Our blog

The Guardian’s Journey to HTTPS

February 24 2017

Google start page on browser
SHARE ON: linkedin

The Guardian recently started using HTTPS in their web address, a protocol for secure communication over a computer network. Their stated reasons for the change were privacy and security, improving the site’s SEO, protection of their content and journalistic integrity, the integration of new features and securing of revenue flow.

HTTPS works by adding a layer of encryption called SSL. SSL stands for ‘Secure Sockets Layer’, and is a form of security technology which encrypts information coming into and going out of a website, so that data shared by visitors to the site remains confidential. You can tell if a website is SSL secure by looking at the URL; if it starts with ‘https’ then the site is SSL secure, if it starts with ‘http’ then it isn’t.

To users of the news site, the change seems minor: just an additional letter to the addresses of the Guardian’s pages. But the migration to a more secure protocol actually involved a lot of work and changes behind the scenes. Is the move to HTTPS worth the hassle? Here’s why and how your online company should consider making the journey.

Benefits of HTTPS

Privacy and Security

The encryption HTTPS uses protects the stream of data going between the browsers of visitors to your site and your web server. It means that user information cannot be obtained without permission. This protects the privacy of the Guardian’s readers, as well as the theft or changing of data on the Guardian site. A HTTPS site is an important security initiative for anyone with an e-commerce site that takes confidential information from customers such as bank details, address or personal information.

SEO

Having SSL will also improve your site’s search rankings on Google, because people will feel safer using your site and Google will instruct crawlers to look for SSL sites. HTTPS is indexed by default because Google is proactive about making the internet safer. It also helps the Guardian to know more about traffic from encrypted or ‘unknown’ referrers, sites that link to their site.

Content Authoring and Integrity

HTTPS is a seal of approval that everything you read on the Guardian’s site is written, edited and published by the Guardian. News outlets rely on their reputation for reliability and transparency, so HTTPS is very important for them. By allowing users to verify the site, the new provider’s journalistic integrity is maintained. But any company needs to build a reputation for integrity and trustworthiness to ensure customer loyalty.

Additional Features and Revenues

Because the Guardian now uses HTTPS, it can take advantage of new technologies including web notifications, offline web pages and home screen prompts. HTTPS makes these additions safer and easier to integrate into your website. Also, it prevents internet providers from injecting ads into the Guardian’s web pages without them being reimbursed. The Guardian relies heavily on ad revenues, as do many online businesses.

How to Make the Change

The Guardian moved to HTTPS over the space of this year. They moved their site section by section, taking the time to identify problems and address them as they arose. They did this with the goals of avoiding negative audience responses and revenue impacts, allowing embedded sites which don’t support HTTPS in articles, and keeping older interactive content working. Some e-companies will be constrained by these same criteria, but some won’t. As a result, the change was gradual but steady. During the process old content was rewritten, sections were redirected to HTTPS and all attempts to find Guardian in HTTP were converted into requests for the HTTPS version. For this reason, many readers didn’t even notice the transition.

How you make the change depends on your site: is it hosted by a popular vendor like WordPress or Joomla? Then transitioning should be a simple matter of installing SSL certification ($15 per year), taking 20 minutes to get this processed and approved, then activating SSL and redirecting to HTTPS. Then resubmit your site to Google’s Webmaster to reap the SEO benefits. If your site is quite large or a bespoke site designed by a web developer, then the change might take longer and require more specialist expertise.

To learn more about how to make the change to HTTPS, contact us. Wirebox has experience using SSL to deliver better overall security.