When viewing your small business’s website in a web browser, do you see the “HTTPS” prefix? All websites typically have a domain that’s prefixed with either “HTTPS” or “HTTP.” In the past, HTTP was the universal protocol for governing the way in which data is exchanged between a visitor and a website. Since then, however, more and more websites have switched to HTTPS. If you’ve been reluctant to make the switch with your small business’s website, you should consider doing so.

What Is HTTPS?

HTTP stands for “Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure.” It’s a secure extension of the HTTP protocol, which stands for “Hypertext Transfer Protocol.” Although it can be used in any network, it’s most commonly used on the internet to create a secure connection between a website and its visitors.

With HTTPS, data in transit — meaning it’s either to a website or received from a website — is encrypted. There are two primary algorithms used to encrypt in-transit data with HTTPS websites: Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS). Although they use different mechanisms, both SSL and TLS algorithms are designed to scramble in-transit data.

The Benefits of Using HTTPS

If your small business’s website processes transactions, you need to use HTTPS. Nearly all payment processes require e-commerce websites to use HTTPS to protect customers’ data from unauthorized access. If your website sells products or services, for example, you’ll have to use HTTPS to get approved for a payment processor.

HTTPS works in conjunction with an SSL or TLS certificate, depending on the encryption algorithm used. If your small business’s website uses an SSL algorithm, you’ll need to install an SSL certificate on your server. If it uses a TLS algorithm, you’ll need to install a TLC certificate on your server. Once installed and configured, your small business’s website should have the “HTTP” prefix, indicating that all data sent to visitors and received by visitors is encrypted.

Google also uses HTTPS to determine the search rankings for websites. In 2014, Google revealed that HTTPS websites rank higher in its search results than HTTP websites. If your small business’s website suffers from low search rankings, you may want to upgrade it to HTTPS.

Of course, HTTPS is an optional feature for some small business websites. If your small business’s website doesn’t process transactions or otherwise transfer sensitive data, it won’t benefit much from HTTPS. Granted, your small business’s website may rank higher on Google, but HTTPS won’t make it more secure.