Question:

What is an SSL Certificate and what does it do?

An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificate is beneficial in a couple of ways. Let’s start out by discussing what an SSL certificate is, and the most important reason to install one. Then we’ll discuss some obvious and some unforeseen consequences to not having the SSL certificate installed.

What is an SSL Certificate?

An SSL Certificate involves securing the data from the user’s browser to your server.

Think about putting up a form on your site. I go there and fill out the form with my full name and my email. Maybe I add a message to it. Hitting that send button sends my information from my browser to your server. As that information is being sent, it is vulnerable. There are people out there listening for this type of communication in the hopes that they find a piece of information that they can use in some malicious way.

An SSL Certificate encrypts that data to prevent people with ill-intent from being able to read this information even if they were to intercept it.

While this is only one link in the chain of security options for a website, each link is important to ensure the best protection possible.

How do I know if I have an SSL Certificate already?

Checking for your SSL Certificate is easy and can be done by anyone. That’s why not having one can be dangerous.

To check your website for an SSL Certificate simply navigate to your website (www.yourwebsite.com). When the page loads it may have either http or https before your website name (http://yourwebsite.com).

A site without an SSL Certificate will have the http prefix. Once you’ve installed the SSL Certificate the prefix will change to https. If your site has https as a prefix then you are currently utilizing an SSL Certificate.

Some websites may not show the http or https. Perhaps your website shows up as example.com or www.example.com. Then what? There is another way to know if your site is utilizing an SSL Certificate.

Look to the left of the domain name. There you will see one of three things. You will see a “Not Secure” sign in a gray font, a “Not Secure” sign in red font with a red triangle next to it, or you will see a closed padlock. If you see the closed padlock, then congrats! You are secure. If you see a “Not Secure” sign, then you either need to install or speak to your website administrator about getting an SSL certificate installed on your website.

My website is small. Do I really need one of these?

If you’re thinking that you can get by without an SSL Certificate, then I would explain it this way. Maybe people aren’t kicking down your door every day looking for information sent via your website much the same way people aren’t trying to kick down your front door to steal from your home every day. When they do kick that door, you most certainly want the door to be locked.

The older that your website gets, the more likely it becomes for someone to test its security. Be ready.

Let’s talk about another important reason to secure your website with an SSL Certificate.

Customer Reputation and Security

It’s becoming common knowledge that the internet can be an insecure place. People may not know how attacks work, but they know attacks happen. When someone visits your website for the first time it’s like meeting a stranger in a way. They don’t know much about you and use visual clues to determine whether to continue looking at the site, or to leave and go somewhere else.

These visual clues can range anywhere from poor site design, misspelled words, and most certainly include seeing the words “Not Secure” in the browser bar.

To make matters worse, your visitor may even encounter a pop-up box stating that your site is not safe and encourage them to not continue going to the site, but rather to go back to where they were before they clicked your link.

These types of problems turn a prospect into a cautious user, or possibly to not continue conducting business with you.

Having the closed padlock indicating a secure site is a good way to immediately gain a little trust from a first-time visitor. Take advantage of that opportunity.

Google Ranking

Google stated that an SSL Certificate would be a ranking signal way back in 2014. It encourages website owners to adopt this security measure, and to play nice with Google is the best way to ensure that your website ranks as strongly as possible.

Also keep in mind that if users see a “Not Secure” message and abandon your site, those abandonments will most certainly affect your standings with Google rankings. You want visitors to come to your website and spend time, navigate around, take an action. When Google sees people visiting and leaving the site without browsing around it will push your website down Google’s rankings.

Conclusion

For the betterment of your site’s security, your user’s safety and comfort with your site, and your ranking in the Google search, an SSL Certificate is an important security measure to take.

Installation of an SSL Certificate is simple and takes very little time. Take advantage of this easy opportunity right away and reap the benefits, not only for you, but for the users of your website.