Do I Need an SSL Certificate?

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We’ve been looking at the importance and potential impact of SSL certificates, following reports that they can improve your website’s search engine performance.

What is an SSL certificate?

If you’re not already familiar with website security, the first question you’re bound to be asking is, “What’s an SSL certificate?”.

In the most basic terms, an SSL certificate encrypts communication data between you and the website you are using.

When using a website, information is passed between your device (be it PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone) and the server on which the website is hosted. For example, when you type a domain name into your browser you are sending a request to the site’s server which will return the home page. Every time you click on a new page or link, the same digital conversation takes place.

Security becomes an issue when you send private information like contact or purchase details through online forms. Understandably, you won’t want your private details to be seen by the wrong eyes. This is why SSL certificates are needed.

An SSL certificate is essentially an encryption key that can be installed on the hosting server to allow it to secure and encrypt the connection between a website and its users. When installed correctly, all information passing to and from the website will be encoded so if anyone “eavesdrops” on the conversation they won’t be able to make any sense of the information.

Why are SSL certificates important?

If you collect credit card details online then it is a legal requirement that you have an SSL certificate installed to ensure the payment information is encrypted when sent to your hosting server.

If you collect personal details from visitors to your website then it is not essential but recommended to have an SSL in place.

Should I install an SSL certificate?

In recent months Google have admitted that they are now prioritising websites that have SSL certificates in their search results. It is thought that, in their mission to connect users with the websites they can trust, Google only wants to send traffic to sites that have shown their dedication to online security by encrypting their data.

Bear in mind that there are hundreds of other factors that will dictate how well you rank in search engines, and Google themselves have stated they are considering this a “very lightweight signal”, so don’t expect that simply installing an SSL certificate will make a significant impact on your search engine rankings.

However, over time Google are planning to increase the importance of SSL certificates in their algorithms which may mean they will become a necessity in the future.

What types of certificate are there?

There are a few options when it comes to SSL certificates. The most basic offering known as Domain Validation will simply encrypt the connection to your website and show your users a padlock symbol to indicate that the connection is secure. For most websites this is sufficient and a certificate of this kind can often be obtained on the same day you request it. Costs vary between suppliers, with some granting bigger warranties if anything goes wrong with a certificate they issue – but it is very rare that this comes into play.

There is also a more advanced option which will not only secure the connection but additionally verify you as a business. This is know as an Extended Validation certificate and is considerably more expensive than the standard variety. In most modern browsers, the address bar will go green and your company name will be prominently shown. This proves to your users that they are communicating with the business they want to interact with. This is particularly useful for e-commerce websites selling goods online as the extra re-assurance this gives potential customers can mean the difference between a sale and a lost visitor.

What we offer

At Ballyhoo we offer a mix of certificates for the range of businesses we work with starting from just £5.95 per month. We manage the application process (not a simple process for Extended Validation certificates), provide you with a dedicated IP address and install and renew the certificate on your behalf Рall for a low monthly fee.

Our advice is that an SSL certificate, even at the most basic level, is certainly worth considering, especially as part of a more rounded marketing strategy for your website. If this is something you are interested in, please let us know as we offer competitive Online Marketing packages to drive traffic to your website.

To discuss SSL certificates with us in more detail or to place an order please get in touch.

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Anthony is Ballyhoo's Managing Director and Web Developer, responsible for building your website and keeping it online.