)
- Code it yourself (I have a tutorial coming up in a few days on how to do that)
- Make the switch to a host that offers one of the above services as part of their package (I’ve identified a few below).
- Once you have SSL fully installed on your site and it’s running smoothly,
look out for this spacehere is your 10-step guide to update SEO and Google Analytics.
P.S: If you found this tutorial / guide helpful, consider using one my of the affiliate links posted on this page to support the blog 🙂
Option 1: Switch to Site Ground (or a different host) That Offers Let’s Encrypt Free SSL Certificate
The quickest, easiest, and fool-proof way of getting yourself started with a host that offers the Let’s Encrypt Free SSL Certificate. You should check with your host if this service is already available to you – the last thing you want to do is get too much into it to realize that your host already offers Let’s Encrypt!
For some context, Let’s Encrypt is an open-source collaborative project that allows users to install a security certificate on their site in a one-step installation process. The certificate auto-renews (unless you choose to cancel) and does not require any more work than clicking a button on cPanel. Once this is enabled, give it about 24 hours to properly get itself running and you never have to worry about it again!
There are not too many hosts that offer this free certification, so you want to go with an entrusted host that’s reliable and cares about your blog’s security. Site Ground is a host that I would highly recommend to get yourself started on this – at the cost of $4/month, you will an incredibly reliable host (with 99.9% uptime), excellent customer service, and a well-rounded product offering. Plus, Site Ground offers unlimited Let’s Encrypt certificates, meaning that you don’t have to pay any additional costs if you run more than one site! What you see below is what you pay!
Start a blog + FREE Domain for $4/month (that’s a 60% saving!)
To enable this on your site, go to cPanel and enable Let’s Encrypt SSL. The full tutorial can be found on the Site Ground blog. Another excellent reason to use a host that provides Let’s Encrypt is also because it automatically enforces redirects, meaning you do not have to go through every blog post, and update your link individually (Which would be an incredibly tedious process!)
Bluehost is another host that has started to provide this service – note that they only offer a free SSL certificate if you have a WordPress site.
Total Cost: Hosting + Domain $4/month with Siteground = ~$48/year
Option 2: Purchase an SSL Certificate & Install Yourself
I don’t believe going the hard way where there’s an opportunity of doing it with a simple click. This method is far more time-consuming, and expensive. It is essentially the path that most website and blog owners would have taken before Let’s Encrypt became available. You can purchase an SSL certificate from several vendors which I’ve shared below.
Similar to how you would shop for a webhost, a new WordPress theme, there are vendors that are better than others and those are the ones I chose to share below. For a basic site or blog, I would go for the cheapest option (i.e. basic option); unless you’re running an ecommerce site or anything that may process sensitive information, the basic offering should suffice. Note that typically when you buy a certificate from them, it can only be used on one website. It’s clear that Site Ground is far superior in this case – you can have as many certificates as you need (for all your sites!) for free!
Total Cost: SSL Certificate = ~$99-475/year
Option 3: Cloudflare
Cloudflare is a security and performance solution available through most web hosts. Similar to Let’s Encrypt, check if your host offers a free Cloudflare service as this may be the case for most webhosts. Cloudflare offers a FREE SSL certificate through your webhost so it’s worth checking as an alternative to Let’s Encrypt. Personal blogs are eligible for free certificates as you can see on their pricing page.
Similar to Site Ground, you can easily turn this service on via your cPanel Cloudflare plugin (again, check with your webhost is you have this). The full tutorial can be found here (courtesy of Cloudflare).
Current hosts that offer Cloudflare services include: Dreamhost (Click for tutorial), Site Ground (Click for tutorial) and A2 Hosting (Click for tutorial). Let me know if you have any other suggestions or use other services!
Total Cost: Free Cloudflare SSL Certificate = $0/year
Option 4: Hire a Developer!
If all else fails, hire an expert! Talk to your friendly developer/SEO friend, otherwise, get in touch with me and I’d be happy to point you you in the right direction 🙂 I’ve seen USD$75-100 as being the price to make this move.
What Happens After I Made the Switch?
Updated 09/30/2017: Here is your Transfer from HTTP to HTTPS | 10-Step SEO Checklist & Tutorial.
There’s a few things to do! You have to update all any services and accounts linked to your blog (i.e. Disqus, Google Analytics), social media accounts, and ensure that your blog is properly redirecting to the correct URL. This is a tutorial I’ll save for another day as it can easily be a 2000+ word blog post. Stay tuned!
Getting your site HTTPS ready is not easy but fortunately, through the hard work and contribution of incredible developers worldwide, you and I can set it up quickly, easily, and without having to spend $$$ on hiring a developer for your blog. From the above options, you can clearly tell which of the options offers a much better value.
I hope this tutorial is helpful to you. Good luck getting your site HTTPS ready, and if you need some help, give me a shout over email! I went through the process and will write more about my experience (which involved a lot of coding!) in another post!
I spent a lot of time researching and learning how to go about doing this process on my own. Since, I have a carefully curated list of readings that you might find helpful if you’re looking to know and read more about it!
Google offers several posts on their Webmasters Tools page to help you get started with the process. Here are the specific pages I have used and reference time to time.
There is a fantastic blog post written over on the Yoast blog (the maker of the highly popular WordPress SEO plugin) that explains in great detail about how we got to this point, and the process involved. This is a very dry, and technical read so I highly recommend reading the first half (the latter half can be extremely overwhelming!)
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