SSL Certificates. The need to have them has been in debate for some time now - and it looks like Google is going to make the final decision for us all. But what does that mean for the future of your websites and will you be paying for this protection?
Happy July everyone! It's been an exciting month so far for Creative Consulting and we are so excited for the rest of this year to follow suit! There has been an important topic on the back of our minds though - with SEO being our bread and butter, there is one particular topic that has grabbed our attention. The need of an SSL Certificate and what that means for the future of web design, the future of websites SEO, and if you have to pay for this protection or not.
For those of you new to an SSL certificate, or a Secure Socket Layer Certificate, is a digital certificate that authenticates the identity of a website and encrypts information sent to the server. It serves as an electronic passport that establishes online credentials when doing business or just surfing on the web. It creates a secure connection from a web server to a browser. If a hacker ever gets their hands on information or a website that is protected by an SSL, all they will see is a cryptographic code that cannot be broken. Even with the aid of a computer. It ensures total safety while browsing the web, as long as the pages your visiting have an SSL! When it is applied to your server correctly the application protocol, the HTTP, will change to HTTPs. The "S" stands for secure. Sometimes, depending on which SSL Certificate and web browser you're using, a small padlock will also appear in the browser bar and it might even turn green when visiting a website that has an SSL Certificate installed too. SSL Certificates have typically been used to secure credit card transactions, data transfer and login information, and protection on social media websites. But thanks to Google, it looks like it might become mainstream for everyone to have an SSL certificate.
Why do you need an SSL for your website? It keeps all data secure between servers, it increases your Google Rankings, it builds and enhances your customer's trust, and it improves conversion rates. Automatically if your website sells products or services and deals with credit card transactions there is no question that you should have one. If your website is not available over HTTPs you may see a loss in traffic, loss in user trust and your SEO ratings will start to go down. But even if you don't sell something on your website - it is something that you should highly consider. Once you've established an SSL for your website, all traffic to the webpage will be secure. But what does that mean for the future of SEO and your interaction with Google? We all know that drives so much importance in the traffic to your webpage, and Google has been an incredible tool for that. With Google Chrome being the most popular web browser in the world, it's no surprise that they're making the call for the need of SSL Certificates. But let's go back to the beginning.
In 2014 Google created a new algorithm update that automatically favored HTTPs over HTTP. So already, those websites that were going unprotected were getting fewer views. This continued into 2018 when they announced that if you were not an HTTPS website a "NOT SECURE" message would appear either in your browser bar or when you came to a page that wasn't protected. By October of that year, the warning went from being grey to red - they were getting serious. This year Google has made a push on how they will treat websites with and without SSL. The new default that you should expect in Google includes encryption and a secure connection that is required. It is no longer just a feature for online banking and shopping sites. When it comes to SEO ranking if two websites sell similar products or are similar in topic - if one has HTTPs and the other does not, the website with HTTPs will automatically receive a higher SEO rating. It is not a default in ranking just yet, but with the direction Google has been going in, it could become a default in SEO rating in no time.
Good news though! Most Webshots today provide SSL by default. There are also plenty of Certificate Authority companies that you can get them for free, like Lets Encrypt. It makes it easy and simple for most web users - and those making their websites. But there are still some roadblocks. Some of our favorite platforms to build our websites in are Wordpress, Weebly, Madesimply, and Wix!
Some offer SSL certificate protection, but they have two different sets of rules. Wix offers SSL for free as part of their platform, all you have to do is make sure that the SSL option is turned on when you first publish your website. If you already have a Wix website created - all you have to do is activate it!
Weebly and MadeSimply are a little different. You can automatically add an SSL certificate to your websites, but the only SSL certificate that works for the domains attached to these websites are the ones that come from their company. You cannot get a free SSL from Lets Encrypt and then add it to your Website that are run by Weebly or MadeSimply. It has to come directly from Weebly and MadeSimply. But, the SSL protection only comes with the paid website options, not the free options. Even if you decide to go with the free options, the free SSL won't work for their websites and will still have the "not secure" warning when anyone visits your pages. So, if you already have a page made on Weebly or MadeSimply - you will have to upgrade to a paid account for this protection. It is frustrating to pay for something else for your webpage. But it will protect your SEO ranking on Google - and your clients. So those few extra dollars a year just might be worth it. The other options might be more costly in the end. You could be facing a loss of clients, business, attacks from hackers, and more.
If you are using a website builder that doesn't give you free SSL security but does allow you to purchase an SSL Certificate, they can range between $5-$15 a year on the cheaper end - and can become more expensive depending on what kind of protection you're looking for. And don't forget - there are plenty of free options too.
So it looks like SSL certificates are here to stay - the transition might be a little frustrating for you and your business, believe me we can relate. But at the end of the day, the protection is worth it.
By: Maddie Casto