What is an SSL Certificate?
An SSL Certificate (Secure Sockets Layer) is a cyber-security tool that encrypts the information being sent back and forth between a browser and a server. SSL Certificates are used to protect your website from hackers, and having one ensures that the data being transmitted is disguised in various forms. An SSL Certificate on your website appears in the form of “https” at the beginning of your web address (as opposed to simply “http”), and/or a padlock icon in front of the domain. Essentially, think of an SSL Certificate as a bodyguard for your website, that does not allow any sensitive information to leave the safety of your page.
What does an SSL Certificate protect my site from?
There are many different types of sensitive information that users may input into websites. Some examples include: bank transactions, credit card numbers, contact information, passwords and security questions, etc. The SSL Certificate icon gives your website visual assurance to users that their information is protected while browsing your website, which will boost their overall trust in your site and your brand. While the internet is an efficient place to get things done, it can also be incredibly dangerous. A site without the security of SSL is leaving the door open for sensitive material to be snatched up by cyberthieves.
Do I really need a Certificate?
If you want your site to be safe and secure, then it is highly recommended that you add an SSL Certificate. According to Symantec, 1 out of every 10 websites have malicious content. This means that 10% of the time that you spend on the internet, your information may be at risk. An SSL Certificate can also assist your site with SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Google has stated that for the last few years they have been ranking sites with secured access much higher than sites without. Having a secure site will not only bring peace to your users but will also yield higher search engine rankings, which is a win-win situation.
Which type of validation is right for me?
SSL validation comes in a variance of three levels. There is Domain Validation (DV), Organization Validation (OV), and Extended Validation (EV). Determining which level you need is key in order to successfully establish an SSL Certificate for your site. These differing levels highlight the correlation between what you pay for and what service you receive. The most basic validation will be the cheapest, and the most complex validation will be most expensive, as you might suspect.
DV is the simplest route to take, as it is the introductory level of validation. With the Domain Validation, you only have to prove ownership of your domain in one way. This can be in the form of either email-based authentication, file based authentication, or CNAME/DNS based authentication. This option is most suitable for personal websites or startup business as it is inexpensive and easy to obtain.
OV is slightly more complex and requires a more intensive authentication process. Organization Validation requires you to go through five steps in order to authenticate your certificate. Because the certificate provider is able to more thoroughly verify your identity, this deeper vetting process allows your site to be validated in a more complex manner. As the name suggests, this validation method works great for businesses. OV is more secure than DV, but still less secure than the most expensive option, EV.
EV is the most in-depth form of validation, and it requires seven different types of authentication. Extended Validation is the method of authentication that allows for the green address bar, which is a universally known sign for a safe and secure website. This method is by far the most expensive, but you really get what you pay for here. EV also allows for the most expansion, as there are a multitude of plans that can be chosen with this type of authentication. EV also gives you the best warranty, which can award up to $2,000,000.
According to the Numbers…
Google has stated that 90.2% of time spent browsing on Chrome is on sites with HTTPS (SSL). That is an astronomically high number if you think about how many users Chrome has on a daily basis. What that also means is that users only spend 10% of their time on sites without a secure connection. If your site does not have a secure connection, then you will fall into that 10% category. In this case, it’s good to go along with the trend as it will ensure that consumers spend more time on your site.
Steps to add SSL to your site
SSL Certificates are distributed through many different providers. This page by 101domain gives you a breakdown on the different levels of validation (which was mentioned earlier), and their corresponding prices. After deciding which level you would like to go with, your authentication steps will begin. These steps differ in time based on which level you choose. After the authentication, your site will need to be verified and credited with the SSL Certificate. This can also vary in time based on which level is chosen. Times can range from minutes to a few days. After you receive your certificate, you are good to go! This process can be quick and effortless or long and aggravating, but it is worth the energy, based on the statistics.
In thinking about your site, you want to ensure that your users are having the best experience they can possibly get. The stats show that consumers lean heavily towards sites that are protected by SSL due to the safety and security of their information. While obtaining an SSL Certificate is no doubt expensive and can be tedious, it is almost mandatory for websites in this day and age. It is tempting to go the cost-effective route and save money by not purchasing a certificate at all, but users have reported that they prefer a site that is secure. The money and time spent to attain that tiny padlock icon in your address bar might seem like a waste, but it will provide safe browsing for your users while on your site, which can lead to more traffic, as well as increased SEO!