Building a successful business requires trust, and gaining trust can be difficult especially when you run a business where it is taken for granted that the customer may never meet the seller face to face.
Trust is a very important ingredient on the internet, more so when the relationship involves exchanging of personal information or money – two things that have been known to destroy even large businesses. Unfortunately, building an atmosphere of trust around an online business is not easy, which is why website owners are increasingly under pressure to meet the demands for security and credibility in their dealings. One of the tools for engendering trust in the minds of customers is the SSL certificate. But how important is this seemingly innocent add-on and why must it be a part of your web hosting package?
What is an SSL certificate?
SSL or Secure Socket Layer is a security protocol that assures website users of the safety of the connection between their computer and the website they are on. In other words, if your website has an SSL certificate installed, it means that the website is secure.
SSL certificates make it possible to transmit secure communications between a web server and a user’s device, protecting sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands.
An SSL certificate is a compulsory add-on for websites where confidential data such as personal information, credit card details, bank details, user identification numbers, and passwords are used. Also, because security is one of Google vital page ranking factors, it is recommended that every website has an SSL certificate installed in order to increase the trust signal of the website.
It is safe to say that SSL is the backbone of your website security, protecting your visitors and their sensitive information as it bounces from one server to another on the internet. Even if your website does not handle transactions or credit cards, you still need SSL as it provides privacy and security for your website and your visitors.
When an SSL certificate is installed on your website, any information sent over your website becomes unreadable to anyone except the server to which it is being sent. This way, you protect your users from hackers and identity thieves.
A user can tell if your website has an SSL certificate installed because secure websites usually begin with HTTPS, like this website, and in most cases, a small light green padlock icon will also be found on the address bar before the website URL.
How does SSL certificate work?
SSL works to secure connections between a device user’s browser and your website or application. It ensures the integrity of data that is passed from one server to another until it reaches its destination and returns the requested information so that no unauthorized person can have access to the information, hack it, steal it or modify it.
SSL certificate is very useful in preventing ‘man in the middle attacks’ and other forms of cybercrimes and all the major web browsers across devices have built-in SSL capability so that a user is sure of security regardless of device or browser.
SSL certificates provide an added layer of security in addition to that provided by your web host and your own security measures. It protects your website in two major ways:
- Setting up encryption – sharing your personal and financial information online can be a nightmare without proper security. This is why most online shoppers prefer large and established e-commerce websites like Amazon, as they feel much safer transacting on these websites. But even a small website can be as secure and protected as these large ones if an SSL certificate is installed. An SSL certificate encrypts the data sent from your device in such a way that it cannot be decrypted except by the intended recipient, whether it is an email, website or internet application.
- Verifying owner’s identity – beyond encrypting sensitive data, an SSL certificate contains certain credentials that are used to identify the owner of the website. This adds an additional layer of trust to your business as your customers will know exactly who they are doing business with.
Before an SSL certificate can be issued on any website, the owner’s identity will have to be verified through different methods and because doing business on the internet typically involves transacting remotely, an SSL certificate will verify that the person at the other end of the network is the intended recipient, thus facilitating safer connections and communications.
Is SSL really necessary?
Not too long ago, the question was whether to have an SSL certificate installed on your website or not, but today, the dynamics have changed. If you run a personal blog or small website, chances are you don’t really need SSL but if your website requires the exchange of personal information, you will find it hard to compete favorably if your website is not secure – in fact, it is a really big issue if you sell products or services or accept any form of payment on your website.
A Gartner research showed that 70% of online shoppers canceled their order because they felt they couldn’t trust the website. Furthermore, 64% of those who canceled their transaction said that they would have proceeded with the purchase had the website carried the trust mark showing that it had an SSL certificate for security. This underscores the importance of an SSL certificate as part of your website and hosting package.
However, because of the cost involved in getting your website verified and secured, you can opt not to go for a site-wide SSL certificate. In this case, you can choose to secure only those pages of your website where security is necessary. But regardless of the route, you decide to take, an SSL certificate will provide an extra layer of vital security while boosting your trust signal and credibility.
Don’t forget that websites that take users’ security seriously tend to rank better on search engines so if you want your visitors to trust your brand, and you want to remain relevant in the competitive world on online business, then having SSL on your website is one of the ways to go about it.
Google ‘HTTPS Everywhere’ Initiative
In 2014, search engine Google giant launched its HTTP Everywhere Initiative. This was an attempt to regulate how the internet works and make it safer for all users. The HTTPS Everywhere Initiative was targeted at sensitizing internet users on the importance of website security and encouraging them to look out for the HTTPS at the start of a website’s URL.
Security has always been important to Google and its aim was to use this initiative to make it as important for everyone else. One of the core benefits of the Google initiative is that if a website shows serious commitment to online security and has an SSL certificate installed, it will rank higher in Google SERPs when compared with websites that have poor security.
As if this is not enough, in July 2018, a major update was rolled out for Google Chrome which began to mark all HTTP websites as unsecured. This means that if you don’t have SSL installed on your website, the browser of your visitor’s device will show your site as not secure. And because virtually everyone on the internet is conscious about their security, this insecure mark will significantly affect the growth of your website and business.
SSL certificate should be part of your web hosting
Having an SSL certificate on your website or as part of your hosting package protects you from legal complications that can occur if your visitors’ personal or financial is stolen. Apart from this obvious security benefits, here is a quick overview of what installing an SSL certificate on your website will provide:
- SSL is a factor in Google’s search algorithm and plays some role in how well your website ranks. When it comes to SEO and page ranking, having a secure website is invaluable.
- A secure website also increases the trust signal of your website and boosts the credibility of your business in the eyes of your customers. They know that their information is secure and so will be willing to do more business with you.
- It ensures a safer transfer of data from one server to another with minimal chances of interception.
- Provides security against phishing and other forms of cyber attacks targeted at harvesting sensitive information en-route to and from your website
- An SSL certificate on your website is an important requirement if you intend to accept payments on your website (PCI Compliance).
- Not having a secure website can drastically affect your sales and cause a huge drop in your revenue as Google Chrome now inform users when they’re not on a secure website.
At the end of the day, an SSL certificate, although it comes at an extra cost is a win-win situation. For the small price of this essential add-on, you can guarantee website visitors privacy and the security of their data. And your customers will have more faith in your business, seeing as you take their security seriously.
If you feel that the extra cost of an SSL certificate is too much for your budget, you can always start with the Free SSL from Let’s Encrypt. Even though this is a domain validated only SSL, it is better than nothing for your small website. But if you want to establish an online presence in today’s competitive internet world, you need every help you can get, and getting a proper SSL certificate security is one step you must be prepared to take.