Do I Need an SSL Certificate for My Website in 2018?
It’s difficult to keep up with every update Google releases, and every one may not be relevant to your business. However, their announcement in February of this year is one we all need to pay some serious attention to. Starting in July of 2018, Google will begin marking sites without SSL as “not secure.”
Search Engine Land has a great explanation of this announcement, but it can be overwhelming for many of us to try to understand. This push toward a more secure Internet is just beginning, and industry experts expect to see increasing movement toward security.
Here is an image from Search Engine Land’s post showing what users will see. Sites not using SSL will show this “Not secure” warning in the address bar.
What is SSL and HTTPS?
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and is the standard security protocol on the web today for establishing encrypted links between your server and the user’s browser. Okay, what? Let’s break this down a bit.
Let’s say your website is www.MyWebsite.com and your server is through GoDaddy (please don’t actually use GoDaddy, learn more in our recent post comparing website builders). When somebody types in www.MyWebsite.com into their Google Chrome, a connection is set up between their Chrome and your server at GoDaddy.
Your server gets a request from Chrome, sends a bunch of files and information over the Internet, and a website appears! It happens in a matter of seconds. This is a super-simplified explanation of what happens, but sufficient for understanding what SSL is.
Without an SSL certificate, the information is traveling between your server and the user’s computer without any encryption. Somebody can intercept the information (passwords, credit card information, order information, etc.) without you or the user realizing it has even been done.
With SSL installed, the information traveling between the user’s browser and your server is encrypted. The server and browser set up a secure connection, send information in an encrypted fashion, and keep everything from being stolen. With a properly installed SSL certificate, the key to decrypt the information only works for that one session for that one user, so it is constantly changing as new users come to your site.
You’ll see HTTP at the beginning of websites, standing for HyperText Transfer Protocol. HTTPS is the same, but with SSL installed. This may seem like a minor difference (literally one letter), but it is something we need to pay attention to, especially this year.
The Importance of SSL in 2018
To say SSL is important is a gross understatement. Google dictates quite a bit of what goes on with the Internet and the way we use it, and they’re pushing hard toward a more secure Internet. Although this recent announcement (one of many) is just from Google, we can expect other players like Bing, Yahoo, Mozilla, and Apple to follow shortly.
In July of this year (just a few months from the writing of this post), Google Chrome will begin marking all sites without SSL as insecure. This may not seem like a huge deal at first glance, as it’s just a small “Not secure” notice up at the top of the browser. However, there are a few reasons this is indeed a big deal.
First, if a user sees this warning on your website, their experience is immediately altered. A “Not secure” warning decreases trust, makes conversions less likely, and may even give the user a reason not to go with your business or services. Although it is small, it’s enough to change somebody’s experience entirely, especially when the other option is a green lock that says “Secure.”
Second, this is likely just the first step toward a more secure Internet. This “little” warning in the browser bar is not where this push stops; it’s just a first step. Although we cannot predict the future with perfection, we are certain there will be further steps in encouraging increased security in the future, and it’s better to stay up to date than have to play catch up down the road.
Next, we must consider that much of the web is going to move toward SSL certificates. Just as the world became accustomed to starting every website with “www.” years ago, people will begin to use https:// more often. Sites showing the insecure warning will stand out from the crowd in a bad way as SSL becomes much more mainstream.
Finally, sites with an SSL certificate get a ranking boost in search results! This was confirmed in a Google announcement way back in 2014. We spend so much time writing great content, building links, and marketing ourselves, yet so many of us neglect these clear instructions from Google!
Switching to HTTPS is a must, not a should. Hesitation to do so is just putting off the inevitable. You’ll get a boost in rankings, see higher conversion rates, more clicks from search, and keep your information safe and healthy.
How to Install an SSL Certificate
Before installing a certificate, it’s important to know the costs and process. First, SSL certificates are generally done on an annual basis, which means there will be a cost every year. This may range from $50/year to a few hundred, depending on the type of certificate you purchase/need. If you don’t know what you are doing, you may need to hire someone to help install the certificate correctly.
The installation process can be relatively simple or incredibly difficult. We’ll start with the easy ones. Quite a few hosting companies and CMS’s provide easy-installation SSL certificates. Below are links to installation guides for each of these:
If you haven’t set your website up yet, we strongly recommend using SiteGround for many reasons. They have great support, fast servers, and offer FREE installation of SSL. All it takes is a click to get your SSL installed through their cPanel.
There are also services offering SSL certificates like Let’s Encrypt, which is a free certificate provider. However, you’ll have to install it yourself which involves quite a bit of technical work.
You can ask your developer to help you with this process, or you can reach out to us to get it done quickly for you! We can install an SSL certificate within 24 hours, make sure your site is redirecting correctly so you don’t lose traffic or rankings, and give you all information you will need to renew your certificate automatically. Just use the contact form below!