Why Your Website Needs an SSL Certificate

By November 22, 2016 Security

Does your website have an SSL certificate?

A) Yes.
B) No.
C) What’s an SSL certificate?

In the past, SSL certificates have been relegated to the world of e-commerce. Many site operators have been told: “If you’re not processing credit cards, you don’t need an SSL certificate.” But that’s simply not true.

So what are SSL certificates, and what practical benefits do they provide?

What is an SSL certificate?

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. In essence, it’s a technology that allows encrypted communication between your users and your server. It’s this encryption that deters bad guys from eavesdropping.

So why do you need a certificate in order to use SSL technology? … Well, technically you don’t. You can open an SSL connection with any server that accepts it. But doing so would be very risky because you have no way of knowing if you’re “talking” to the right server.

This is why we need SSL certificates. An SSL certificate is issued by a trusted third party (a certificate authority). It’s purpose is to verify that the server you’re communicating with is who they say they are.

What practical benefits does an SSL certificate provide?

Security
meeting

Coffee shops are great for business meetings but not so great for network security.

The fact that SSL certificates make your website more secure might be an obvious point. (After all, “secure” is the first S in SSL.) But what if you’re not processing sensitive data like credit card numbers? Is it still a good idea to have an SSL certificate? Yes!

For example, many content management systems allow users to login with a username and password. If you don’t haveĀ an SSL certificate, you run the risk of revealing that password to anyone on your network. Have you ever ever logged into your website at a coffee shop? Do you have an SSL certificate? If not, now is a good time to change your password. Go ahead. We’ll wait.

Search results

Google has already started rewarding sites that have an SSL certificate with better search rankings. And that makes sense. Reputable site owners are usually more than happy to invest in their site’s security.

At this point Google says that SSL certificates are only a small part of their ranking algorithm. But they (not so subtly) have been nudging site owners to install for a while now. It’s possible that SSL certificates will become a more important ranking signal in the future.

User trust
Climbing rope

Secure connections are always a good idea.

Web users are becoming more and more savvy. One of the hallmarks of a trustworthy site is the familiar green padlock next to the URL. If you don’t have that padlock, you might unintentionally turn off some of your visitors.

Depending on your business model you can go beyond a regular SSL certificate and apply for an OV (Organization Validated) or EV (Extended Validation) SSL certificate. These will display your company name within the certificate and assure your users not only of your website’s identity but also the identity of the organization behind the website.

Aren’t SSL certificates expensive?

Contrary to what many people think, domain validated SSL certificates are very affordable. If you can install the certificate yourself, it’s free. If you’re not able to install the certificate yourself, your host or developer should be able to do it for a nominal fee.

SSL certificates are well worth the investment. So if you’d like help beefing up your site security with an SSL certificate, feel free to get in touch. We’d be happy to help.