If you’ve ever been part of the process of managing a website – especially an e-Commerce website – you may have heard the term “SSL Certificate” come up. Here’s a summary of what that means and why it’s important.
Basically, an SSL Certificate is a safety feature for your website. The main purpose of an SSL certificate is to keep sensitive information encrypted until it reaches the person or place it is supposed to. Encryption is like a code that stops unauthorized people from reading the information it protects. As a kid, have you ever written messages back and forth with a friend in hidden code that you both agreed on beforehand? Encryption is a much more complex version of that.
When you are sending private information to a website with an SSL certificate, your data is encrypted and can’t be read until it reaches the server of the business you were sending it to. If there isn’t a SSL certificate, your information can be accessed by any other computers or networks that may be in between you and the final server. That means someone could access your credit card details, emails, and anything else you send if there isn’t an SSL certificate for the website you send it to.
An SSL certificate helps protect the customer and the business from anyone who may try to intercept information. As a website viewer, your browser will show if a website has an SSL certificate. There will usually be a lock icon near the URL of the website you are on. If you click on that lock icon, a window will pop-up giving you details of the business and its SSL certificate. That is how you know your information is encrypted when dealing with that website.
As a business, having an SSL certificate makes website visitors feel safe and secure. They will trust your website more since their information will be protected. It also ensures that your website’s identity can’t be replicated and used for malicious purposes. Typically hackers will send out emails pretending to be a business and link to their own website. Their website will be very close, if not identical, to your own in appearance. However, it is almost impossible for them to receive a valid SSL certificate for your business website. This means that they can’t perfectly imitate your website and hurt your image and steal information from customers. An SSL certificate is important for maintaining the integrity of your website and the trust and protection of your customers.
Finally, an SSL Certificate will help you rank better with search engines (like Google). Search engines want websites to be more secure, so their algorithm takes having an SSL Certificate to account. In fact, often not having an SSL Certificate will trigger search engines to send your potential website visitors a security warning - actually encouraging visitors to stay away from your site!
There is a financial cost to getting an SSL certificate for your website. It has to be validated by an SSL provider which sets up an infrastructure to ensure the safety of your website. An SSL Certificate must be maintained – they expire and must be renewed periodically.
Terry’s cauldron of knowledge in the digital world is the result of a background in advertising, graphic design, web and multimedia development… 25 years in this business.