Over recent times having a SSL certificate has become important for websites. All the main trusted websites have them, and for good reason. I have invested in one myself and so should you. It is something I ensured I had as soon as my website started, and there are some benefits to having it.
What is an SSL certificate?
SSL stands for secure sockets layer. It is the way in which an encrypted link is established between a web server and browser. It ensures that connections and data transferred between the sources remain private. A certificate ensures that you are a trusted website source from an industry standard provider. They are very popular on most larger sites, but smaller sites do not tend to have them. This can be a problem for many reasons as this article will explain. They are required in one particular case, but can benefit anyone with a website.
Why do you need one?
You sell something
If you sell something on your website, you should have an SSL certificate. This ensures that when customers enter details of payment information, the information is not at risk of theft. During form submission (the place the customer enters payment details), they will be at risk of theft of their personal information without such a certificate. Most payment processors require you to have one, but if you are linked with PayPal, you aren’t required to. But data is still at risk before they are taken to the external site. It would look extremely bad from a business point of view if customer data was stolen from your website and therefore precautions like this should be taken.
Its good to have anyway
Whilst SSL certificates aren’t required for anyone other than those who provide some form of eCommerce service, they are a good idea for everyone. Firstly, even without payment information, hackers can steal other information like usernames and passwords which are common on WordPress blogs. Secondly, it helps prevent mass surveillance of the web, thirdly it is good for appearances. People are becoming aware of the risks online and therefore look for the obvious green lock shown on browser pages before entering details. Making your site secure in this manner is good for business as the customers trust the site more than they would without the security. But perhaps most importantly, it can provide a nice boost to your SEO (search engine optimisation).
Google have attempted to make the web a safer place. Therefore, if you are equal with another website in terms of content, they will rank the site with a certificate above that of the site without. This can make a huge difference in terms of numbers of people finding your site. Switching to a secure website, which has https in the domain as opposed to just http can improve your rankings for some search terms. Currently it is only as a ‘tie breaker’ with other websites, but as the certificates become more popular, I expect it will make a bigger difference. Additionally, as stated before – it can have an impact on trust from customers/visitors to your website which may lead to increased retention of users.
To get help with switching, and to ensure that your rankings remain intact, please follow Google’s guide to doing this smoothly. Its a harder thing to do when you have to switch as opposed to just starting a new project like me. But there are benefits and in the long run will help.
How to get a certificate
I personally got mine for less than £7 a year from Namecheap, the provider I purchased the domain name from. You are likely to find similar services wherever you purchased your domain from. If you are not tech savvy, I’m sure asking customer support at your domain registrar of choice will be a good idea. I use PositiveSSL which is great for blogs which do not transact much personal data (which I expect will be the case for many of you reading this too) and it is cheap enough for it to be worth. The belief customers will trust the site more is important on its own, the possibility of extra rankings is a great added benefit. Other than short term effort, I see no real reason not to spend that small amount of money yearly for the benefits I’ve provided above.