I didn’t want my first post (or any posts on this blog for that matter) to be particularly technical, so bear with me for a few minutes why I explain why securing your website with an SSL certificate in 2018 is essential for your business, for more reasons than perhaps you realise.
First things first though…
What is an SSL certificate?
An SSL certificate is a means that when you visit a website, a secure https connection is made between your web browser and the server where the website is located. When data is transferred (e.g. submitting a username, password or other information) only you and the website you’re visiting can see and have access to that data.
“You said this wasn’t going to be technical!”
Honestly, it’s not - well OK maybe it is a little, but the reasons behind implementing SSL in 2018 go far beyond a security conversation. And you’ll see why it’s not just for e-commerce sites or other sites where sensitive data is submitted - here are my top 5 reasons why you absolutely should install an SSL certificate on your website(s):
1) It improves customer confidence
Later this year (July 2018), Google will release Chrome 68 - this will mean that the address bar for all http websites will show as ‘not secure’ - flagging your website as unsafe to visitors. For any website this messaging can be a real turn-off to potential customers. It’s worth noting that today, any pages with form fields trigger a similar ‘not secure’ status, so it’s something most businesses should be looking to address sooner rather than later.
“But we don’t use Chrome…” - maybe not, but over 45% of web users do use Chrome in the UK, and that figure increases to 60% globally…
2) It helps with search engine optimisation
Back in 2014, Google made an announcement that https had started to be measured as a ranking signal. Although not carrying as much weight as other signals e.g. high-quality content, it’s a factor all the same. Don’t lose out to your competitors, particularly when you read answers 3 and 4 - speaking of which…
3) It doesn’t have to be expensive
In the past, if you wanted to implement SSL on your website, you’d need to pay at least £50 just for the certificate. Not a fortune, but a barrier to entry, particularly for smaller businesses when you account for implementation costs too. Fortunately, there is a free certificate called ‘Let’s Encrypt’ which many web hosting providers now offer, including automatic renewal (Let’s Encrypt certificates expire after 90 days). You can still pay for an SSL certificate which will offer a greater level of protection, however the Let’s Encrypt solution is very straight-forward, and in case you missed it earlier - free.
4) It’s not all that complex either
There are factors that need to be considered when implementing an SSL certificate on your website, however there are tools and plugins (particularly if your site is based on WordPress) that can help. One of my favourites is ReallySimpleSSL - a free (and paid for) plugin which can really help with the process. Your web hosting company should be able to assist with the SSL certificate itself, and Let’s Encrypt is often a simple self-service option.
Once the SSL certificate is implemented successfully, it’s important from an SEO perspective that Google Search Console is updated with the https versions of the website and new sitemaps submitted. Google Analytics should also be updated from http to https.
5) The opposite of security is insecurity, and the only way to overcome insecurity is to take risks (Theodore J. Forstmann)
Anything that can be done to minimise the risk of data, particularly sensitive data, ending up in the wrong hands with malicious intent, should be done. As mentioned above, the barriers to entry for implementing an SSL certificate have lowered, making this a quick win to enhancing security on your website, and giving your customers confidence to do business with you.
So what next?
Firstly have a look at your website and see if the green padlock icon is present in the address bar. If you’re still not sure, there are quite a few SSL site-checkers out there including this one from Qualys. If you do have SSL implemented - it’s a pat on the back for you!
If not, hopefully this post has inspired you to install an SSL certificate - securing your website, improve SEO rankings, and ultimately increase customer confidence in your brand.