For the past few years, more and more websites have been switching from HTTP to HTTPS.
Some time before that, it was only online commerce sites or services handling data that needed to have an appropriate level of security.
But when Google announced two years ago that HTTPS was going to be a ranking signal, there was a surge in HTTPS usage for non-commerce websites.
There are some other benefits other than Google. Referrer data is preserved, it prevents tampering by third parties, and it makes everything more secure for both the sites and users. But is it really worth the annual cost to purchase an SSL certificate?
First, let’s take a quick look at what all is behind that green padlock:
What’s Behind the Padlock?
Should You Switch to HTTPS?
The actual SEO weight a few years ago was only 1%, and while Google has teased us that it could increase, I’m not sure the extra Google juice warrants the cost of an SSL cert for church websites and personal blogs.
If your webhost or domain name provider (or other website service) offers a free SSL cert, I would recommend making the switch. It’s not only a nice little boost for your search ranking, but it says something to the person using your site.
If you do decide to get a SSL certificate and make the jump to HTTPS, this flowchart might help you understand some of the terminology and determine what type of cert you’ll need.
Why ChurchMag Went Full SSL
You were probably looking forward to a short and sweet answer that would answer your own question of whether or not to switch to HTTPS.
Unfortunately, I don’t.
You see, the whole thing started several years ago when we switched to WP Engine. The only way to take advantage of their offer to have a unique IP address for ChurchMag, was if we purchased an SSL cert. I didn’t see any reason to change the front-end to HTTPS, so we didn’t; moreover, I wasn’t sure if everything would continue working properly (this was even before we were mobile friendly!).
Since we were paying for an SSL certificate in the first place, we went ahead and took advantage of the added layer of security and switch our entire WordPress Admin to HTTPS. For a few years we had HTTPS on the back-end of WordPress while our front facing pages were HTTP.
When Google announced the added SEO juice for HTTPS, I began to get the itch to switch. After all, we were already paying for it! But again, I was unsure as to whether or not our theme could handle it. After all, it was having update problems in the first place (as I posted about here).
Fast forward to this past month and we launched our new design – with full HTTPS. Fully tested, fully operational, fully awesome. 😀
The technology snowball is growing bigger and moving faster all the time. It’s easy to be swept away with new things or have a nagging feeling that you’re falling far behind.
At this point in time, I don’t see it necessary for churches and ministries to invest in an SSL certificate just for the sole purpose of going HTTPS. There are more compelling reasons to make the switch other than SEO. Dollar for dollar, there are probably better investments to be made at this time.
However, if you can acquire one at a very low rate – free even – or need it for security purposes, by all means, make the switch like we did.