Let's first tackle what an SSL certificate is in the first place.
With the newest version of Google Chrome released earlier this year, websites without an SSL Certificate will display a ‘Not Secure’ warning in the URL bar. Other major browser like Apple's Safari are now following Chrome's lead, meaning your website needs an SSL Certificate more than ever before.
What is an SSL Certificate?
An SSL certificate stands for Secure Sockets Layer certificate. This certificate encrypts digital information and verifies an organization’s identity to visitors. Installing an SSL certificate allows for the utilization of the https protocol. SSL is used to secure data such as credit card transactions, webform submissions, usernames, and passwords.
Why do I need an SSL Certificate?
In the past, an SSL certificate was considered a “nice to have” component for a basic website. As standards and practices have evolved, Google is now forcing all websites to utilize an SSL certificate if there is any type of information being processed. With the recent version of Google Chrome released in July 2018, all websites without an SSL Certificate will display a ‘Not Secure’ warning in the URL bar. Clicking on the ‘Not Secure’ label on an unsecured site (URLs that don’t begin with "https://") will display a security warning advising users not not enter any sensitive information into the page, like personal details or credit card info.
When passing over confidential information over the internet, web users look for security. Most modern web browsers will display a 'lock' icon in the URL bar as a visual indicator that an SSL certificate is valid. Another way to determine if a website is using an SSL certificate is by scanning the full website URL in the browser. A website using an SSL certificate will begin with https:// rather than the standard http:// preface. The “s” stands for secure, and this indicates to web visitors that the information being sent to a website is secure and private.
The secure connection that this certificate provides will give your visitors peace of mind. Information being passed over this connection is encrypted from the visitor to the site; this is especially important on E-Commerce websites where credit card information is being captured and processed. When a user starts to enter information into a form field on a site without a SSL certificate, the ‘Not Secure’ label will become red accompanied with a warning icon. The lack of an SSL certificate may be a deciding factor of a customer choosing a competitor over you. Mozilla Firefox has similar warning labels already in effect for unsecured sites, while Apple's Safari has just begun following Chrome's lead.
SSL Certificates and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
In 2014, Google definitively stated that it would begin favoring domains that utilize an SSL certificate as apart of their search engine algorithms. As an industry titan and thought leader, Google values security and user experience. Google's algorithms will display what they deem to be the most relevant, reliable, and secure content to its user base. The lack of an SSL certificate may be the difference in a competitor's website displaying before yours on the search engine results page for your services. The simple inclusion of an SSL certificate on a website will come with a potential boost in keyword rankings as well.
Different Types of SSL Certificates
There are a few different types of SSL certificates available depending on the needs of your organization. These certificates may have different naming conventions depending on the vendor, however, typically three tiers of single site SSL certificates are offered that include standard, deluxe, and premium options.
- A standard SSL certificate, which is the most common, will validate the ownership of a specific domain.
- A deluxe certificate will validate ownership of a domain as well as an organization, while a premium SSL certificate will validate domain ownership and is the highest level of authentication for a specific organization.
- A premium SSL certificate will include a green address bar label next to your URL signifying this advanced level of authentication to your visitors, but due to this extra layer of authentication, the process for obtaining and installing this type of certificate is more comprehensive.
Free SSL Certificate Options
With the growing demand for website security, some web hosting companies will offer SSL certificates through your existing hosting package for no additional charge. If you are already hosting your website through one of these vendors, then you may enable your free SSL certificate from your hosting dashboard, or reach out to your hosting provider to enable the SSL certificate on your behalf.
How do I get an SSL Certificate?
Most website hosting companies will typically offer an SSL certificate as a paid add-on component to your hosting account, but are also offered by a variety of different vendors and can be purchased independently. Keep in mind that installing an SSL certificate onto a web server is a technical task, so purchasing an SSL certificate with your existing web hosting provider will make this process easier.
Many companies offer comparable pricing for an SSL certificate so choosing an outside vendor becomes a matter of preference. GoDaddy and Network Solutions offer a variety of different certificates and multi-term options.
After purchasing an SSL certificate, you will need to install the certificate onto your webserver. Typically there is documentation available online through your specific hosting provider that will guide you through this installation process. However, it is recommended that you reach out to a professional to handle the installation of the certificate onto your webserver. In many cases, adjustments to your website will need to made to make your website SSL compliant. This includes adjustments to your content management system configuration (such as Wordpress and Drupal) and revisions to the website’s code.
Documentation for Installing SSL Certificates on Common Host Platforms:
After reading this blog you now know what an SSL certificate is, why it is important, and how to purchase and install one. It is an important component to your websites and SEO, services our team specializes in. If you're looking for more tips on how to improve your SEO, check out our blog on how to get on the top of Google.