SSL Certificates used to be a luxury, an added extra that you could do without when trying to cut website costs. Then around 2017 things started changing. Today, an SSL is essential for any website. This is not marketing hype, it’s just plain fact.
SSL is short for Secure Socket Layer encryption. Here’s why it’s so important for websites:
SSL Certificates are vital for keeping website visitors secured. We’ll get more granular about why in the following sections of this article, but the bottom line is that an SSL protects personal information as it travels from a customer’s browser to a website. Without this protection, email addresses, credit card details, phone numbers etc. could all be hacked and used for criminal activity.
The padlock icon and ‘https
//’ in browsers when a website is accessed let’s people know they’re safe. You also get a site seal
from the Certificate Authority who issues the SSL to put on your website. There are added ways to make customers feel even safer to do with identity verification, which we’ll also explain in this article. But the bottom line is: if a customer feels protected, they’re more likely to engage with or buy from a website.
So what is encryption all about? This technology basically turns data into meaningless nonsense, unless it’s unlocked. SSL is a security measure that creates a safe connection between a web server and a web client using encryption. Once it’s installed, the SSL Certificate protects the connection so that only the customer and the website Admin can see the unscrambled data, complete and unchanged. Data protection is the core job of SSLs.
Keeping Google Happy
In late 2017, the giant Google began championing a safe Internet – they started flagging websites that don’t have SSL encryption as ‘Not Secure’. The last thing any website owner wants is for potential customers to click away because they see those scary words, right?
Google not only flags sites that don’t have SSL encryption, they also rank them lower than protected websites. While the drop of about 3% – 5% may sound low, that’s still a lot when you think about how companies spend big money on PPC to be seen at the top of a search result page. The higher you rank the more you convert customers. So even a small drop in search engine ranking can cause you to lose a significant share of audience and sales.
After data protection, the second most important job an SSL Certificate does is to verify the legitimacy of a website. There are three types of identity authentication, performed by the Certificate Authority (CA) before they issue an SSL. These are also the three main differences between SSL Certificates:
- Domain Validation (DV) – the website domain is verified as legitimate.
- Organization Validation (OV) – the site domain and business are verified. This let’s customers know they’re dealing with an officially registered company.
- Extended Validation (EV) – the site domain, business, and public listing in one or more resources are verified. With this customers know that they’re dealing with a well established company.
It used to be that EV Certificates could be seen in all browsers as a green bar with the company name. These days each type of browser displays the verification level differently. But people who want to be sure about their online safety can find out by clicking on the padlock icon and following the info trail specific to that browser. Ecommerce giants tend to use OV or EV SSLs to get maximum customer trust.
Credit Card Payments
The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is an information security organization for branded credit cards from the major providers. They have a list of security control requirements that ecommerce businesses need to have in place to protect customer credit card details. What it boils down to is this: if you accept popular credit card payments on your website, you have to be PCI compliant. And an SSL Certificate is one of the compliance requirements, because without it credit card data can be hacked.
There are five strong reasons why SSL Certificates are super important for websites. What is all comes down to is protection. SSL encryption secures customer information, which means a website that’s safe to engage with and buy from. It’s a win win for everyone.