What is an SSL Certificate and Why Do I Need One?

The what, why and how of website SSL certificates.

SSL Certificates | Do I Need One?

There’s a growing trend among websites. It’s not flashy graphics or live chat agents. It’s not promotional videos or a new social media platform. It’s just a tiny, green padlock in the address bar of your web browser — and it’s becoming one of the most integral parts of any website, no matter the size.

This small green padlock indicates that a website has an SSL certificate. But what is an SSL certificate, and does your site really need one?

SSL Certificates Explained

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. SSL encrypts sensitive data between a browser and a server so that malicious parties — i.e., hackers — can’t steal it. In simpler terms, it keeps your website safe and protects your site visitors’ personal information such as credit card numbers, email addresses, usernames, and passwords.

An SSL certificate shows your website is protected and transmits information securely.

While the technical details go beyond what we’ve explained here, the bottom line is that SSL keeps data secure, and an SSL certificate indicates that your website has been verified as secure for your visitors.

How Do I Know if I Have an SSL Certificate?

A website with an SSL certificate has two identifying markers:

  1. A green padlock next to the URL.
  2. An added “s” in the URL, displayed as HTTPS rather than HTTP. 

SSL Good for SEO and Security

For many years, few websites had them. Over time, online retailers began to recognize the need to secure customers’ personal and financial data. Today, with automated hacking and the increased exchange of sensitive information online, it’s crucial for any online business — retailer or not — to have a secured site.

Why Do I Need an SSL Certificate?

SSL certificates pose an added cost for website owners. Depending on how many sites you own and the nature of your website, the price tag can range widely from free (included with your web hosting) to upwards of $350 a year for multiple sites and subdomains. All websites hosted by Integritive are protected with an SSL certificate.

Despite the cost, there are four important reasons your site needs an SSL certificate:

  • Search result rankings (SEO). This one is a big deal for businesses and should be your #1 motivation to implement an SSL certificate. Google places such high value on website security that it has been giving preferential ranking to websites with an SSL certificate since as early as 2014. With the ever-changing nature of SEO and results rankings (not to mention the impending need to optimize for voice search), it’s critical that your site is poised for search-ranking success. An SSL certificate is a must-have.
  • Customer confidence. Browsers have started identifying unsecured sites with a red, unlocked padlock. If Google thinks your site should be secure and it isn’t, the visitor will be met with a red screen alerting them that your site may not be safe and encourages them to “Go back to safety” by clicking away from your site. This is alarming to potential customers; who wants to visit an unsafe website?
  • Protection against hacking. Only big websites get hacked, right? This is a common misconception. Yes, there are hackers who purposely target large websites. However, many hacking instances are executed by bots, not humans, meaning any size website can be compromised.
  • Data security. Does your website have a newsletter sign-up form? Do you require users to register with an email address and password? Do you sell merchandise, take payments via credit card or offer online scheduling? Then you need an SSL certificate.

How Do I Get an SSL Certificate?

The best way to ensure you have a secured site is to purchase an SSL certificate from your web host. When you purchase a hosting package, be sure to research the availability and price of a certificate. You’ll need to renew it yearly.

With Integritive’s web hosting, we not only secure your site with an SSL certificate, but we also provide daily on-site backups, monthly backups to a remote server and 24/7 site uptime and customer support. We can host any website, whether we designed and built it or not.

If you still have questions about SSL certificates or are ready to get that little green padlock on your website, contact us.