Do I need an SSL certificate?

It seems that suddenly everyone is talking about SSL certificates like it’s the new bandwagon that everyone is jumping on. A few years ago an SSL certificate wasn’t high on the priority list of a small business with their own website. The times have changed and we have seen a steady shift in not only the number of sites getting SSL certificates, but also the attitude we have towards SSL certificates.

What is an SSL certificate?

Well if you still haven’t heard, SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. It provides an encryption key to make your website able to use the encrypted HTTPS protocol. HTTPS is a type of security technology that protects any data sent to or from your site from being read or modified by any computer along the way through encryption of the data being sent.

I won’t go into any details about how this works because the real question on website owner’s minds is: Why do I need one?

So let’s get right into the why.

Because Google Says So!

Well not in those words exactly. But google are actively encouraging websites to switch to HTTPS.

In 2017 they announced that they will flag all websites not using the HTTPS protocol as unsafe. This was given a deadline of early July 2018 and will mean that the address bar will display “Not Secure” in front of the web address if the site isn’t using HTTPS. With Chrome being the most popular web browser now, this has a good chance of scaring off your potential customers.

On top of that Google does seem to slightly favour HTTPS websites over HTTP websites. In 2015 Google stated that if 2 sites are equal on other factors for SEO, HTTPS can server as a tie breaker and put the secure site above the non-secure one in the rankings. There have also been studies on there being a moderate correlation between HTTPS sights and higher search rankings in Google to confirm this.

As a general rule of thumb it is always good to follow Google’s advice because even if they aren’t rewarding it a lot today, doesn’t mean that they won’t tomorrow.

E-commerce Sites

For E-commerce sites HTTPS is really a no brainer. Protecting the credit card info of your customers is pretty much the most important thing your website needs to do. You’re also protecting their contact details, their address and any login setup that you have on your website. An absolute must.

Web Forms

This is one people tend to forget about when making their decision. If you’re collecting any info on your website, like for instance an email address for a contact form, then an SSL certificate is required to keep that information from being stolen.

The Man in the Middle

Now we are talking about data going in the other direction. An unsecure site can have it’s data intercepted and modified before sending it off to the customer on your site i.e. A “the man in the middle” attack. This could mean that your site could become part of a phishing or identify theft scam. Hurting your reputation with your customers as well as google. Using https stops this attack in it’s tracks.

It’s a Matter of Trust

All browsers favour https by displaying secure websites to show the user that they can trust this site. Here is how chrome displays a secure website:

Secure logo in Chrome

This helps your customers have confidence in your website and also establishes reputation in their eyes. There are plenty of non tech savvy people out there that don’t trust the big bad internet and the green bar or lock certainly helps win them over.

For Your Own Security

Don’t think you have any forms? So how do you log into your website? Most CMS platforms have other forms of security to stop your site from being hacked but having an SSL certificate gives you peace of mind.

Why Not?

With so many web hosts offering free SSL certificates with their packages now, why wouldn’t you make the upgrade to HTTPS? If yours doesn’t then shop around. For less than $10, you can have your website protected from attacks, protect your customers data & increase your rankings in google. What have you got to lose?

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Michael is our head developer. He writes about different ways to maximize the performance of your website as well as it's rankings with Google.


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