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What is an SSL certificate?

Why is an SSL Certificate Important? Secure Your Online Presence

If you run a website or have an online business, using an SSL certificate is essential to secure your site and reassure visitors. In this article, I will explain a guide to SSL certificates including what it is, why you need one, how it works, the SEO benefits, and typical pricing.

What is an SSL certificate?

An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is a digital certificate that authenticates and encrypts connections between web servers and web browsers. When an SSL certificate is installed on a website, the URL starts with https:// instead of just http://.

The ‘s’ stands for ‘secure’, indicating that all communications between the server and the browser are encrypted through a secure connection. This encryption protects sensitive data (like credit card details) from hackers and surveillance.

Visitors can check if a website is secure by looking for a padlock icon in the browser address bar. This visual security indicator appears when an SSL certificate is installed on the website. You may want to know about how to maintain web hosting security, you will find it here.

What Are the Different Types of SSL Certificates?

There are a few common types of SSL certificates to keep in mind:

Domain Validation (DV): This basic, low-cost option validates domain ownership. Best for blogs and small websites.

Organization Validation (OV): A more complex certificate that also validates the identity of the company/organization. Displays organizational information.

Extended Validation (EV): The highest level of SSL validation, ensuring maximum trust and security. It requires an important business investigation and clearly shows a green browser address bar. Ideal for e-commerce websites.

Wildcard SSL: Secures many subdomains on a single domain. A cost-effective solution for larger websites.

Multi-Domain: Can protect several domain names and websites with a single certificate. It is useful to unite sites under a single management.

Understanding these common SSL certificate types will help you select the best option based on your budget, website functionality, and desired level of security. Most websites work properly, starting with basic domain validated certificates.

Why is an SSL Certificate Important?

There are several reasons why all websites should use an SSL certificate:

SSL encryption protects user data like passwords, contact forms, and payment information from interception and theft. Without an SSL certificate, this information is transmitted ‘in the clear’ and vulnerable.

Trust & Credibility
The browser padlock icon provides visual confirmation that the site is secure. This helps establish credibility and trust with website visitors. Additionally, some web browsers, like Chrome, may flag HTTP sites as ‘not secure’.

Maintaining best practices in online security protocols is necessary to comply with industry regulations like PCI DSS for businesses that handle payments. SSL certificates help websites achieve compliance.

SEO Rankings
Google announced that HTTPS encryption will be a positive search ranking factor. Google wants to promote secure web experiences for internet users. You will find here the essential benefits of SEO for your website.

As you can see, SSL certificates deliver meaningful security and credibility benefits – they are an essential ingredient for modern websites.

How Does It Work?

The SSL certificate process involves securely linking a public key with the identity of your website, as confirmed by the certificate authority (CA). Here are the technical steps:

1. You purchase an SSL certificate for your website host and submit a certificate signing request (CSR) to the CA. This verifies that you own the domain.

2. The CA validates your website’s information and issues an SSL certificate containing:

1. Your website’s public key

2. Your website’s domain name

3. Issuing Certificate Authority Signature

3. Your web browser and web server use it to establish an encrypted connection using:

  • Public & private encryption keys
  • An agreed encryption cipher

4. The padlock icon displays in the URL bar, confirming the identification of your website and encrypting traffic between the browser and the server.

This technique secures the information transmitted between a website and its visitors’ web browsers.

Is It Necessary for SEO?

While Google has confirmed that using HTTPS will not directly influence rankings, switching to SSL encryption provides indirect SEO benefits:

  • Improves Google indexing and crawling of pages
  • Provides a minor positive page ranking signal (specifically for HTTP vs HTTPS)
  • Secures website referral data in Google Analytics
  • It gives a trust/credibility signal that increases click-through rate

For a small additional cost, the SEO benefits make getting an SSL certificate very worthwhile. Particularly as the internet moves towards being 100% encrypted in the future.

SSL Certificate Costs

The cost of purchasing an SSL certificate depends on the validation level and number of servers it secures, but on average, you can expect to invest:

Basic Domain Validation (DV) Single Site: Free to $60 per year
Extended Validation (EV) Maximum Security: $150+ per year

Many high-quality and budget SSL certificate options are available from trusted CAs, like:

Let’s Encrypt: Free basic DV certificates
Namecheap: Affordable SSL certificates for individual users

Additionally, several web hosts, like Host Service, include free SSL certificates with their website hosting plans.

While simple single-site DV certificates provide a cost-effective starting point, extended validation SSL certificates deliver maximum trust and security for larger business websites.

Conclusion: A Necessary Online Security Tool

I hope this guide has clearly explained an SSL certificate and why all websites should use one. The encryption, browser padlock, and HTTPS provide meaningful assurances to website visitors that their data and privacy are secure.

Additionally, SSL certificates keep your website safe from surveillance, unlock SEO benefits, and enable compliance with data security regulations.

With affordable options starting at zero cost, there is no excuse not to use an SSL certificate on your website or online business today!

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