What’s an SSL + Why Does My Site Need One?

By Brittany Hall

Why Your Website Needs an SSL

When browsing the internet, you may notice that some websites have a URL that starts with “https://”, while other sites starts with “http://”. You will typically find the extra “s” on sites that require users to submit sensitive information, like banking and e-commerce websites. This extra “s” indicates that the connection to the site is secure and any information you enter will be encrypted and safely shared with the website. In addition to offering a secure connection, having an SSL for your website has several other benefits.

Small Business SEO Essentials
What SSL looks like

What Is an SSL?

So what exactly is an SSL? SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and is the actual technology behind the secure connection an SSL certificate provides. It establishes an encrypted link between a web server and a user’s internet browser. The encrypted links ensure your data remains private as it passes from your browser to the site’s server. There is usually a visual sign that a site contains an SSL certificate, such as a lock icon in front of the URL.

What does an SSL Do?

When you enter information into a form on an unsecure website, there’s a chance that it could be intercepted by a hacker once you hit “submit.” Such data could be your credit card information, address, or other personal or sensitive information. When visiting a website that is encrypted with an SSL, however, the browser forms a connection with the server, looks at the SSL certificate, and binds the browser and the web server together. Encryption adds random characters to submitted information, which can only be read with an encryption key. The information is useless to anyone who doesn’t have that key.

How SSL works

5 Benefits of Having an SSL

SSL Encryption
1. Encryption

Sites that require visitors to log in or submit sensitive information can benefit greatly from the data encryption that having an SSL provides. Encrypted data will prevent information from being intercepted by hackers.

SSL Online Payments
2. Necessary for Online Payments

Any website that accepts online payments needs to have an SSL certificate, specifically one with at least a 128-bit encryption. You don’t want hackers out in cyberspace to get their hands on your customers’ credit card information.

SEO Holistic Approach
3. Search Engine Optimization

Having an SSL on your site, or in other words, having your website’s URL start with “https,” is now a factor in search engine rankings. An SSL certificate will help your search engine optimization efforts and boost your ranking. Google has also said that if two websites are otherwise equal in search results, the one that has an SSL certificate may rank slightly higher* than the other. The boost in search engine rankings is a result of Google wanting to better ensure safe browsing for internet users. webSMART can help you have better chances of ranking higher on search engines as well. In fact, SEO is at the core of what we do.

Building Trust Online
4. Building Trust

Building trust with internet users and potential customers is another significant benefit of an SSL. It lets visitors to your website know they are visiting a secure site. Having an SSL ensures you keep everyone’s information safe, which builds confidence and trust in your business.

Improve Site Speed
5. Improved Site Speed

HTTPS can actually improve the page load speed of a site, improving the user experience for visitors. This in turn improves your search engine optimization. Not sure how else to improve your site speed? webSMART can help with that, too.

The Chrome Effect

As an effort to ensure safer internet browsing, Google announced they will mark all HTTP sites on their Chrome browser as “not secure” beginning in July 2018. Since over 50 percent of internet users worldwide use Chrome, this could result in more people leaving your site if you don’t have an SSL—essentially mandating the switch by all websites.

Google now flags any website that doesn’t contain an SSL certificate, whether it’s an e-commerce site or not. When users visit a site without an SSL, they will see a “Not Secure” message in front of the URL.

In October 2017, Google released a Transparency Report revealing that quite a bit of progress has been made with SSL (HTTPS) usage:

  • 64 percent of Chrome traffic on Android is now protected, up from 42 percent a year ago.
  • Over 75 percent of Chrome traffic on both ChromeOS and Mac is now protected, up from 60 percent on Mac and 67 percent on Chrome OS a year ago.
  • 71 of the top 100 sites on the web use HTTPS by default, up from 37 a year ago.

Chrome use by region

South America0%
United States0%

Percentages Rounded. Source: StatCounter

Maintaining an online presence can be tough, so don’t make it any harder for yourself than it already is. If you don’t already have an SSL certificate on your website, now is the time to get one. As part of our web design, hosting, and general strategies for web visibility, webSMART is ready to help if you have any questions on SSL and how it relates to your small business. Let us know today how we can help make your business a success.