SSL/TLS Certificates are a must-have for online trust and security. They are especially necessary if your website takes user information of any sort and/or if payments are accepted. Due to the sensitive nature of such information, website owners expecting traffic should have their websites HTTPS secured via an SSL Certificate. Furthermore, email and other exchange type servers handling incoming and outgoing digital communications require an SSL Certificate if users expect their communications not to be intercepted by third-parties.
What is it?
An SSL Certificate is an electronic certificate that enables HTTPS on a website through encryption. Without an SSL Certificate installed on your website, your website will show in browsers as simply HTTP. HTTPS , the ‘S’ meaning ‘secure’, can only be activated on a website via an SSL Certificate.
It is worth noting that all modern SSL Certificates use TLS protocols instead of SSL. However the term ‘SSL Certificate’ remains the industry standard.
For more information see here.
What does it do?
SSL Certificates provide security and encryption to websites. Once installed, HTTPS can be enabled on the website. The security is usually provided through TLS (Transport Layer Security). TLS provides a secure connection through the Record Protocol and allows a server and client to authenticate each other’s identity and mutualize encryption for data exchange through the aptly named Handshake Protocol. Thus, SSL Certificates are often called SSL/TLS Certificates.
Why do I need an SSL Certificate?
Security, SEO and user trust – the three hallmarks of a good website.
Websites need an SSL certificate for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost – user trust. Users will receive an unsecure warning when visiting a non-HTTPS website. Naturally, they aren’t going to proceed to your website if they’re browser is telling them not to. And if they do, they’re far less likely to enter any information or make a transaction. HTTP websites will always show such a warning message if they have any content in which the user can enter information into a field – whether its email address, payment details or otherwise. HTTPS provided by an SSL Certificate will ensure that your website does not show such warnings (when installed correctly).
HTTPS is also important for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Google ranks secure websites much higher than those with no or malicious encryption. In 2014, Google announced HTTPS as a ranking signal for SEO. This means that HTTPS (SSL secured) websites will rank higher than HTTP (not SSL secured) websites.
And most importantly, you need an SSL Certificate for user trust. Through good security practices and impressive SEO, user trust arises. When your website shows on the first page of a Google search, this signals to the user that the website in question can be trusted. Otherwise, Google wouldn’t rank it so highly. This further signals that your website must have good security practices.