What does SSL do for a website

7 Best Reasons to Use SSL for Your Website

7 Reasons Why SSL and HTTPS are important for WordPress sites, Blogs, and websites of any size —

If you have a website, you should use SSL. It doesn’t matter whether you sell anything, or whether you ask visitors to fill in a form.

When you visit a website, data about your computer travels across the Internet. A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connection makes sure only the intended receiver can read it.

The best reasons to install an SSL certificate on your website include:

  1. To protect the privacy of information transmitted on the Internet
  2. To prevent attackers from using or changing data between computers
  3. To verify the identity of the website owner
  4. To foster visitor trust, with visible proof the connection is protected
  5. To use a factor that improves search engine rank
  6. To protect your reputation as a trustworthy brand
  7. Because installing one may be easier than you think

Secure Sockets Layer is a technology that encodes messages so others can’t read them as they travel between computers. It’s a security protocol that:

  • Encrypts the signal between your browser and the server so outside parties can’t access it
  • Prevents the information from being changed or blocked by others
  • Helps verify that the website publisher is authentic — they are who they say they are, not an imposter

Hackers, spammers and spyware programs can try to intercept web traffic. They could scan the information for whatever they want. They may get email addresses, names, transaction details, search terms, or details about your computer. They could be trying to pose as some other business.

SSL functions a bit like sealing wax did centuries ago. SSL certificates verify the sender’s identity and assure privacy.

The SSL’s presence helps confirm a website you visit is authentic. And it confirms the data is secure as it travels the Internet.

How to Tell if You’re Visiting a Website that Protects Your Connection With SSL

There are two quick signs a website provides SSL protection. Look for these signs on either a mobile or desktop browser:

1) A lock icon appears in front of the address.

2) The web address begins with https (not http).

Example 1 Desktop: Using a desktop browser, a correctly installed SSL connection looks like this (in Chrome):

SSL lock icon desktop

Example 2 Mobile: On a mobile browser, an SSL connection may look like this:

SSL lock icon mobile

Tap on the lock icon in your mobile browser, and it may change to display the https address:

SSL icon mobile expanded

Why SSL Matters in Marketing

SSL technology is not just about security. SSL has an important role in marketing and branding too. Here are three top marketing reasons to use SSL:

1) Earn Trust: People want to feel safe on your site. Visitors want their privacy protected on your website — even if they’re just looking. You earn trust when your site shows proof of a safe connection.

With SSL working, your site will automatically display a lock icon that shows the connection is secure. But you needn’t stop there. You can openly assure users in your privacy policy that their information is safe. Your extra work to use SSL gives people more reasons to feel good about trusting you and your website.

2) Better SEO and Search Engine Ranking: Does Google rank SSL sites higher? Yes, Google does.

Way back in 2014, Google officially announced it started “to use HTTPS as a ranking signal.” That means Google’s indexing system will check for an SSL certificate on your site.

The SSL factor weighs into where your site ranks in results. An SSL connection gives Google one more reason to boost your rank above sites without SSL. Of course high quality content is another signal with weight — maybe more weight. How much Google weighs your SSL factor is not known – but Google mentioned in 2014 it may increase in importance over time.

3) Avoid Damage to Your Brand Reputation: Without an SSL certificate, people may see warnings your site is not secure.

Your website may work without an SSL certificate. But your visitors get a bad first impression when browser messages warn against connecting to it.

Security warnings can flag your website as “not safe.” Even if your site is perfectly helpful and well built, most modern browsers show warnings if your site lacks an SSL certificate.

On a desktop computer, Chrome displays “Not Secure” in front of the address when the site doesn’t have an SSL certificate: Ironically, this example is from an SSL information company:

SSL missing not secure

You can see the circled “i” instead of the lock icon. The same circled “i” appears on the mobile Chrome browser. That’s another clue that SSL is not in place. It could be the SSL certificate isn’t installed properly, or is absent altogether.

Browsers Warn Users When SSL is Missing

If an SSL certificate cannot confirm a secure connection, browser warnings may be more severe. Warnings are like broken sealing wax — a sign that privacy isn’t assured. The browser may even block visits to the site altogether.

For instance, if an SSL certificate has expired, the browser will not serve the content over the https:// address. You’ll see a warning like this instead:

SSL warning connection not private

You can safely explore a whole range of SSL validation warnings for yourself. Google has published an open source project — Badssl.com — to illustrate several errors SSL can identify.

Badssl.com is intended to help people test browsers for SSL processing. But it’s also a safe way to see what SSL does to warn people about connections that are not secure.

How to Install SSL on Your Website

Many popular web hosting services offer SSL certificates for free or for a fee. Some web hosts may install SSL automatically when you use their web building tools. For example, these services use SSL by default:

  • WordPress.com (the commercial WordPress service, not the self-hosted software from WordPress.org)
  • Squarespace.com (you may need to adjust or customize your settings).

Some popular website publishing systems that support SSL include:

  • Wix.com
  • Weebly.com
  • Shopify.com

You (or your webmaster) may need to set up your SSL connection. In my experience with many hosting services, SSL certificates are not enabled by default. Hosts like InMotion.com, SiteGround.com, Hostmonster.com and offer free SSL encryption. But you need to install SSL certificates and put them in place.

Often, installing an SSL certificate is straightforward, using the tools available from your web host.

If you have a WordPress Website that needs an SSL certificate, check with your web host. Your webmaster or IT contact may provide an SSL certificate. The plugin, Really Simple SSL can help you activate it on your website.

Freelance webmasters like me can also help you — contact me here.

Summary

My 7 best reasons to install an SSL certificate on your website are:

  1. To protect the privacy of information transmitted on the Internet
  2. To prevent attackers from using or changing data between computers
  3. To verify your identity as the website owner
  4. To foster visitor trust, by providing a website connection that’s secure
  5. To use a factor that improves search engine rank
  6. To protect your reputation as a trustworthy brand
  7. Because installing one may be easier than you think

What does an SSL do? Using SSL protects the privacy of information between you and your visitors. That’s good for security, marketing and customer relations. It’s visible proof that you respect and protect visitor privacy. It verifies that you are the authentic business behind the website. And it adds a factor in your favor to rank higher in search results.

If you run a business, you want to give your Web presence every advantage. Using SSL is a worthwhile step to take to get the most out of your website.

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