As you navigate the world of digital marketing, you’ll likely come across two different acronyms: HTTPS and SSL. What do these two acronyms mean and what do they have to do with your business? HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. You’ll see it at the beginning of certain web addresses, while others use just HTTP. The difference between the two is that HTTPS utilizes something called a “secure socket layer” or SSL. The primary function of an SSL certificate is to protect sensitive information as it travels across the Internet from computer to computer until it reaches the destination server.
Why is an SSL Certificate Important?
Well, any computer between you and the destination server can intercept sensitive information like usernames, passwords, contact information and even credit card numbers. When an SSL certificate is properly installed, this sensitive information is encrypted and unreadable to anyone except for the destination server. SSL is essential for protecting your website, even if it doesn’t handle sensitive information like credit card numbers. SSL provides critical security and data privacy for both your website and your users’ personal information.
An SSL certificate also provides authentication. This ensures your website is sending secure information to the right destination server. The nature of the internet offers users the ability to send information to many different devices. Any of these devices offer an opportunity for hackers to pretend to be you in order to trick users into sending them private information. SSL certificates and having https:// before your website provide trust for your users, letting them know they’re safe to visit your site and potentially fill out forms and hand over personal information. Web browsers give visual cues, including the ‘Not secure’ in Chrome 68 update in July 2018, to make sure visitors know when their connection is secured. This means that they will trust your website more when they see these cues and will be more likely to submit a lead (contact form, email, phone).
The SEO Value of Having An SSL Certificate
Google is continually making moves to make the web a more secure place, and your website needs to keep up. Google has been indexing HTTPS pages first since December 2015 and announced HTTPS as a ranking signal as far back as 2014. HTTPS can act as a tiebreaker in search engine results (SERPS). There are no real concerns with switching from HTTP to HTTPS. If Google is backing it consistently, it is good practice and your website will stay in good standing with Google.
Different Types of SSL Certificates
So you know that having an SSL certificate is critical, but where do you start? The truth is, not all SSL Certificates are created equally. Below is a quick overview of the most common SSL Certificates available and their pros and cons:
- Domain validated certificates: A quick verification check is performed to ensure the applicant owns the domain for which he or she wants an SSL certificate. The applicant can get away with not even being a valid business entity, however, which is why this kind is considered an entry-level SSL certificate.
- Wildcard certificate: For websites with several subdomains, a wildcard certificate is a sensible option to secure the entire collection. For example, Yahoo’s subdomains show up as sports.yahoo.com, news.yahoo.com, etc. Yahoo is secure domain, and may very well be utilizing a wildcard certificate.
Example: Comodo Premium SSL Wildcard
- Multi-Domain SSL Certificate (MDC): As the name suggests, a Multi-Domain certificate allows website owners to secure multiple, distinct domains on one certificate. For example, a single MDC can be used to secure domain-1.com, domain-2.com, domain-3.co.uk, domain-4.net and so on. MDCs usually represent a cost saving over the price of individual certificates.
- Extended validation (EV) SSL certificates: Websites with this type of certificate have met the highest standards for authentication. Whenever somebody visits a website that uses an EV certificate, the address bar will turn green in major browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome. EV certificates are used by all major online retailers and banks and are highly recommended for businesses that wish to immediately build customer trust in their site.