What is an SSL Certificate and Why is it Essential for Your Website?

Oct 14, 2019 - Ryan Black

SSL certificates have been around since the mid-90s. Since then, they’ve been seen as “nice to have,” but not necessary for most websites. However, for the past year, Google has explicitly punished websites for not having active security certificates. This has likely caused a major impact on your business website or blog. Luckily, SSL certificates aren’t difficult to add to your already existing site.

A What Certificate?

Wait a minute, what the heck is an SSL certificate anyway?

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. It is the underlying technology that powers the SSL certificate. What the technology does is force websites to confirm their true identities. Once confirmed, the certificate allows users to make secure and encrypted connections to your website.

We can simplify that.

An SSL certificate ensures websites are who they say they are, so that customers are safe while interacting with them.

What Does it Do?

SSL certificates don’t just make website visitors feel safe. The security certificates actually protect users.

Encrypts Sensitive Information

Did you know the information you send via the internet travels through multiple computers and systems before arriving to the intended recipient? Along the way, there are multiple opportunities for your information to be revealed to hackers and other unsavory actors.

An SSL certificate encrypts the data you send online, meaning that no one, other than the secured website you are interacting with, will be able to see any of the information. Even if it is intercepted by hackers, they will not have the encryption key needed to access the information. So, your information remains safe and secure.

Adds the Secure Padlock Next to Your URL

When someone visits a website and it has an SSL certificate, they will see a padlock icon next to the URL. Additionally, the URL will say “https://” instead of “http://” at the beginning.

SSL https padlock

This padlock informs users that your site is encrypted and safe to use. More importantly, if you do not have a padlock, users are likely to see warning messages alerting them that your site status is “not secure”.

In Google Chrome, that message looks like this:

No SSL certificate Chrome

And in Safari, it looks like this:

No SSL certificate Safari

Scary messages like these are huge red flags to Internet users and will do severe harm to your website traffic.

Allows Your Website to Accept Credit Card Payments

If the giant warning messages weren’t enough to turn away potential customers, not being able to use their credit cards will stop them in their tracks. Without a properly installed SSL certificate, websites that rely on revenue from online sales are out of luck. Luckily, the cheapest SSL certificates can be purchased for less than $10.

While some SSL certificates are free, we recommend purchasing a basic Domain Validated SSL certificate for small business websites and blogs or an Organization Validated SSL certificate for e-commerce sites.

More expensive options, ranging from the hundreds to even thousands of dollars, also exist. However, SSL certificates in that price range are designed for banks and other financial institutions.

Why is it So Important?

There are many reasons why an SSL certificate should be a high-level priority for your website. Not only does the added security allow for online transactions, safe information sharing, and a better user experience, it can also help your site’s traffic increase.

SSL Affects SEO and Increases Organic Traffic

While plenty of web traffic may come to a site from marketing emails or from posts on social media, a huge number of people will discover your content by using a search engine like Google. This type of website traffic is called organic traffic.

Google uses algorithms to determine which websites show up for what searches. Creating content that adheres to the desires of Google’s algorithms is called Search Engine Optimization, commonly referred to as SEO. Having an SSL certificate is one of the factors Google uses to positively impact a site’s SEO. That means that an SSL certificate will lead to your website pages ranking higher in the results of search queries.

Users Bounce from Unsecure Sites

Another major factor that affects SEO and a site’s ranking in Google search results is “time on site” which is determined by how long average users stay on your site. This is a major ranking factor for Google searches. And, that’s bad news for unsecured web pages. A site without an SSL certificate will see the majority of users click away immediately due to warning messages, causing the “time on site” score to negatively impact your site’s ranking in Google searches.

If users do decide to stick around, they are unlikely to visit other pages, which affects another major ranking factor called “bounce rate.” The bounce rate factor is determined by how many users view only one page on your site before exiting the site.

Lacking an SSL certificate will severely hamper both of these ranking factors which has a major impact on organic website traffic.

Fix it Now, We Can Help

An SSL certificate is hardly an option for websites in 2019. It is a must-have for any business, blog, or organization’s site. A properly installed SSL certificate will lead to more online sales, more user trust, and a drastically lower chance of having your users’ information hacked or spied on by malicious third parties. Not only that, but an SSL certificate will actually increase your site’s visibility and performance on Google.

Does your business need a secure website? We can help. Send me an email anytime at Rblack@weTellYourStory.com to get the conversation started today.