So you don’t have an SSL certificate? No, wait. You don’t even know what that is, much less why you need it?
Today we’ll explain why you must have an SSL certificate yesterday to have a successful website whether it’s for your romance novels, your dog grooming business, or your recipe blog.
A Little History
It all starts with Google.
Google is the leading search engine on the internet and it receives an estimated 5.6 billion searches per day and its search volume grows by 10% each year.
There are an estimated 7.26 billion smartphone users in the world in 2021 and over half of all search engine queries are executed using smartphones.
More than half of all search queries are executed using Google. The second largest search engine is actually YouTube and it’s owned by Google.
Looking at these statistics, it’s pretty easy to see that Google is vital to the success of any website or blog. Most people use Google to search for everything under the sun and if you want that wide potential audience to find you, you need to be visible in Google and easy to find. There are ways to accomplish this, most of which fall under search engine optimization (SEO).
One of these SEO steps is securing your website with an SSL certificate (more about what that is later). Up until recently, most people only secured their sites with an SSL to protect transactions on their sites if they were merchants or used a credit card gateway. They were also a bit pricey in the past with the average cost being $100 per year per site.
With the release of Chrome version 68, Google began flagging all websites not using SSL and asking for data input as “Not Secure.”
In the above example, the website is not secured using SSL. The message “Not Secure” shows in the address bar before the URL of the website you’re visiting appears. Google also rewards websites secured using SSL with better rankings than their unsecured peers.
Looking at the address bar above, you’ll see that a padlock is displayed and that’s meant to signify that the website is secured using SSL encryption. You’ll notice that the “Not Secure” wording doesn’t appear.
While the aggressive measure took many off guard, Google has actually been pushing its agenda for a secure internet for some time.
So we know Google is super important if we want to get our websites and our romance novels in front of the worldwide internet audience. That means we have to abide by Google’s rules in order to make our websites more visible within the search engine. Besides, displaying that padlock would establish in the minds of your visitors that you are professional and your website will protect their information.
All of that means, we need to use SSL encryption on our websites. What exactly is SSL?
What is SSL?
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is standard encryption technology used to establish a secure link between a web server and a browser. The link ensures that any and all data passed between the web server and browsers remain private and protected. A secure connection can’t be established without an SSL certificate.
Each SSL certificate contains the name of the holder, a serial number, expiration date, and a copy of the public key of the certificate holder. It will also have the digital signature of the certificate’s issuing authority.
How Does Having an SSL Certificate Benefit My Website?
Having an SSL certificate will benefit you in several ways:
“Not Secure” Warning Goes Away
If your website currently has any fields for user input, contact forms or newsletter signups, if you don’t have SSL, chances are that Google has already flagged your website as “Not Secure.” Visitors to your website will feel safer if your website is secured with an SSL certificate and many people these days won’t interact at all with sites that are not secure.
Protection of Sensitive Information
Any information transmitted on the internet is passed from one computer to another until it reaches its final destination. Any computer in such a path between you and the destination server can see any information you entered including your username, password, credit card information, and more if it’s not encrypted. When SSL is used, the information is not readable to anyone except for the destination server.
Protection From Cybercriminals
Online thieves are alive and well. It’s estimated that they do trillions of dollars worth of damage each year. If your website isn’t encrypted using SSL, it’s wide open for attack by cybercriminals.
Now many think that’s not a problem if you’re not selling anything or accepting payments. You only have a contact form or newsletter signup. What can they really steal from that? Since the EU implemented GDPR in May 2018, yes, you should be concerned. As a website owner, you’re responsible for any user information you collect on the site, how it’s used, and how it is stored. If someone’s data is compromised on your website and it wasn’t protected, there could be potential legal consequences. Why take the risk?
Besides, having an encrypted website protects it and all of your hard work and protects your own information.
Seeing that padlock shows your visitors that you care enough about them to protect their information even if it is only newsletter signup or contact form. With so much cybercrime on the web today, many people see the “Not Secure” statement on Chrome and instantly navigate away. How much potential business are you losing as a result? Establish trust and grow your audience by using SSL encryption.
How To Set Up SSL for Your Website
Setting up an SSL for your website is going to depend on a lot of factors. Is your site straight HTML or does it use a content management system (CMS) like Drupal or WordPress? Where is your website hosted and how do they handle SSL? What types of SSL certificates are available? What are the costs?
The answer is going to be pretty much different for everyone. Some hosting companies like DreamHost allow you to set up free SSL certificates using Let’s Encrypt while others require paying for certificates at other vendors. The best place to start will likely be with your hosting company. Contact them to see what the process would be for your individual website, what any potential costs would be, and ask if help is available for setup if you need it. While from the outside it may seem like a complicated process, it’s usually really quite simple.
The end results are having a website that users feel confident in visiting and using and you’ll improve your visibility in Google to grow your online audience and help you achieve your goals.