5 Reasons You Need an SSL Certificate for Your Website
Cybersecurity is important, but when SSL certificates were first introduced, few sites used them. In fact, for years many website owners thought these certificates weren’t necessary unless you were collecting credit card information.
You may still be wondering what’s so important about SSL certificates and if you really need one. If so, you’re in the right place.
The truth is, upgrading to SSL certification is no longer optional. If you own a website, you need to secure it.
Keep reading for a crash course on what SSL is, how it works, why you need it, and how to secure your website.
What is SSL?
SSL stands for “Secure Sockets Layer.” That is tech speak for a security protocol that creates a secure, encrypted connection between your browser and the web server of the site you are visiting.
How SSL Certificates Work
To understand how secure websites work, imagine a web browser and a web server as two people meeting for the first time. They introduce themselves, shake hands, and start a conversation.
Only the two people who shook hands can talk to each other. Third parties can’t join in because they didn’t shake hands with the participants.
When your browser tries to connect to a secure website, the web server identifies itself by sending over a copy of the SSL certificate. The browser verifies the SSL certificate and tells the server that it trusts the certificate. The server sends back a digital acknowledgement known as an SSL handshake and an encrypted session starts.
During the encrypted session, information is passed directly between your browser and the server. Third parties are blocked from intercepting the data because they weren’t part of the digital handshake.
How to Tell if a Website Has SSL
‘The easiest way to check for an SSL certificate is to look at the URL of the website. A website without an SSL certificate will have a URL that begins with “http.” If the URL has “https” instead of “http,” it is a secured site. You can make your site https by getting an SSL certificate.
A secure website will also have a padlock next to the URL. If you click the padlock, you can view more information including the details of the SSL certificate and when it expires.
Does My Website Need an SSL Certificate?
Secure domain encryption using an SSL certificate is one of the most important security steps you can take to protect your visitors and yourself.
You need an SSL certificate because domain security allows you to:
1. Protect Your Customers' Personal Information
Every website should be secured, but SSL is non-optional if you have an e-commerce site or visitors are entering any personally identifiable, private information on your site.
SSL protects sensitive information like:
- Phone numbers
- Email addresses
- Credit card and bank information.
2. Avoid Your Site Being Flagged By Browsers
If your site isn’t secured, visitors using a Google Chrome browser may see a scary warning saying that their connection is not private and that attackers may be trying to steal their information.
Yes, they can go into the “advanced” settings options to continue to your site, but most will automatically click the big blue “back to safety” button and bounce, perhaps never to return.
3. Build Your Trust with Visitors
Seeing the padlock icon and the “https” rather than “http” in your URL reassures guests and strengthens your relationship with them. They know that they are on the right page and are safe interacting with your site.
On websites without an SSL certificate, instead of the closed padlock, Chrome browsers will display the words “not secure,” and Firefox will place a padlock with a red line through it next to the URL. Both these negative signals sabotage trust with visitors.
4. Boost Your SEO
Taking your website from http to https won’t instantaneously boost you to number one on Google, but it can break a tie between your secured site and a similar site that isn’t secured.
Website SEO is a competitive field, so even this little extra boost can make a difference.
5. Block Hackers from Stealing Your Site
SSL doesn’t just protect your visitors. It keeps you safer too. If you’re entering your admin login info on an unsecure page, hackers could intercept that data and use it to take over your site.
Imagine being locked out of your site and having it hijacked because you didn’t invest in proper security measures.
SSL Domain Security FAQs
If website encryption and security is new to you, there’s a lot to learn. To get started, here are answers to some of the most common SSL questions.
Does SSL slow down websites?
No. Adding SSL shouldn’t bog down your page load times. If you’re worried about SSL impact on speed, try running a before and after speed test to check your numbers.
Do you need SSL encryption if you don't sell anything?
Yes. When SSL came out, e-commerce sites were the first to adopt it. Now it’s strongly recommended for all websites even if you aren’t selling anything. It is absolutely required for e-commerce.
What do I do if I don't have an SSL certificate?
Now that you know it’s time to upgrade to SSL, the next step is to contact an SSL certificate issuer and provide the necessary information to get your certificate.
Who issues SSL certificates?
What SSL certificate do I need?
There are different SSL certificate types and validation levels. You choose a certificate type based on how many and what kind of domains you are securing (i.e., root domains, subdomains, or multiple domains).
The SSL validation level you need depends on the level of trust you want to create with your visitors and the security standards for your industry. For example, a banking website will need a higher validation level than an informational personal blog.
Can a SSL certificate be used on multiple domains?
Yes. If you want to secure more than one domain with a single SSL cert, choose a wildcard SSL, a multi-domain SSL certificate (MDC), or a United Communications Certificate (UCC).
A single wildcard cert secures a base domain plus unlimited subdomains. A multi-domain cert is even more versatile. You can use it to secure many unique domains and sub-domains. One United Communications Certificate (UCC) provides the highest level of security for multiple domains.
Can I get an SSL certificate for free?
Is it worth paying for an SSL certificate?
If you can get an SSL certificate for free, why would you pay? Good question. There are a few differences between free vs paid SSL certificates.
Free certificates need to be renewed more often than paid ones. A paid SSL can be good for one to two years, but free SSLs often expire every 90 days. If you forget to renew your certificate, site visitors will receive an error message saying the SSL certificate is invalid or expired.
Potential liability is another reason to consider paying for an SSL. If you run an e-commerce site that processes credit card payments, you should check the liability protection of potential SSLs. Choose a paid SSL that comes with a warranty to help cover you if there is a data breach. Free certificates don’t have liability protection.
How do I install an SSL certificate?
If you get your SSL cert through a hosting provider or paid Certificate Authority, they will usually install the certificate for you.
Depending on your hosting provider’s set-up free SSL certificates from third party sites like Let’s Encrypt will need to be installed either manually or through your host’s cPanel. Contact your hosting provider for more information.
Which SSL certificate is best for ecommerce websites?
Extended Validation (EV) certificates are the highest-level and most trusted type of paid SSL cert. This makes them the gold standard and best recommendation for most ecommerce sites. Extended Validation certificates are used by large companies and organisations that collect customer information or process payments on their sites.
An EV SSL tells site visitors you were well vetted by the Certificate Authority since you must prove site ownership, provide business records, and demonstrate company legitimacy to be issued the certificate.
Organisation Validation certificates (OV SSLs) are another option for ecommerce sites. Like EV certificates, an OV SSL secures online payment data. The OV cert is less expensive and easier to obtain than an EV certificate because only basic business ownership details and records like tax IDs need to be confirmed.
Do I Need an SSL certificate for my blog?
Yes. Many blogs use newsletter signup forms and contact pages that ask users to enter their email address. Emails are a type of personal information that should be protected. Even strictly informational blogs should use SSL as a best practice.
If you don’t collect payment information or detailed personal data, you can secure your site with a quick and easy to obtain Domain Validation SSL (DV SSL) certificate instead of a more complex Extended Validation or Organisation Validation SSL.
A Domain Validation certificate is automatically issued when you prove domain control through a confirmation email or by adding a specific file to your website. No business records or tax IDs need to be provided.
What is the difference between SSL vs. TLS?
When researching SSLs, you may have seen references to TLS. Both TLS and SSL are digital certificates that encrypt data online. TLS stands for “Transport Layer Security” and it is an updated version of SSL. TLS certificates are sometimes called SSLs.
If you’re still wondering, “do I need an SSL certificate for my website,” consider these words of wisdom from Stephen King: “Friends don’t spy; true friendship is about privacy, too.”
When we ask customers to interact with our website, we have a responsibility to guard their privacy and respect the trust they’ve placed in us.
Be a true friend. Get an SSL certificate to show that digital security is important to you whether visitors to your site are entering personal data and making an online purchase or not.
Over to You…
Do you agree that an SSL certificate is a must have for every website? What type of SSL are you using? Share your thoughts in the comments below. I look forward to hearing your perspective.
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