SSL certificates explained

Secure websites: What you need to know

Website security is becoming increasingly important as the presence and abilities of hackers grow globally. Every business needs to be protecting their customers’ personal information as well as their own. Looking from both a business and personal standpoint, it’s imperative to be able to spot if you’re using a secure website.

But how can you tell if a website is secure? It’s all down to the difference in one letter in a website’s URL. The first section of a URL will either start with http:// or with https://. The additional ‘s’ in the second example signifies that the website is secure and encrypted.

What we mean by a secure website is that it’s safe from hackers trying to steal your personal information including your name, location, credit card details, and more. Any information you offer to a secure website will only be shared between yourself and the website - no third parties can weasel their way in to hijack your information. This is important for every website to protect its users/customers and to maintain customer trust.

What is an SSL certificate?

What is a secure website?

SSL stands for ‘Secure Socket Layer’. The little ‘s’ we discussed earlier is powered by SSL technology and it’s the most noticeable difference between a secured website and an unsecured website. As a website user, you always want to see https:// on every website you visit. However, there’s a little more to it than the additional ‘s’ in a website’s URL. 

To generate the ‘s’, you’ll need an SSL certificate. This is a small data file that creates an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link protects all data passed between a web server and a browser so that it remains confidential and no one else is able to access the activity on the site, including what is typed. This connection happens automatically and immediately, which is why it’s often not noticed by web users.

Another simple way to identify whether or not a website has an SSL certificate is to check if there’s a padlock symbol to the left of the URL. Have a quick glance up to our URL now to see what this looks like.

Do I need an SSL certificate?

In short, yes

If you have an e-commerce store or require users to log in to an account on your website, then you need to get an SSL certificate. In fact, most online payment services require your website to have an SSL certificate before you can receive payments.

However, every business should have an SSL certificate for information protection. In particular, an SSL certificate is vital in relation to lead capture forms. For example, think about a website visitor filling out your contact us form - they’re required to include their name, phone number, and email address. Without an SSL certificate, a hacker can access and exploit this personal information, but with an SSL certificate, this information is kept safely between your website and the lead. 

If you don’t have a secure website and your leads start noticing their information is being shared without permission, it will negatively impact your business’ reputation. Word will spread that your company’s information is not secure and you will start to notice a drop in leads which directly correlates to the lack of website security.

Another reason why businesses need to have an SSL certificate is so website visitors aren’t shown a warning message before visiting the site. Without an SSL certificate, this can happen and visitors may be deterred from viewing your website. If you can’t get visitors to your website they can’t convert and you could be missing out on significant sales leads.

How can I get an SSL certificate?

Before pursuing an SSL certificate for your website, you’ll need to understand which type of SSL certificate you require. However, for the majority of websites, a standard SSL certificate will do the trick. After that, there are various options to encrypt your website (both paid and unpaid).

Starting with free options, Let’s Encrypt can provide you with a certificate. However, it’s important that you have someone highly knowledgeable about the technical setup of your website before using a service like this. It’s also important to note that these certificates generally expire after 90 days, meaning that you’ll have to keep on top of maintaining their validity. When considering paid options, most of these certificates are valid for one to two years. Although, if you need an option that lasts for longer, you’ll need to investigate more advanced certification options.

When you have a great content marketing strategy in play the last thing you need is for someone to hesitate before filling in your form because your website isn't secure. If your website is hosted on platforms like HubSpot then the good news is that HubSpot automatically provisions a standard SSL certificate when you connect your domain.

How an SSL certificate affects SEO

There are numerous benefits to having an SSL certificate, one major one being that it helps with your search engine optimisation (SEO). Google Webmaster Trends Analysts have indicated that SSL contributes to Google’s search ranking algorithm.

In Google’s eyes, a website with SSL enabled is the safer and therefore more suitable website to show to website users. For this reason, websites with an SSL certificate may be favoured and receive a higher ranking than a website that isn’t encrypted.

An SSL certificate is necessary in today’s digital landscape for both privacy protection, and to ensure your website continues to attract visitors. Alongside this, an SSL certificate will help your SEO efforts, but it’s not a magical fix. There are various external and internal factors that contribute to your search ranking. To learn how to increase your search ranking through means other than obtaining an SSL certificate, click on the button below.

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