Websites can be a tricky thing. There’s a lot more that goes into them besides a great design and user functionality. The ‘backend’ or technical side of your website has hoops to jump through and ways to make your website perform better. One topic that often surfaces during website work are SSL certificates. What are they, how do they work, why do I need one … the list can go on and on.
I sat down and broke down the five most frequently asked questions about SSL certificates to help provide more education and understanding around the topic. Technical aspects of a website can be a bit confusing, but we tried to break it down in a way that’s a bit easier to understand.
1. What is an SSL?
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. According to ssl.com, this “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 browsers remain private.” In other words, an SSL make your website safe for you, your visitors, and the information stored there. Without an SSL the information exchanged or shared on your website is susceptible to hackers and internet bots. Think of it as your website's personal bodyguard.
If you’re not sure how to tell if your website - or one that you’re visiting - has an SSL, just look at the website address. If it says “https” you’re good to go; if it says “http” there’s no SSL. That little “s” stands for secure and is the golden ticket to a safe digital experience.
2. Why do I Need an SSL Certificate?
Sometimes when I think of how the internet works, I picture the scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, where Willy Wonka is explaining “Wonka-vision”...
But what did Starbucks do right? They were consistent. When Starbucks updates its branding - they don’t just change the cups and leave the website and social media pages outdated. They take their branding and visual elements and the consistency of them and weave them into every aspect of their business.
Information is sent from one computer to another, one server to another… it’s a little intangible, right? The internet feels that way, too. But the good news is, SSLs can help.
When you fill out forms or visits a website, you’re exchanging information from your computer and server, with another. Adding an SSL certificate is one way that the internet is made a bit safer with our information. Think of the online information you might share - your first and last name, email address, phone number, mailing address, even your password or credit card information - you want to know that it is in good hands and isn’t available to just anyone. When there is an SSL certificate, your information is secured in a way that makes it unreadable to anyone outside who it’s intended for.
According to ClickSSL, the main benefits of having an SSL certificate include:
3. Is it OK to have a Website Without an SSL?
You’re not breaking any laws if you don’t have an SSL certificate. Well, that’s half true. If you take credit card payments or information over your website, then it is required by the Payment Card Industry (PCI)
An SSL provides a layer of authentication and trust to your visitors. Many internet browsers will warn users when a site they’re visiting does not have proper security functionality. And it matters; research found that up to 85% of internet users will leave a website and discontinue browsing if they see the site is not secure.
Aside from the added layer of trust, not having an SSL can also impact where you show up in Google’s search ranking. According to Google Webmaster Trends analyst Zineb Ait Bahajji, a site with an SSL will outperform one without. Google publicly shared that between two otherwise equal websites, the one with an enabled SSL certificate will have a slightly boosted rank and will outperform the one without the SSL.
4. How Much does an SSL Certificate Cost?
An SSL Certificate typically ranges between $50 and $200. Most certificates are good for one to two years after they’re purchased and installed, but there are longer term options and advanced certificates, depending on what you’re looking for.
Although there are some certificates that are less expensive, making sure you have the type of SSL certificate you need for the information you gather and functionality of your website is key. If you’re not sure what type of SSL certificate you have or should have, ask your website partner or IT staff.
5. Does an SSL Cover All Website Security Issues?
SSL's are an important part of web security, but not a catch-all. Just because your site has an SSL does not mean it is 100% secure! SSL's only secure information that is in transit. Once your SSL certificate is installed on your site, you will likely need to invest a bit more time and resources into keeping your website safe and secure through routine updates, security checks, and more. If you have questions about the security or technical aspects of your website, we’re happy to help.