If you spend any time online, you will have heard people talking about SSL certificates.
The most common questions I get asked are:
- What is an SSL certificate?
- Do I need one?
- How do I get an SSL Certificate?
Read on to discover the answers!
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What is an SSL certificate?
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. When a certificate is installed on your website it authenticates your site and creates a secure connection between the web browser and the web server, meaning that any sensitive data – such as payment details – which visitors share on your site, is safe.
Once you have an SSL certificate, you will see a little padlock to the left of your web address in the browser window and your web address will start with ‘https’ instead of ‘http.
Do I need an SSL Certificate?
Strictly speaking, SSL certificates are there to ensure sensitive data like payment information and passwords are not intercepted by the baddies! So, if you take payments or require passwords to access any area of your site, then yes you do need an SSL certificate.
I don’t take payments or passwords – do I need one?
Well, yes I would say you do; here’s why:
- As of October 2017 Google has been marking as ‘unsecure’ any site which requires text to be input into a form, even if that text is not a password or payment information.
- In 2014 Google announced that they would be using https as a ranking signal, meaning that if you do have a SSL certificate it will contribute in a positive way to your SEO (search engine rankings).
- Some Internet Service Providers and other firewall software blocks unsecure sites as standard, meaning potential visitors cannot access your site or have to acknowledge that it is not secure before accessing it.
To summarise, having an SSL certificate on your site will build trust with your visitors, could help improve your SEO and will prevent firewalls and some ISPs from blocking your site.
How do I get an SSL Certificate?
Talk to your hosting company.
Some (like Siteground who I always recommend to clients) provides a one-click SSL installation service for free; other hosts offer a very reasonable add-on service (for perhaps £10 a year) and some will provide it but want to charge you a lot of money (£100+ a year).
You can pay an external provider to create an SSL certificate for you but there is also a company called Let’s Encrypt, which is leading the way in providing free certificates via your host. Click here and scroll to the section called ‘Without Shell Access’ to find out more about whether you host supports the Let’s Encrypt service.
To summarise: It’s really all down to your hosting company and they should be your first port of call. Of course, you can change hosts and that is totally do-able and potentially cheaper than paying for an expensive SSL certificate. If you feel that may be your only option, feel free to contact me for some advice.