What are SSL certificates?

The web design industry is becoming more focused on online security thanks to some recent changes from Google. In December 2017, Google Chrome began requiring SSL certificates for secure data entry and customer protection. Companies who have failed to install a certificate are ultimately being penalized in Google search results. It’s not uncommon to see unsecured websites falling flat in their SEO rankings. This is especially damaging for businesses who heavily rely on local SEO traffic.

As a professional website design company, we often get asked what SSL certificates do and why they’re so important. Essentially, SSL certificates have become vital for small businesses. This change in Google’s search algorithm is their way of encouraging internet safety. As a result, customer data encryption is now among the biggest concerns when designing a website. Although SSL certificates are so important, few know when they really do.

What are SSL certificates?

An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate establishes a secure link between your website and your customers. It’s a cryptographic key that protects private information exchanged on your website. This digital certificate relies on an encryption process to scramble data into an undecipherable format that is unreadable to unapproved parties.

In other words, an SSL certificate safeguards customer data from unauthorized users like hackers and phishing scammers. It also authenticates the identity of your website and shows customers that you’re prepared to properly handle their personal information online.

In years past, SSL certificates were typically only used on websites that handled sensitive information like credit card transactions. Now, industry professionals agree that the entry of any personal data can put a customer at risk. A lot of damage can be done when unauthorized parties obtain a customer’s name, email address, phone number, shipping information or passwords.

Do I need an SSL certificate?

The short answer is yes.

Google requires an SSL certificate whether you’re taking credit card information or not. Everyone, including small businesses, is required to encrypt private customer information. If an SSL certificate is not installed, the consequences may be dire. Your website will be marked as “Not Secure” by Google and will fall flat in SEO rankings. Without data encryption, it is possible for unauthorized parties to observe and obtain private customer information. The can result in stolen identities or credit card fraud.

An SSL certificate:

  • Keeps customer data secure
  • Increases your Google SEO rankings
  • Enhances customer trust
  • Improves conversion rates

What does an SSL certificate look like?

Web browsers give users visual cues about website security. Have you ever noticed the padlock icon at the top left corner of a website? This means the website has an SSL certificate. The green padlock symbol indicates that your website is secure. If you do not have an SSL certificate, “Not Secure” will display next to your URL.

Some websites have “HTTP” in front of their URL.

Others have the “https” prefix. The “s” means secure.

There are two types of SSL certificates—Extended Validation (EV) and Standard SSL certificates such as Organization Validated (OV) and Domain Validated (DV).

An Extended Validation SSL certificate is the highest form of SSL certificate on the market.
Through a comprehensive vetting process that verifies the business is legal, operation and is tied to a physical location. These are typically used whenever you need to communicate a high level of trust with your users. Think the medical field, schools and government offices.

Standard SSL certificates are not as comprehensive but still give you the protection your website needs. They require the website owner to demonstrate their administrative access but don’t require the full legal verification process. Standard SSL certificates are for the rest of us—small businesses to large corporations.

How do I install an SSL certificate?

An SSL certificate must be issued by a Certificate Authority (CA). The CA verifies your company’s credentials using databases that contain your government-issued paperwork. Although this sounds like it’s a lengthy process, purchasing an SSL is relatively simple. The good news is that an SSL certificate can typically be purchased through your hosting provider. For example, if your website is hosted with GoDaddy, you can easily add a certificate to your hosting plan for a fee.

Keep this in mind—legitimate SSL certificates are never free. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. A fake certificate may give you the look of protection, but it’s actually doing the opposite. Installing a free SSL certificate ultimately puts you and your customers at risk. Think of it as a direct funnel of information to scammers.

Not to forget, many “free” SSL companies ask for a donation via credit card or Bitcoin. It’s safe to say that any company that’s specifically asking for Bitcoin is probably not up to much good, as this is currency is handled anonymously and is untraceable.

Don’t worry. Purchasing and installing a legitimate certificate is easy when you have a marketing company on your side. Pesola Media Group’s web team is well acquainted with all of the involved hosting and SEO steps. We can help obtain and install the right SSL certificate for your business.