What is SSL?
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. It is a security protocol for websites that handle sensitive information — for example, personal information, bank accounts or credit card numbers.
Online data security is an ever-growing problem.
So, in order to avoid issues with sensitive data, websites often use SSL certificates.
However, apart from protecting the data, these also boost the website’s ranking on Google because the search engine considers websites with SSL certificates as trustworthy.
As a result, they even help businesses to establish their online reputation and increase their site’s conversion rate.
Depending on the nature of our business, an SSL certificate might be a prerequisite for thriving in the virtual world today.
Thus, in the following lines, we will answer some important questions and offer support to those who are trying to build a reliable online presence.
How to know if a website has an SSL certificate
By following a few simple steps, anyone should be able to recognize if a website uses SSL protection.
First, we should type the URL of the website in the browser.
Next, we should look at the address bar to check if the URL starts with HTTPS:// or if there is a visible padlock.
In case we notice all of these, it means that an SSL certificate is in place.
Why are SSL certificates important?
SSL certificates are important for websites that deal with sensitive data.
All the data we send goes from computer to computer until it gets to its destination.
SSL certificates mostly help during this transfer by keeping the data encrypted.
As a result, only its final recipients can access it.
Again, these certificates also affect Google rankings.
Thus, if our website uses SSL, it will appear higher in SERPs, which helps us improve our website’s visibility.
It lets them add an additional layer of trust by displaying the company’s name in the green address bar.
The website’s visitors will be more likely to trust the website once they see the company’s information.
This, in turn, will make them browse the site longer or buy something.
Does anyone actually need an SSL certificate?
Whether our website needs an SSL certificate is a somewhat tricky question to answer.
So, let’s go through the main reasons people might purchase a certificate:
- If we’re selling products online, we will probably need a reliable SSL certificate. If we’re also accepting credit cards to enable our customers to pay online, we will need it to protect sensitive data. However, if we’re using third-party providers such as PayPal at checkout, we don’t usually need SSL protection on our whole website.
- If we’re offering memberships and subscriptions to our customers, we will most likely need SSL protection too. Why? Once again, we install SSL certificates because they keep sensitive data safe. This, in turn, helps us to avoid potential personal data breaches.
- If we’re collecting any type of information from our customers via forms, we will again have to consider SSL. We’re still dealing with people’s data, so we should ensure that it’s all well protected.
- If we’re simply blogging online, we might not need SSL at all. However, it is up to us as bloggers to decide if we will use it. It depends on whether our blog collects any kind of sensitive information from visitors. Also, we have to consider where it is hosted and what we are planning to do with it in the future.
Types of SSL certificates
Before buying an SSL certificate, it’s essential that we get a brief overview of the different types of certificates available.
Generally speaking, there are three types of SSL certificates that individuals and businesses can opt for:
- Domain Validated – DV
- Organization Validated – OV
- Extended Validation – EV
Domain Validated certificates are the fastest for us to obtain and an affordable alternative that is suitable for small online businesses.
In addition, although SSL certificates are not that popular among bloggers, they can help our blog in many ways, too.
If we want to increase our blog’s search and conversion rates, we should consider purchasing a DV SSL certificate.
Organization Validated certificates are a bit more complicated to get.
They require an extensive check of government databases in order to verify that our company’s data is valid.
However, they will provide us with the highest level of security regardless of the size of our business.
With that said, it’s obvious that their cost is considerably higher, too.
Extended Validation certificates are the best choice for big corporations or government entities.
Although they tend to be pricier, depending on the nature of our business, they might turn out to be the best solution for us too.
Similarly to OV certificates, these also require verification of the data provided by the website’s owner.
To sum up, there are three main types of certificates that we can opt for.
Which type is the most suitable for us will depend on the size and nature of our business.
For example, DV SSL certificates are great for smaller organizations.
However, if our company has to process a lot of customers’ information online, OV or EV SSL certificates will suit our needs better.
Pros and cons of free SSL certificates
A lot of companies also offer free or partially free of charge SSL certificates.
If we search for SSL on Google, we will notice there’s a good variety of free options.
What’s more, although most are free for a limited time period — usually three months at most — we can always try to renew them after they expire.
Brands such as Let’s Encrypt, Comodo and Symantec are famous for offering free SSL certificates.
Still, these do have pros and cons we ought to consider:
The biggest benefit of free SSL certificates is that we don’t need to invest a large sum of money in order to get one.
If our business is just a small online startup, or if we are just trying to test a new business idea, free SSL is exactly what we need.
Even though most free SSL certificates are available for a set period of time of up to three months, some companies seem to offer free SSL protection for up to a year.
However, before choosing this option, we should consider the fact that companies sometimes offer free SSL certificates with a plain commercial purpose.
If this is the case, we will have to pay a lot more once we subscribe.
Reliability of the providers
There are many free SSL certificate providers that just aren’t reliable.
So, we should carefully research if our SSL provider is trustworthy enough.
In addition to that, we ought to remember that many of the free certificates secure only one domain and come with the DV option.
Lower conversion rates
Free SSL certificates don’t support the green address bar in all Internet browsers.
In contrast, paid SSL protection allows businesses to display information in the green address bar in any browser.
Since this feature is crucial if we want to increase our conversion rate, a free SSL certificate is a no-go.
Without it, we won’t be able to assure our visitors that our business is reliable.
Technical issues and support
We might encounter some technical issues during the installation process.
Since many non-profit SSL providers are short on resources, they aren’t able to fully support their users.
Technical issues with SSL certificates
When it comes to SSL certificates, there’s always a chance we might run into a few obstacles.
Some of the most common problems that we should be aware of are:
- Problems with the HTTPS format of the URL will sometimes prevent us from sharing on social media. It’s because most of the social plugins, for example, use non-HTTPS for the pop-up boxes that appear on the web.
- We won’t be able to scan all the encrypted content for viruses.
- Web server certificates can be stolen or revoked. Thus, the data that the SSL certificate protects, in some instances, is not protected at all.
- We might encounter issues with other web plugins if we use SSL protection on our whole website.
- Some websites with SSL protection will take a while to load.
Keeping personal data secure is a never-ending battle in the online world today.
Thus, when building or maintaining a website, we should strive to protect the data at all costs.
Installing a reliable SSL certificate on our website will help us avoid data breaches.
In addition, an SSL certificate will allow us to boost our website’s ranking and conversion rate.
So, it’s likely our online reputation and visibility will increase too.
Still, free SSL certificates are popular among those with limited budgets.
In fact, despite all the problems with free SSL protection, our website will still benefit from it.
Alternatively, we can rely on third-party service providers that redirect our visitors to their website.
However, we’d recommend a paid and reliable SSL certificate as data breaches are almost inevitable today.