What Are SSL Certificates and Why Does Your Site Need One?
Have you ever Googled your own website to check its ranking in search results, only to discover it shows up as an unsecured site in search engines?
That, my friend, is the result of no SSL Certificate.
The term "SSL Certificate" may seem quite "techy," but the idea behind SSL Certificates is actually quite simple: "SSL" stands for Secured Sockets Layer, and this is what binds together your domain name or server name with your company details. The purpose of an SSL Certificate is to add security by ensuring that your connection to a website and any encrypted data you share with that website is entirely secure. But let's break this down a bit further to better understand what SSL Certificates do, and why your website needs to have one.
SSL Certificates keep all of your data secure
Let's say you visit the website of a brand you regularly shop with online, and in order to fulfill an order with the brand's online marketplace, you have to fill out an order form. Most forms on any website - be it a contact form, purchase form, newsletter form, etc - require you to submit some type of personal information.
When a website does not have an SSL Certificate, the information you submit can be obtained and used by just about anyone able to hack that website, which means personal information like credit card info or contact details are not kept confidential. One a website with an SSL Certificate, the opposite occurs; your browser forms a connection with your webserver, looks for its SSL Certificate, then binds your browser and server together. This "binding" connection is so secure that no one can access your information aside from the website you submit your information to. Huzzah!
In other words, SSL Certificates are the standard in ensuring an encrypted connection between browsers and webservers.
What's HTTP got to do with it?
"HTTPS" stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure and its primary purpose is to transfer and receive data over the Internet. With HTTPS, all communication between a browser and a webserver in encrypted, whereas with HTTP, it is not. That added "S" on the end makes all the difference ;)
This all sounds great, but why do I need SSL?
SSL Certificates aren't "required" when developing or running a website, but you may be hard-pressed to find customers or site visitors willing to shop online with your brand, or submit a form, if they can see that your website is not secure. After all, without an SSL Certificate, you're asking prospective customers to submit personal information that isn't kept secure. Would you do the same?
This is especially true for search engines like Google. In fact, Google now marks all non-HTTPS websites as non-secure, and with non-HTTPS sites, people have no way of ensuring any information is secure when they submit it. Take, for example, online shopping. You've found a skincare brand through a simple Google search and notice the site is marked as non-secure. You want to try the brand's body lotion, though, so you forge on and begin the checkout process. Nowhere does it mention that the payment process is secure - are you willing to submit billing and credit card information to a site like that? We hope your answer would be no.
Are you missing out?
SSL Certificates aren't "required" when developing or running a website, but you may be hard-pressed to find customers or site visitors willing to shop online with your brand, or submit a form, if they can see that your website isn't secure. After all, without an SSL Certificate, you're asking prospective customers to submit personal information that isn't kept secure. Would you do the same?
Okay, so SSL Certificates are a plus. How does it help my brand, though?
For one, customers are more likely to shop on websites that are secure than ones that aren't. That means more sales ;)
But that's not all. Google actually rewards HTTPS websites with a minor SEO-boost, which in turn means better chances of having your site rank in search engine results. And we all know by now how important SEO is!
Oh, and what's more? Referral data is preserved when people utilize HTTPS websites, which helps to increase search engine ranking, too.
How do I know which SSL Certificate is best for my needs?
Before you choose, it's best to know the difference between SSL Certificates. To understand this, let's break down the three types of SSL Certificates:
- Domain Validation (DV SSL) Certificate - this Certificate is the no-frills, bare-bone encryption version. To obtain this Certificate, all a company has to do is prove ownership of their website. Bing-badda-boom-badda-bing, you're done.
- Organization Validation (OV SSL) Certificate - this Certificate offers a greater deal of authentication and, in order to obtain this type, an organization would have to prove it is a legitimate legal entity by satisfying various requirements.
- Extended Validation (EV SSL) Certificate - this Certificate offers the greatest amount of authentication but any company looking to obtain this Certificate has to undergo extensive vetting from the certifying organization.
In order to determine which kind of SSL Certificate is best for your business, you should consider evaluating your needs and the budget you're willing to commit to maintaining your SSL Certificate. CMS (Content Management Platforms) like GoDaddy, Squarespace, etc. typically offer some sort of built-in SSL Certificate.
How do I know whether my website is secure?
One of the easiest ways to check whether your website is secure is to look at the URL of your website when you visit it. A secure website will have "https" at the beginning of the URL and will include the word "Secure" next to a lock symbol, which indicates you're on a secure site. For example, see this following image:
You can also manually test the security of your website by utilizing an SSL checker. Hubspot offers a very simple, easy-to-use check tool which can show you how secure your website is!
Let's quickly recap why you need an SSL Certificate
- Offers customers and site visitors with secure ways of providing personal information and making purchases online through your website
- Assists with website SEO and search engine rankings
- Boosts reputation with Google
- Encrypts data for a more secure connection between browsers and webservers