An introduction to SSL certificates

Of all the most talked about topics relating to the internet over the past few years, it is the protection of sensitive data that has been perhaps the most important and critical.

That has come to the fore this year, with several high profile news items having dominated the headlines.

Data comes in many forms, and it is shared by all websites, from the largest social media platforms in the world, to even the website of a small business.

For the latter, whilst you may not have an army of digital security gurus at your disposal, there is one tool that you can use that will protect not just your user’s data, but also your own.

That tool is the SSL certificate – effectively a digital key that allows everyone to access your website, and pass on their data in complete privacy.

SSL certificates come in many forms, pose many benefits, and can even affect how successful your website is as a lead generation tool for your business or company. In this article, we’re going to be discussing all of these.

The article is structured so that it can be read from start to finish for those who have never heard of an SSL certificate.

If you have a little experience with SSL certificates and want to ask a particular question or want to learn more about a specific aspect, however, you can use the table of contents box above.

1. What is a SSL certificate?

SSL, also known as a Secure Sockets Layer, is the definitive security link between your website and a browser.

It is crucial for the encryption of feedback and validation of the website as a whole. SSL is effectively a connection that talks to a browser about what your website is and what it is all about.

Consider it a virtual passport, one that allows browsers to link up more closely with your data, or in this case potential users of your data.

Users of your website will be able to see whether they are linked up to this SSL connection quite easily, as the extension will change from the regular HTTP:// to HTTPS://.

If you use Chrome, and have ever noticed the little green “Secure” lock item next to the website’s address, this is the SSL connection made good and another sign. Clicking on this link will provide a closer look at the SSL certificate itself.

This certificate will include details such as default privacy settings, any plugins that the website is using, as well as a time frame of when the certificate is expiring.

It will also include more physical details, such as your address, the domain name, as well as the company name that you operate publically under. In effect, it is a trust mechanism, and is arguably vital in this day and age.

2. Why is having a SSL certificate important?

Many smaller businesses, in fact the vast majority of websites – some two-thirds of the entire internet – do not have SSL certificates.

Depending on the capability of your website and plugins attached will flag a number of warnings. Warnings can be triggered from the most simplistic of actions, such as a feedback form, to more complex actions, such as a Flash plugin that might be required.

The usability of your website, depending on the decisions that the user makes upon these warnings, may be hampered considerably.

In pure terms, using the two examples from before, it could mean that they perhaps may think twice about sending that enquiry through a feedback form. It could also mean that a Flash plugin that you use for further promotional causes may not be seen.

If you have a website that requires an account, an eCommerce website where people can purchase goods or services from your page, or any other type of form where private details are required, an SSL certificate is a non-negotiable – you need it full stop.

Google has also indicated previously that sites carrying a valid SSL certificate benefit from preference in the search rankings.

This was done as part of a push to encourage people to make the switch to the SSL format, rather than the standard protocol.

All in all, a valid SSL certificate will not just help to build trust with your viewership, but it will also boost your chances of being seen before your closest competitors.

3. Are there any negatives with not having one?

For those who own a stock standard website without any form of payment options and very basic forms, not having an SSL certificate can still be quite problematic.

The most obvious reason is the security of both your data and your website’s users data. This data encompasses almost every single aspect of web usage and the details that you and others input on a daily basis.

Not having a SSL certificate means that this data is not encrypted.

Encryption is important, especially in this day and age, where hackers targeting all manners of businesses and industries appear frequently in the news.

The data that would otherwise have been encrypted through a SSL certificate includes many personal details – details which can be utilised by hackers to steal banking details, identity, and other crucial information.

Google, as a result of many recent and high profile incidents, have even enforced that, from June 2018, all websites that do not have a SSL certificate will be marked as “Unsecure” on their title browser Chrome.

This unsecure rating displays several warnings to any visitors to the website. Whilst they can click through and dismiss these warnings, the initial warning has been shown to scare off the majority of web users.

It will be a necessity, therefore, to have a SSL certificate prior to June of this year, regardless of whether your website is one that requires encryption or not.

4. Are all SSL certificates the same?

Whilst the principle of these certificates are essentially the same, different companies do create and distribute their own, each of which have subtle differences.

These differences mostly revolve around the type of encryption used, as well as the nature of the link that it makes with the user’s browser.

Google strictly polices these certificates, and have removed certification for some companies for poor encryption or bad practice.

The price of these certificates is based on the level and strength of the encryption.

Some websites, in particular one where users can register or subscribe for a service such as a message board, will need a higher strength of encryption, for instance.

5. Don’t have a SSL certificate yet for your website?

If you’re one of the many who do not have a working SSL certificate attached to your website, and want to avoid the June deadline, we can help.

We have been working with many small-to-medium sized businesses protect both their own and their user’s data, aligning it with the larger sum of the SEO work that we provide.

With the SSL certificate and any other security packages that we can provide you with, you can be rest assured that your critical data will be protected.

In turn, the reputation and trustworthiness of your website will increase, and will repay you in spades through a tighter bond between your users and your brand.

To talk to us about SSL certificates, you can call us on (03) 9568 1331, or contact us via email outlining your needs by sending it to info@akvitek.com.au.

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