An SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate is a small data file that provides an extra layer of security between a website and a browser. An SSL certificate both serves to authenticate the website’s identity, and to encrypt any information provided through the website. Both of these functions are important security measures to thwart hackers that may want to take over the website or intercept information your visitors provide during the checkout process or in a form.
Anytime you view a website, the server that website lives on and the browser you use work together to display the web page you’re on. SSL is a type of encryption that occurs in the connection between the two. A web browser knows how to read the SSL certificate on the site in order to authenticate the website’s identity, and SSL encryption ensures that any information shared between the server and browser is scrambled so that no third-party can access it.
In order to communicate the information a browser needs, SSL certificates contain information that helps verify the website. What specific information is contained varies based on the type of SSL certificate you get, but it often includes:
An SSL certificate has long been essential for eCommerce websites that process payments, but it’s becoming expected for all types of websites now. Making sure your website has an SSL certificate is well worth it for a few main reasons.
The main purpose of an SSL certificate is to make your website more secure. This is especially important for any type of website that collects sensitive information, such as:
All of that information can easily be used against your visitors if a hacker intercepts it. Providing encryption is crucial to keep your visitors safe.
Keeping visitors safe is the right thing to do from a moral perspective, but it also helps your business gain the trust of your visitors. Most savvy internet users now know how to recognize the signs of a site that has an SSL certificate (even if they don’t know it’s called that). If you want people to feel comfortable providing information to your brand or making a purchase through your website, you have to prove you’re trustworthy first. And SSL is one of the best ways to do that.
When you have an SSL certificate, your website starts to show HTTPS at the front of the URL rather than HTTP. Google has said outright that HTTPS is a ranking factor. It may not be as powerful for SEO as creating amazing content or building links, but it still matters. If you care about being found on Google, having an SSL certificate is important.
Many browsers won’t take users directly to a website that doesn’t have a current SSL certificate. Instead, they’ll see a scary error message warning them that the site isn’t safe. Most of these error pages will include the option to proceed to the site anyways, but with how concerned people (rightfully) are about data privacy and identity theft—why would they proceed after seeing a scary warning like that? Without an SSL certificate, you could lose a lot of visitors before they ever get to the site.
While it’s now best that all types of websites get an SSL certificate, there’s still some variety in how much security a website needs based on the kind of information your visitors will be providing through it. You can therefore choose between three types of SSL certificates that each offer a different level of security.
The easiest way to check if your website has a current SSL certificate is to pull it up online, and look at the address bar in the browser. You want to see two main things:
If those are there, then your website has a current SSL certificate. Congratulations! In most browsers, you can find out more information about the certificate you have by clicking on the lock icon.
If your website doesn’t currently have an SSL certificate, then you’ve got no time to lose. If you have a Ecowebzim web hosting plan, good news: you get a free SSL certificate with your subscription.