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If you’re not that interested in web hosting (and you probably aren’t) then you might not know what SSL is and why it is now becoming more important to have it activated for your site.

What is it?

SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. There, now you understand it all we can move on! 🙂

All that this actually means is that when you browse to a site with SSL enabled any information that is sent or received is sent over an encrypted link. In addition, your web browser and the web host can identify each other to ensure the data is coming from the correct source. So essentially, if the data gets intercepted between you and the website host the information will be of no use and no malicious/fake data can be sent either way.

To enable SSL you need to apply for and install something called an SSL Certificate on your web hosting. I will go into a little more detail about this later on.

To indicate that a site has a valid SSL Certificate, a paddock image will be displayed on your browser and will look similar to the below (dependant upon your web browser of choice):

Why is it important?

If you run an eCommerce site sending credit/debit card details or are sending any other sensitive data, then it should be fairly obvious why you need one.

However, the not so obvious reason is that our good friend Google has decided to encourage as many site owners to setup SSL as possible. This, in fairness, is not a bad thing as anything that makes the internet a safer place is a win in my opinion. Google has gone with a two pronged attack:

  1. As part of their ongoing search algorithm updates on how they rank sites they have started to include an SSL check. At the moment it doesn’t carry much weight in the ranking of your site:

    For now it’s only a very lightweight signal — affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content — while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS.

    Taken from the official Google blog here.

    However it will, I’m sure, be given more weight in the coming months/years.

  2. If you have any login forms on your site and don’t have an SSL Certificate enabled, then when a user navigates to the login form in the Google Chrome browser they will get the following show up in their address bar:

How do I get one?

I would suggest you contact your web host or website developer to get one setup as generally a site will need to be configured to work with the new https:// encrypted protocol.

There are lots of options for SSL Certificates ranging from free ones from companies such as Lets Encrypt to more advanced ones who will authenticate a lot more information and therefore lend the certificate more trust.

There is also the option to get Enhanced or Extended certificates that will activate highly visible indicators directly on the browser address bar as shown below, these obviously come with an additional cost implication:

However for most sites a free certificate from Lets Encrypt will do the job. In this case the only cost to you would be the time it takes for your web developer to switch your site over which, if they are being fair, should be no more than an hours work.

All in all there really isn’t a reason not to, so go ahead and secure your website!