At first, determining whether or not you need a SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate might seem like a daunting task. What do they do? Do I really need one, and if I do, why? When do I attach it to my site? Don’t worry — just about every small business owner launching a website for the first time asks the same questions.
The whole concept of SSL might seem like a mystery, but it’s actually fairly clear-cut. Here’s the lowdown:
What is SSL?
Secure Socket Layer (SSL) is a security mechanism that works between a user’s Web browser (like Firefox® and Google Chrome™) and the website the user is connecting to. The website’s software includes a SSL certificate issued by a trustworthy authority. When confidential info needs to be exchanged, SSL is used to encrypt the information before it is sent, and then to decrypt it at the other end, when it has been received.
What are the benefits of SSL?
1. Protects your information. Unfortunately, the Internet is crawling with cyber crooks looking to steal confidential information. It’s up to you to keep the info on your site secure. SSL protects information that is both received and sent, so if you need to send information out, you’re protected, too!
2. Brings in the shoppers. Online shoppers aren’t going to spend their money with a company they can’t trust. The moment you slap a SSL certificate onto your site, you are telling your customers you care. And what does that inspire? Loyalty. Return customers. Increased profits. More sales. All things that will make your business more successful in the long run. Nothing shows professionalism like taking care of your customers.
3. Can increase your search ranking. In addition to increasing website security and site owner legitimacy, SSL certificates can improve your Google@ search ranking. The search giant recently announced it will add a new ranking signal — HTTPS. Having an HTTPS connection means you’ve got an SSL certificate, which means to Google that your website is more secure and legitimate.
When do you need a SSL?
Do you take personal information from your customers, such as email addresses? Do you ask for payment information like credit card numbers? If you answered “yes,” then you likely will need a SSL certificate. Even the simplest of contact forms require your customers to put in some variation of personal information, and they trust you to keep it safe and use it responsibly. Encrypting that information with a SSL certificate makes it that much harder for all those hackers out there to steal information like usernames and passwords.
If you have an e-commerce website with the ability to accept payment methods online, then you definitely need SSL. In fact, some merchant accounts won’t even accept you until you have one.
When should you attach a SSL certificate to your site?
If you have any intention of collecting any information from your customers, now or in the future, the sooner you add SSL to your site, the better.
Don’t hesitate when it comes to protecting your customers. Sensitive, personal information is constantly transmitting across the Internet, all of which is prone to unauthorized viewing. Mitigate that risk by attaching a SSL certificate to your site.
To learn more, check out Website Security 101.
About the Author: Maxym Martineau is a small-business consultant for GoDaddy and a freelance writer based out of Arizona. She’s an avid reader with a love for social media and blogging. Connect with Maxym on Google+. The world’s largest domain name registrar and Web hosting provider, GoDaddy gives small business owners the tools to name their idea, build a beautiful online presence, attract customers and manage their business. To get more tips for your small business—including articles, videos and webinars— check out the GoDaddy Training Hub.