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Do I Need An SSL Certificate?

Gary Green
Jah Brown
February 28, 2020

An SSL certificate allows you to use the https (rather than http) prefix for your website address. It's becoming an essential part of website best practice.

Consumers are becoming more and more aware of the importance of web security, and an SSL certificate allows you to offer them complete peace of mind.

In today's article we'll run through:

  1. What is SSL / HTTPS?
  2. Why it's important
  3. How to go about getting one
  4. Final thoughts

What Is SSL / HTTPS?

SSL stands for "Secure Sockets Layer". The updated version of SSL is actually called "Transport Layer Security" (TLS). Everyone seems to still say "SSL", so we'll use that term to cover both protocols.

The goal of SSL is to provide computers with a secure way to pass information back and forth. This is used for a range of online activities:

  • Web browsing
  • Email
  • Instant messaging
  • Internet phone calls (VoIP)

If your website is set up securely (accredited with an SSL certificate) you are allowed to use the https prefix. So, for example, the full address of this page is:

  • https://www.keybusinessmarketing.co.uk/do-need-ssl-certificate
  • (and not) http://www.keybusinessmarketing.co.uk/do-need-ssl-certificate/

HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. The technical details are very complicated, but the HTTPS Wikipedia page is a good place to start if you want to learn more.

Why SSL Is Important

Having an SSL certificate (and therefore being able to use the https prefix) confers three huge advantages:

  1. Business Integrity
  2. Reputation & Perception
  3. Search Engine Optimisation

Having a secure website protects you against hacker attacks that are based on eavesdropping. It also keeps your personal and business details secure.

Customers can trust that your website is safe to visit. Unsecured websites now usually display with a scary warning about cyberattacks and stolen data. When customers see the https prefix they know that their accounts, profiles and information are private.

And Google rewards secure websites. Having an SSL certificate is now a "ranking signal" for Google's search product.

How Do I Get An SSL?

There a broadly two ways to go about getting a certificate. You can do it manually, or you can choose a host or web security service that offers one included.

If you want to do it manually, you'll need to first demonstrate that you are the actual owner of the website. This is a similar process to demonstrating ownership when completing "Google my business".

Once you have shown that you are, indeed, the owner of the website, you can approach a Certificate Authority (CA). Let's Encrypt is a non-profit CA run by the Internet Security Research Group where you can do all this for free.

Some hosting providers offer SSL certificates when you sign up. Or, if you want to consider managed web security , companies like CyberAlpha include SSL in their monthly packages.

Final Thoughts

Google's advice on HTTPS page offers the following tips and troubleshooting:

  • Make sure your certificate is up to date
  • Let Google's crawlers access the new https site
  • Make sure you add the new site to Search Console (if you use it)
  • Check with your web server that they support Server name indication (SNI)

Our article on helping Google find your website should help here. And if you'd like to discuss how we help business owners build and develop their web presence, please get in touch.

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