In the wake of recent ransomware attacks, email hacks, and security breaches, there’s a lot of talk about making the Web as a whole more secure, and the use and understanding of SSL certificates is a valuable first step that is becoming essential.
In January 2017, Google’s Chrome Browser started warning users of websites without an SSL certificate, because these websites are less secure. This announcement, of course, came three years after they broadcasted that SSL certificates are a SEO ranking factor.
Now what on earth does any of this mean, and does it relate to you, the proud owner of a website?
This security conversation is important, so let’s break it down piece by piece.
What is an SSL certificate?
“SSL” stands for Secure Sockets Layer, a cryptographic protocol that adds the “s” to the “http” that precedes your website’s domain name. The “https” denotes the additional security of a website. What does the additional “s” mean? You guessed it: “secure.” Websites with an SSL certificate are often accompanied by a green padlock or green highlight in your browser bar. You’ve seen it before, so now you know what it’s all about.
Gaining an SSL certificate is often an additional cost*, but it enables a website’s trustworthiness and respectability to shine through. When you shop online or use online banking, you already know you need to use a secure website; however SSL certificates are beneficial far beyond websites that handle monetary transactions.
Do all websites need SSL certificates?
SSL certificates are not mandatory for all published websites, but there’s a level of professionalism, trust, and more that gives websites with them a real advantage.
Some corporations, like Google, are pushing for a more secure Internet as a whole by encouraging every website to add this extra level of protection. It’s not mandatory, but we agree with Google that it’s a good idea.
So what are the advantages of HTTPS?
This returns us to the two announcements from Google. Each points to a different advantage.
- Security –SSL certificates, which allow for that HTTPS in the browser bar, are all about security at their core. Data protection is never to be underestimated, whether that data is usernames and passwords, credit cards, article authenticity (a major factor in the New York Times’ move to HTTPS), and beyond.
- SEO – The algorithms that dictate search engine optimization (SEO) seem to change by the day, but while search engines like Google are protective of their ranking factors, they have been clear that SSL certificates add an additional level of trust and that this level of trust will be awarded with better placement on search engine result pages (SERPs). In fact, as of April 2017, Moz reports that 50% of Google’s page-one results begin with HTTPS. They estimate that this could be up to 70% by the end of the year.
There’s also some research that shows a domain with “https” might be faster than the standard “http,” but the verdict is still out on that argument for the time being.
SSL Certificate Takeaways
The World Wide Web is a big place that offers so much, but you have to approach wherever you go with caution. Everyone, thankfully, is becoming savvier on this note, but as a website owner, you can do your part to make the Web even more secure.
If you already have an SSL certificate, you’re all set. If you don’t, you have some thinking to do. You want your website to be as respectable as possible, and part of that respect is a matter of security. We argue that it’s time to take it up a notch.
*At Midlothian Web Solutions, we no longer develop websites without SSL certificates. They are built into every development package we offer, because we believe cutting-edge websites need more than great design and functionality. They need to be at their best to take on the future.
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