Why Use an SSL?

Shopping for a quick birthday gift for a friend? We’ll bet your favorite local shop has a “shop online” option. Need to order groceries for this evening? A quick visit to Instacart will save the day. Lost in a rabbithole of cat videos?  You get the idea (c: 

As the way we use the internet continues to evolve so do security measures on each website. Ever noticed that some website URLs start with ‘http://’ and some start with ‘https://’? What is the ‘s’ and why could it be important for you while building a new site? To put it simply, that extra “s” simply means the user’s connection to the site is encrypted and secure. It’s confirming that any data gathered is going to be safely shared with that website owner only and protected against outside influences. The technology that powers that little “s” is called SSL, and that stands for Secure Sockets Layer.

What exactly is an SSL?

SSL.com says “SSL is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browser remain private.”

Okay, now in English. 

Let’s say you’re visiting a website, and it asks you to fill out a form before accessing any of the information on the site–maybe this is something as mundane as a “members only” shopping website or something more serious. Once that form is all filled out with, you know, your name, email, phone number, your address, and maybe even your banking information and you click “submit”, what happens to your data?  On an unsecure site, that information can be intercepted by a hacker who’s out there scraping the web for information just like yours. (If you want to go really down the rabbit hole, check out “man in the middle attacks”) 

That interception can happen in a few different ways, but the most common is when a hacker places an undetectable ‘listening’ program on the server that’s hosting the website you just visited. That program waits silently in the background until a visitor starts typing in information and then it will activate and start capturing that data and then send it back to the hacker. This scary stuff is very real and no longer something that just happens in the movies. 

But wait! Have no fear, SSL is here! Maybe that’s a little over-the-top, but an SSL really can save the day. When you visit a website that’s encrypted with an SSL, your browser forms a direct connection with the webserver. This binding connection is secure and ensures that no one besides you and the website you’re submitting information to can see or obtain what you’re typing in.

This connection happens instantaneously when you visit a website with an SSL certificate, ‘voila!’ your connection will automatically be secured and your information remains discrete and safe. 

How can you get an SSL certificate for your website?

Getting an SSL might be easier than you think, but deciding what kind of certification you’ll need is the first thing you’ll want to determine. If you’re hosting content on multiple platforms (on separate domains/subdomains) it might mean you’ll need a different kind of  SSL certificate. In most cases though, a standard SSL certificate will cover all of your content. If your company is in a regulated industry like insurance or financing, you might want to do a little more research on what requirements the industry has to make sure your SSL meets or exceeds those standards. 

The cost of SSL certificates can vary, but the most common way to get an SSL on your site is to check if your current website hosting provider offers any SSL certificates, and more and more companies have started to release free SSL certificates. If you’re needing a custom certificate because of the delicate information your site is collecting you can pay month-to-month or even yearly from a site like this one. 

When signing up for an SSL it’s important to check how long the certificate will be valid. Most standard SSL certificates that you purchase are available for one to two years by default, and you’ll need to make sure to update that when the time comes to ensure the safety of your site. 

Is SSL good for SEO?

The short answer is “Yes!”. Of course, the primary purpose of SSL is securing information between the visitor and site, but there are SEO benefits as well. SSL certification is part of Google’s search ranking algorithm, meaning if your site has an SSL but your competitor doesn’t, Google will automatically give your site a boost in ranking, and that’s a good thing. Although that boost might not be substantial, having an SSL will absolutely give you an advantage over your competitor’s less-secure sites. 

Boiling it all down, the benefits of applying an SSL certificate for your business or personal websites are nothing short of amazing, and thanks to the ever-growing interest in secure data web hosting providers have made installing them very simple and quick. More and more users are aware of this HTTPS Revolution and are checking a site’s security before giving any information. Don’t lose the trust of potential clients by not taking this easy step to protect them and yourself from the hackers of the world.