What is SSL Certificate and How to Move from HTTP to HTTPS?
Last Updated on 16th May 2023 by Ajmer Singh
As online security threats continue to evolve, it’s important for website owners to take steps to protect their visitors’ sensitive information.
One of the most effective ways to enhance the security of your website is to switch from HTTP to HTTPS.
HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) is a more secure version of the standard HTTP protocol that encrypts data transmitted between your web server and your visitors’ browsers.
By using an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate, you can establish a secure connection and prevent data theft, cyber attacks, and other security risks.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of switching from HTTP to HTTPS, from understanding SSL certificates to troubleshooting common issues.
Comparison Chart Between HTTP and HTTPS
|Data encryption||Not encrypted||Encrypted using SSL/TLS|
|Certificate Authority||Not applicable||Required|
|URL||Begins with "http://"||Begins with "https://"|
|Google Search Ranking||Lower priority||Higher priority|
|Data Integrity||Not verified||Verified|
|User Authentication||Not available||Available through SSL/TLS|
|Cost||Free||Can be expensive|
As you can see, HTTPS provides a more secure and trusted connection for websites and users through the use of SSL/TLS encryption and verified SSL certificates from Certificate Authorities.
While HTTPS does come with an additional cost and complexity, it’s becoming increasingly important for website owners to adopt HTTPS to protect their users and their own online reputation.
Why did You need to Switch to HTTPS?
Have you ever noticed a small lock icon next to the website address in your browser’s address bar?
That lock icon is a sign that you are browsing a website over a secure connection, using HTTPS instead of HTTP.
And if you haven’t yet switched to HTTPS, it’s time to do so!
Switching to HTTPS is no longer just an option; it has become a necessity for any website owner who values their online presence.
Here are some reasons why:
HTTPS provides an extra layer of security that helps protect your website and your users from cyber threats.
Without HTTPS, data that passes between your website and your visitors can be intercepted by hackers, exposing sensitive information such as login credentials, credit card details, and personal information.
HTTPS is essential for building trust with your users.
When visitors see that lock icon, they know that their data is safe and that they can trust your website.
In fact, many users now expect to see that lock icon when browsing any website, and may even leave your site if they don’t.
HTTPS can also impact your search engine rankings.
Google has stated that HTTPS is a ranking factor, meaning that websites using HTTPS may have a slight advantage over websites that are not.
With the release of Google Chrome 68, Google started marking all HTTP websites as “not secure.”
This means that visitors to your website using Chrome will see a warning message in the address bar, potentially scaring them away from your site.
Understanding SSL Certificates: What Are They and How Do They Work?
Have you ever wondered how HTTPS actually works? It all starts with an SSL certificate.
In simple terms, an SSL certificate is a digital certificate that encrypts data sent between a user’s browser and a website’s server.
Think of an SSL certificate like a secure passport for your website.
Just like a passport confirms your identity and allows you to travel safely and securely, an SSL certificate confirms your website’s identity and allows users to browse your website securely.
So, how does an SSL certificate actually work?
When a user visits a website that uses HTTPS, their browser initiates a secure session with the website’s server.
The website’s server then sends its SSL certificate to the user’s browser.
The browser checks that the SSL certificate is valid and issued by a trusted Certificate Authority (CA), ensuring that the website is who it claims to be.
Once the SSL certificate is verified, the browser and server establish an encrypted connection.
This means that any data sent between the user’s browser and the website’s server is encrypted, making it virtually impossible for anyone to intercept or eavesdrop on the data.
But, not all SSL certificates are created equal.
There are different types of SSL certificates with varying levels of validation and security.
For example, Domain Validated (DV) certificates are the most basic SSL certificates and only validate the domain name.
Extended Validation (EV) certificates, on the other hand, provide the highest level of validation and are often used by financial institutions and e-commerce websites.
Types of SSL Certificates: Which One Should You Choose?
Now that you understand what an SSL certificate is and how it works, it’s time to choose the right type of SSL certificate for your website.
There are several types of SSL certificates available, each with its own unique features and benefits.
Domain Validated (DV) Certificates:
DV certificates are the most basic type of SSL certificate and are ideal for small websites that only need to secure their domain name.
These certificates only validate the domain name and do not require extensive validation of the website’s owner or organization.
Organization Validated (OV) Certificates:
OV certificates are a step up from DV certificates and provide a higher level of validation.
In addition to validating the domain name, OV certificates also require the website’s owner or organization to be validated.
This helps establish trust and credibility with website visitors.
Extended Validation (EV) Certificates:
EV certificates are the highest level of SSL certificate and provide the most comprehensive validation process.
In addition to validating the domain name and organization, EV certificates also require extensive documentation and validation of the organization’s legal identity.
EV certificates are often used by financial institutions and e-commerce websites to establish trust and credibility with their customers.
Wildcard certificates are designed for websites that use subdomains, such as blog.example.com or shop.example.com.
With a wildcard certificate, you can secure all subdomains under a single certificate, making it a cost-effective option for larger websites.
Multi-Domain (SAN) Certificates:
Multi-Domain certificates, also known as Subject Alternative Name (SAN) certificates, allow you to secure multiple domain names with a single certificate.
This is ideal for websites that have multiple domain names, such as example.com, example.net, and example.org.
When choosing an SSL certificate, consider the level of validation you need, the number of domains or subdomains you need to secure, and your budget.
For most small websites, a DV or OV certificate will suffice.
However, for larger websites that require more comprehensive validation or have multiple domains, a wildcard or multi-domain certificate may be a better option.
How to Choose a Certificate Authority (CA) for Your SSL Certificate
Choosing a trusted Certificate Authority (CA) is an essential step in securing your website with an SSL certificate.
A Certificate Authority is a third-party organization that issues SSL certificates and validates the identity of the website owner or organization.
There are many Certificate Authorities to choose from, but not all are created equal.
Here are some factors to consider when choosing a Certificate Authority for your SSL certificate:
Ensure that the Certificate Authority is trusted by all major web browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge.
If the Certificate Authority is not trusted by a major web browser, users may see security warnings when visiting your website.
Consider the validation process required by the Certificate Authority.
Some Certificate Authorities only require basic domain validation, while others require extensive documentation and validation of the organization’s legal identity.
Extended Validation (EV) certificates provide the most comprehensive validation process and are often used by financial institutions and e-commerce websites.
Look for a Certificate Authority with a good reputation in the industry.
Check reviews and ratings from other website owners and online security experts.
A trusted Certificate Authority will help establish trust and credibility with your website visitors.
Consider the cost of the SSL certificate. Prices can vary greatly depending on the type of SSL certificate and the Certificate Authority.
However, keep in mind that a higher price does not always guarantee better security or validation.
Look for a Certificate Authority that provides excellent customer support.
You may need assistance during the SSL installation process or if you encounter any issues with your certificate.
Some popular Certificate Authorities include DigiCert, GlobalSign, Comodo, and GeoTrust.
These Certificate Authorities are trusted by all major web browsers and have a good reputation in the industry.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Change the URL from HTTP to HTTPS on WordPress Websites
The first step to moving from Http to Https is to get an SSL certificate.
Hosting providers like Bluehost and Cloudways provide a free SSL certificate with any of their plans.
They install, update and renew the certificate automatically (for free) without any tension from your side.
Looking for a more secure third party SSL certificate then get it from Godaddy.
After getting an SSL certificate, you need to follow some steps.
1. Install Really Simple SSL plugin
This method is easy to navigate for beginners. Search and install the really simple SSL plugin.
Upon activation, navigate to the Settings>SSL page.
What the plugin does is detect the SSL certificate of your page automatically and it also helps in setting up your WordPress site to use HTTPS.
The plugin fixes the following issues:
- Detects SSL certificate.
- Modifies WordPress to use HTTPS in the URL.
- 301 redirect from HTTP to HTTPS.
- Fixes contents URL still loading from HTTPS sources.
2. Backup your site
Whenever you are about to make a major change to your site, what I advise is that you back up your site first.
This is because if anything goes wrong, you can always go back to the working version.
3. Update your WordPress and site address
To update your WordPress and site address, simply go to the settings>general and add https:// to both URLs,
then click on the save changes button at the bottom of the page.
4. Change links containing HTTP to HTTPS in your content and database.
The next step in moving your site from HTTP to HTTPS is to update the links in your content that contain the HTTP protocol.
For easy updates, you can make use of the Velvet blues update URL plugin.
Links that will be altered include:
- Media (Images, audio files, PDF, videos)
- Internal links
- Web fonts
5. Add the 301 redirects in your .htaccess file
The next step you should take in moving your sites to HTTPS is implementing a redirect that leads visitors to the secured version of your site automatically.
To enable this, we will make use of the .htaccess file that is located in the WordPress root directory of your site.
The file contains settings for permalinks, so it’s very possible you have one already.
To locate it, allow your FTP clients to show hidden files because by default the .htaccess is invisible.
If you don’t have one, simply create a plain text file and name it as .htaccess, then upload it to the WordPress root directory of your site.
Copy the above code.
With the redirect in place, rest assured that your visitors will be directed to the HTTPS version of your site.
Cross-check to be sure that none of your content is available in HTTP and HTTPS versions.
Duplicate content poses a threat to your site’s SEO.
6. Run a test for your site
After the above steps have been implemented, it’s now time to check that your site functions correctly.
To do this, kindly use the SSL test to do a total check-up of your site.
Simply input your site’s URL and click on the submit button. After this is done, patiently wait for your result.
Once the test is completed, you should also make use of the SSL check to check for leftover images, scripts, CSS, and files that are not secured.
Update your site environment
To be sure that your site has fully moved to HTTPS, there are a few things you should implement, they include;
1. Ensure that your sitemap is updated
If you have an SEO plugin on your website, your sitemap will be updated automatically.
However, if you use the Yoast SEO plugin, you will need to deactivate and reactivate again, after which you update your sitemap.
Ensure that your HTTPS URL is in robots.txt
2. Include your site in Google Search Console
Now that your site has moved to HTTPS, it’s now time to create a new profile for the HTTPS version on Google Search Console.
After this is created, submit your new sitemap files with the HTTPS version of your URL.
In addition to this, add the HTTPS version of your site to all the webmaster tools like Bing, Yahoo, and Google.
3. Update your site’s CDN
If you use a content delivery network on your site like Cloudflare. Update the profile there.
4. Update your Google Analytics
Go to Google Analytics and update it with the HTTPS version of your URL.
To do this, go to Admin>property settings>default URL
Troubleshooting SSL Certificate Issues: Common Problems and Solutions
While installing an SSL certificate and configuring your web server to use HTTPS can greatly enhance the security of your website, it’s not always a seamless process.
Here are some common problems you may encounter when switching from HTTP to HTTPS and their solutions:
SSL certificate errors:
If your SSL certificate is not installed correctly or has expired, you may receive SSL certificate errors when you try to access your website over HTTPS.
To fix this issue, verify that your SSL certificate is installed correctly and is valid.
Mixed content warnings:
If your website contains any insecure content, such as images or scripts that are loaded over HTTP, you may receive mixed content warnings when you try to access your website over HTTPS.
To fix this issue, update all of your website’s internal links to use HTTPS instead of HTTP.
If you have incorrectly configured your web server to redirect HTTP traffic to HTTPS, you may encounter redirect loops, where your website keeps redirecting back and forth between HTTP and HTTPS.
To fix this issue, check your web server configuration and ensure that the redirect is only applied once.
Insecure cipher suites:
If your web server is using insecure cipher suites, your website may not be as secure as it could be.
To fix this issue, configure your web server to use only strong cipher suites that are recommended by security experts.
Slow website performance:
If your website is experiencing slow performance after switching to HTTPS, it may be due to the extra overhead of SSL encryption.
To fix this issue, optimize your website’s performance by using a content delivery network (CDN), compressing your website’s files, and minimizing HTTP requests.
Now, that your website is secured and showing such signs of safety, the visitors seeing your website will be comfortable to use the same without any hesitation.
And thereby increasing the traffic on your website and you will get a higher rank in the list of most seen websites.
So, it is important to purchase the SSL certificate so that you get to enjoy the benefits of SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
And when the user searches for something then the presence of some keywords will make your website at its peak and this is all done when your content is optimized.
After Google announced that the SSL certificate is mandatory for a website, many developers switched to the HTTPS connection in place of the HTTP connection.
Above all, the main reason for the HTTPS connection is to ensure secure communication for users when they access your site.
Have any recommendations, suggestions, or ideas? Use the comment section.