How to enable HTTPS on your domain

Learn the ins and outs of HTTPS and HTTP for your domain

HTTPS - secured internet concept. Businessman or programmer think about https
(Image: © Shutterstock/Jirsak)

In recent years, more emphasis has been placed on security on the internet. One of the most important things you can do to secure your website is to enable HTTPS. 

With Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS), all communications between your website and visitors will be encrypted. This is important because it prevents third parties from intercepting any data that is being sent or received. 

In this article, we will show you how to enable HTTPS on your domain. But first, let’s talk about why HTTPS is so important. 

 What is HTTPS and why is it used? 

HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP, which is the protocol used to transfer data between a web server and a browser. HTTPS encrypts data with Transport Layer Security (TLS) or Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) before it's transmitted, which makes it much more difficult for anyone to intercept and read it. That's why HTTPS is often used for sites that require a high level of security, such as online banking or ecommerce platforms (opens in new tab).

When you visit a website, there are usually two components involved: the client (which in this case would be your web browser) and the server (which is where the website is hosted). The communication between these two components is what allows you to view the website. 

Traditionally, this communication has been done using HTTP, which stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol. However, HTTP is not as secure because it does not encrypt the data that is being sent between the client and server. This means that if there is a man-in-the-middle attack—which is when a third party intercepts the communication between two parties in order to steal data - then the data being passed back and forth can be stolen. 

HTTPS was created as a solution to this problem. When you enable HTTPS on your website, it means that all communications between the client and server will be encrypted. This makes it much more difficult for third parties to intercept transmitted data, and it helps protect your website visitors’ privacy. 

Another reason why HTTPS is so important is that Google highly recommends (opens in new tab) websites that use HTTPS over those that don’t. This means that if you want your website to rank higher in search results, you need to enable HTTPS. 

 How to enable HTTPS on your domain 

Purchase an SSL certificate (opens in new tab). In order to enable HTTPS on your website, you'll first need to purchase an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate from a reputable Certificate Authority (CA). This will allow your site to establish a secure connection with web browsers. Once you've purchased your SSL certificate, you'll need to install it on your server. 

Configure your server to use the new SSL certificate. Once you've installed your SSL certificate on your server, you'll need to configure your web server software to use the new certificate. This typically involves modifying the server's configuration file to specify the location of the new certificate and private key file. 

Update your website's internal links. Once you've enabled HTTPS on your server, you'll need to update any internal links on your website that point to HTTP pages. This includes links in the body of your website's pages as well as any links in your sitemap file. Failing to update these links will result in visitors being redirected to an HTTP version of the page, which could cause security warnings to be displayed in their web browser. 

Update external links pointing to your website. In addition to updating internal links, you'll also need to update any external links pointing to HTTP pages on your website. This includes social media links, banner ads, and email signatures that link back to your website. Again, failing to update these links could result in visitors being redirected to an unsecured HTTP page. 

Once you've completed all of the above steps, it's time for the most important step of all: testing. Try accessing both HTTP and HTTPS versions of your website to make sure that everything is working as it should be. Pay special attention to any forms or other data-collecting elements on your website; if these are not working properly under HTTPS, sensitive user information could be compromised. 

A padlock icon and the HTTPS text at the beginning of a URL

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

 How do I enable HTTPS on my server? 

Purchase an SSL certificate. You can do this through a number of different Certificate Authorities (CAs), such as Symantec (opens in new tab), Comodo (opens in new tab), or GoDaddy (opens in new tab)

Install the certificate on your web server. This usually involves generating a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) and then installing the provided files in the correct location on your server. 

Configure your server to use the new certificate. Depending on your server type and operating system, this step will vary. For Apache servers on Linux, for example, you'll need to edit the site's configuration file to point to the new certificate and key files. 

Update your website's code to use HTTPS for all requests. If you're using relative URLs, make sure to update them to use the https:// protocol instead of http://. 

You should also set any cookies you use to be secure. Once you've completed all of these steps, your site will be accessible over HTTPS and all data transmitted between your server and visitors' web browsers (opens in new tab) will be securely encrypted. 

What’s the difference between HTTP and HTTPS?

HTTP stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol. It's the standard protocol for transferring data between a web server and a web browser. When you visit a website, your web browser sends an HTTP request to the server that houses the website. The server then responds by sending back the requested data, which is displayed in your web browser. 

HTTP is an insecure protocol, which means that data transferred using HTTP can be intercepted by third parties. This makes it possible for someone to eavesdrop on your browsing activity or even inject malicious code into the website that you're visiting. 

HTTPS on the other hand stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure. It's an improved version of HTTP that uses SSL/TLS encryption to protect data in transit. SSL/TLS encryption is a process that encodes data so that it can only be decoded by the intended recipient. This makes it much harder for third parties to intercept and read data transmitted using HTTPS. 

In addition to encryption (opens in new tab), HTTPS also provides authentication. This means that you can be confident that the website you're visiting is actually the website that it claims to be. With HTTP, it's possible for someone to create a fake website that looks identical to a real website and redirects traffic intended for the real website to the fake one. This type of attack is known as a man-in-the-middle attack, and it can be used to steal sensitive information like login credentials and credit card numbers. 

Why you need to use HTTPS

1. Improved security

The primary reason to use HTTPS is improved security. When data is transferred over an unsecured HTTP connection, it's possible for third parties to intercept and view that data. This could include everything from login credentials to credit card information. By using HTTPS, that data is encrypted and much less susceptible to being compromised.

2. Better search engine rankings

Another reason to use HTTPS is that it can have a positive impact on your search engine rankings. Google has stated that they give preference to websites that use HTTPS, so if you're not using it then you could be at a disadvantage.

3. Enhanced credibility

Using HTTPS also gives your website an air of credibility and trustworthiness. Visitors will see that you're using the latest and greatest technology to keep their information safe, which could lead to more sales or conversions.

Ruby has been a freelance technology writer for over four years and has a passion for information technology and the Internet in its entirety. She has a wide range of specialities including web hosting, streaming (Firestick, Kodi, and APKs), VPN, information technology, and affiliate marketing. Ruby is a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Commerce from the University of the Philippines, and regularly codes in her free time.