SSL (Secure Socket Layers) certificates encrypt the connection between your website and it’s visitors.
You can see an SSL certficate in action right now if you check out our website address. Without an SSL certificate, the full URL would be https://www.pixelcottage.co.uk but with an SSL certificate, this becomes https://www.pixelcottage.co.uk.
Depending on the browser you’re using, you’ll also see some form of encryption notification. Google Chrome currently displays a green padlock this next to the site’s address. Safari on iOS currently displays a small black padlock.
So what are the benefits of having an SSL certificate?
Google announced in 2014 that having an SSL certificate could be considered a ranking factor.
Having an SSL certificate properly configured on your website can also go some way to improving the trust visitors have in your website.
An SSL certificate won’t necessary improve your website security but if used on your administration login pages, can prevent “man in the middle” style attacks.
If they’re so great, why doesn’t every website have an SSL certificate?
SSL certificates used to be very expensive but with the advent of open source technologies such as OpenSSL, upgrading to HTTPS has become easier and more cost effective than ever. SSL certificates do add an extra “step” that each web browser needs to take in order to access your website but with decent web hosting, this shouldn’t be a problem.
SSL certificates are relatively simple to set up for websites, however, their configuration is best left in the hands of professionals who can update things like the sitemap, Google Analytics and links across the website.
When do I NEED to have an SSL certificate?
Although not currently the law, safe guarding your visitors sensitive information falls under many local data protections acts. If your website processes credit card or any other sensitive information, it would be absolutely necessary to use an SSL certificate to encrypt this kind of transaction.