What is an SSL Certificate and Does My Website Need One?

Google Chrome SSL Certificate

SSL Certificates and You

Over 57% of all internet users use Google Chrome as their browser of choice. If you (like I) do, then you may have noticed a small change to the address bar this past January. Chrome has started labelling sites that have an SSL certificate (more on what that is later; stay tuned!) as “Secure.”

SSL Certificate Secure

Isn’t that special? But chances are, you didn’t notice the change. Security claims have grown so commonplace as to become little more than white noise. But I’d bet good money you’d notice a change like this.

SSL Certificate Not Secure

This is how Chrome will eventually display all sites that are not covered by an SSL certificate. Google has begun a steady process of identifying potential security risks for users. Pretty scary looking, huh? What’s even scarier is what that can mean for your and your users’ data. Without a certificate, your data could potentially be viewed by people of low moral fiber.

So, What is an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificate?

There are plenty of long, detailed explanations of what it is and how it works. This video is particularly interesting / informative / actually not boring.

The short version is that it’s a clever way for a sender and receiver to communicate publicly in a way that no one else can understand. That means that even if someone is observing your data, it would be unusable to them.

Do I Really Need an SSL Certificate?

You might say, “So what? My site doesn’t handle any sensitive data.” Well, here’s a list of reasons why your site needs an SSL Certificate anyway.

  • Covers all data - Even if your site only has a newsletter sign-up or a contact form, it should be covered by a certificate. You wouldn’t want someone else to give out your email address willy nilly. Treat your users’ data with the respect it deserves.
  • Improves SERP ranking - For years, Google has been given a slight search engine ranking boost to sites covered by an SSL certificate. While this won’t single-handedly take your site from page 20 to page 1, every little bit helps.
  • Boosts performance - There are many variables when it comes to site performance, but under certain conditions, your site could receive a drastic improvement in load speed. See this difference in action here.
  • Guards against attacks - Just like people, most websites have what is called a “backend.” Unlike most people, your site’s backend is usually protected by a username and password and is where sites manage the content that is displayed on the main website. If your site is covered by a certificate, malicious ne'er-do-wells can’t view and swipe your login credentials.
  • Cooks breakfast - Metaphorically speaking, of course. Having a certificate comes with loads of extra perks. It improves and nurtures user trust, discourages phishing attacks, future-proofs your website, and increases credibility of your site and your brand.

Posted by Matt Cleveland on February 16, 2017 in Google | 0 Comments