You may have heard your business needs an SSL certificate and it slipped right by you. Someone always seems to be claiming you have to do such-and-such right now, or something bad will happen. You’ll lose all your customers to competitors. In the blink of an eye, your business growth will vaporize into thin air. You’ll miss the success train and face certain doom.
It’s hard to untangle what’s real from what’s not. When you’re talking about digital marketing and web design, that’s partly because of the alphabet soup.
Maybe you’ve been doing just fine without PPC, SEO, GMB or GDPR compliance. So when we say SSL certification is of critical importance, it’s normal to wonder just how critical. What is an SSL certificate and why does your website need one so badly all of the sudden? How long can you go without one and what are the risks? Where do you even get it? What’s it going to do to your website the way it is now?
We’re here for you. At Spade Design, our articles are based on extensive research and hard data. The whole point of this article is to provide you with the information you need to decide what’s right for your website. We’ll go ahead and tell you right up front, we do believe SSL certification is critical for most business websites.
*On a side note, if you do want to know what those acronyms mean, check out our Essential SEO Jargon Glossary.
What is SSL Certification?
SSL.com gives us this definition: SSL is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browser remain private.
That might help a little, but let’s break it down in more detail. You’ve probably already noticed when you type in a website’s address, the browser adds either http:// or https:// before their domain name. In our case, if you type in spadedesignlab.com and hit enter, it will automatically take you to https://spadedesignlab.com.
Http is like a set of rules used for all early websites. It’s used to transfer data from a web server to a browser. The problem is, that information is easy to intercept. Https adds an extra layer of security. The “s” stands for “secure.” Your SSL certification is that extra layer.
For example, let’s say you make all-natural pet treats that come in a variety of flavors. Dogs go bonkers for them, so their owners do too. On your website you have a form where customers can subscribe to a mailing list and find out when you offer new dog treat flavors. When they type in their email address, physical address and phone number, that information is vulnerable if you don’t have an SSL certificate.
Your business explodes locally, so you start selling online. Now customers can pay by credit card to have dog treats shipped directly to them. That information, too, is vulnerable. It sounds like science fiction, but hackers can place a hidden listening program in your website. When customers start to enter information, the program captures it and sends it to the hacker.
If hackers intercept that information, they could have your customer’s personal and financial information. If your website uses http, that’s like a big red sign that says “Take me, I’m easy!”
How Does an SSL Certificate Work?
SSL certification results in encrypted data. Before, when data went back and forth it was basically out in the open where anyone could intercept it. Now, before it goes anywhere it’s translated into code. Even if hackers intercept it, they can’t open, decode, read or use it.
Do I Need SSL Certification For My Website?
If you receive any kind of customer information through your website, you need SSL certification for these reasons:
- SSL certification shields data – When your customers give you their information, they’re showing trust. It’s a betrayal of that trust to allow that information to be intercepted. The people trying to intercept it are doing so with the intent of using it to harm or steal from your customers. Whether it’s an email address, phone number or credit card, you owe it to your customers to protect them.
- Improve customer trust – Google changed things up recently with Chrome 68. The main goal of the release was to improve internet security. It matters to your business because of how Chrome now displays website addresses. If you have an SSL certification, next to your URL visitors see a lock icon to indicate it’s secure. If not, they see a message that says “Not secure.” Customers are much less likely to enter information on websites that are not secure.
- Increase conversions – If customers trust you, they’re more likely to buy from you. If your site isn’t secure, no way are they putting in their credit card info.
If your website doesn’t have any kind of contact form, record any type of data or allow customers to make payments, you be asking if you still need SSL certification.
First of all, why doesn’t your website have a way for customers to contact you online? If it doesn’t, it should, or you’re missing out on business. Second, how do you believe it impacts your business when visitors see your site is “Not secure.” The implication is your business doesn’t care enough or isn’t successful enough to afford to prioritize visitor security.
What Does an SSL Certificate Cost?
It varies depending on where you get it. Some companies offer SSL certification free when you use their services. Read the fine print if you get a free certificate. Some of them require a lot of background knowledge to set up. Others expire every 90 days.
Even if there’s a charge, it’s usually less than $100 for a single domain or a few hundred dollars for multiple. Either way, the benefits far outweigh the costs.
SSL and SEO
SEO means search engine optimization. When people search for the products and services your business offers, search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo give them a list of possible matches for their search.
Google has more than 200 ranking factors and a complex algorithm it uses to come up with each list. One of the things we’re pretty good at doing here at Spade Design is creating websites and using digital marketing so our client’s sites come up high on that list. It’s a process, and that process is called search engine optimization.
One of those ranking factors is having an SSL certificate. Google said in August of 2014 that websites with an SSL certificate would get a boost. So, if your website and your competitor’s website are similar in terms of information, the user experience and traffic, you might currently be neck in neck for that top spot. If you add SSL certification, it could help your SEO and rankings.
Why does Google care? The world’s most popular search engine is all about the user. Key decision makers believe a safe and secure website provides a better user experience.
SEO Double Whammy
Not only does Google give your website a slight SEO boost for having SSL certification, consumers affect your ranking as well. Think back to the earlier example with the pet treat company.
Let’s say someone looks for “dog treats” online and selects your page to visit. He or she lands on your page and sees the site is not secure. The point of their search is to order tasty snacks for their dog.
They’re not going to waste time on a site that isn’t secure. They immediately navigate away and search for a page that is.
Search engines take note. They suggested your page as relevant for dog treats, but user behavior suggests it’s no good. Your site gets demoted for that search phrase.
When it’s lower down the page, fewer people see it. There’s a domino effect that hurts your traffic, ranking and sales.
How to Get an SSL Certificate
There are different types of SSL certification, so the first step is to identify which type you need. If you have more than one domain or your company is in a regulated industry, you may need a specific type of SSL certificate.
If you have a web hosting plan with someone like GoDaddy or Bluehost, they probably offer SSL certification. Once you’ve reviewed the options to find out what you need, add it to your service and ask them to handle installation.
When you work with Spade Design, we can take care of that for you. Every aspect of the sites we design builds user trust, increases conversions, boosts search engine ranking and is completely secure.
Find out how your website measures up with our instant website score. Just put in your URL and we’ll email you the results. Plus, you can enter a competitor’s page if you want to see how it measures against your own. Get your instant website score here.