If you have a website that conducts any type of business or accepts payments for any reason, an SSL certificate is something you should have. This is important for security reasons and it also helps you build trust with your website visitors and customers. There is now another big reason to obtain an SSL certificate – it can help you rank better in the search engines! This is something that Google itself has announced!
Let’s look at the leading benefits of SSL certificates and how they can help make your site more secure, and even help with your SEO efforts.
What is the purpose of an SSL Certificate?
Protect sensitive information
In a nutshell, SSL certificates are used to encrypt information sent around the internet. They are used to protect sensitive information such as passwords, financial data, social security numbers and other personal information that could be seized by hackers or identity thieves. Without this protection, simple actions like typing in passwords or using credit cards to pay for items can be vulnerable to attacks.
Nowadays, security is a major concern for websites of all sizes. Even the smallest websites, including many WordPress blogs are hacked on a daily basis. Not only that, but you actually need an SSL certificate to be able to accept credit card payments. This is known as PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance, which sets up a number of requirements that online businesses must conform to in order to accept credit cards.
Aside from encrypting sensitive data, SSL certificates also provide authentication to ensure that information being sent is received by the right party. This is essential because hackers commonly intercept communications and pretend to be someone else. To guard against this, you need something called a PKI (Public Key Infrastructure), which is usually provided along with an SSL certificate.
Do you need an SSL Certificate?
Does your website need an SSL certificate?
The simple answer is that if you process credit cards on your website, you do need one. Strictly speaking, if you accept payments only through third-party processors (PayPal, 2Checkout, Authorize.Net, Alipay, etc) you don’t need one. If you process payments through PayPal, for example, PayPal provides the security for transactions. In this case, however, you must be careful to forward visitors directly to PayPal (or whichever processor is being used) so that credit card information never appears on your own site.
SSL certificates build trust
The primary reason to have an SSL certificate is to safeguard information. Having your website hacked or having your customers’ data stolen can be disastrous for your business. However, another reason to have an SSL certificate is that it helps to build trust and establishes you as a professional.
When you have a valid SSL certificate on your site, there will be a visible icon for this, usually in the form of a lock icon or green bar. This is known as an SSL trust seal. Savvy online shoppers are very familiar with these symbols and look for them when thinking of making purchases online. In fact, many online shoppers will not want to purchase anything from a website that doesn’t have an SSL trust seal.
SSL Certificates and SEO
As if the above reasons were not enough to motivate you to get an SSL certificate, this is something you should also do for better search engine rankings. In August, 2014, Google announced that SSL-secured websites would receive a ranking boost.
What’s great about this is that you can improve your site’s ranking very easily this way. While SSL certificates do require a financial investment, they are something your site should have anyway. Overall, this is one of the simplest ways to boost your search engine rankings, as it doesn’t require any complicated strategies like backlinking.
For more about how Google now uses SSL certificates in its ranking algorithm, see on blog.digicert.com.
Types of SSL Certificates
Once you decide to secure your website with an SSL certificate, the next question becomes: What kind? There are many different kinds, and you have to figure out which one is right for you. Let’s look at a few of the more common types.
This is the standard level SSL certificate that is used to secure domain names. It is produced by one of the best known certification authorities, Comodo. These SSL certificates are trusted by 99.9% of internet users and are reasonably priced. You can get positive SSL certificates starting at $49 per year.
Positive Wildcard SSL
The advantage of this type of SSL certificate is that it allows you to secure multiple sub-domains with a single certificate. This makes it a good choice if you have multiple niche websites under one main domain name. These start at $149 per year.
Organization validated SSL Certificates
These validate not only domain ownership, but also company information. In order to obtain this type of SSL certificate, businesses must provide documentation to verify the identity of their company. These are mainly used by larger businesses who want to reassure customers that they are legitimate companies. These are costlier, with the average cost being around $350 per year.
If you have any type of e-commerce site that collects information, you should have an SSL certificate.
In general, if you plan to build a business online that is going to be widely trusted by customers, you are better off having one. This will make your site more secure and will reassure visitors that they can safely shop there. As we have seen, it is also a way to improve your search engine rankings. The relatively small cost of an SSL certificate is a worthwhile investment in your website and business.