In simple terms SSL is a protocol, which was developed by Netscape. SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. In the Google Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) ranking factors for 2017, we are advised to have Secure Socket Layer (SSL) on our websites.
This may sound unimportant to many website owners, but if you seek to rank high on search engines, then it is a factor that has to be considered. McAfee SECURE says that:
“SSL certificates are very crucial tools both for keeping your cardholder data secure and for building trust in your business”.
How Secure Socket Layer works
What SSL does to your website is, it serves as a digital security passport which verifies the credentials of a website and the server on which your website is hosted; hence the user of that very website is protected when entering any data, be it sensitive or not, into a website. When the identity is verified, the SSL will grant a secured connection using HTTPS, not HTTP.
What that means is that websites with HTTP are not secure and the HOLY way forward is for websites owners to install HTTPS, a secure version which uses encryption as a standard.
The video below explains how SSL certificates work.
An example of HTPPS and HTTP websites
Website without SSL
The image below is one example of a website without SSL. This means that the connection is not secure and whoever enters, for example any sensitive data such as credit card details on VexaPlusNews, the website in our example, puts his or her details at risks, simply because in sending the data, there is no ENCRYPTION whatsoever.
On the other hand, Tebudele which is a news website has an SSL certificate installed, hence any data sent on this website is secured due to the associated ENCRYPTION.
Previously, many digital experts have been positing that only websites that do sell products online (eCommerce sites) such as Zoobashop of Ghana, takealot of South African and Amazon, for example, are those that need SSL.
As it stands now, and with the points so far raised, the advice is that all types of websites need SSL. This includes blog websites, newspaper websites, business and corporate websites, and what have you.
The trend looks encouraging though. Research upon research point to an industry where people and businesses are now SSL-aware:
Netcraft, for example, “has been running SSL surveys since 1996 and has tracked the evolution of this marketplace from its inception — there are now more than one thousand times more certificates on the web now than in 1996″.
This was a statement by Netcraft SSL Server Survey in 2015.
On the other hand Let’s Encrypt has also shown that the ssl certificates they have been issuing since November 2015 is on the increase as seen below:
Why you need SSL
Apart from the Search Engine ranking benefit already mentioned above, there are numerous reasons why one needs a website to have an SSL. Remember that Google has already categorically stated that SSL is now a ranking factor.
Looking at the statistics above, the trend is clear. More websites are now installing SSL certificates and that should be enough reason for you to do same.
SSL also gives potential users of your website the confidence to surf and shop on your site, not forgetting the overarching competitive advantage one would gain over ones competitors.
The encryption that is used should alone tell you that whatever data one enters on such websites is safe and hence is safely transmitted between the website and the web server. This is a major benefit of SSL certificate for eCommerce sites, allowing your shoppers to shop in comfort and in security.
There are so many eCommerce sites without SSL certificate. I would urge potential customers to be careful entering and sending their sensitive details on such websites. A simple search for eCommerce site in Southern Africa, for example, would reveal the authenticity of my claim.
How to get SSL for your website
There are so many companies selling SSL. From Comodo to GoDaddy, DigiCert, Rapidssl, GlobalSign, Symantec, one can buy SSL certificate. With these providers, you should be prepared to pay huge sums for even a basic SSL certificate.
If you are looking for a cheaper but quality alternative, especially for those in Africa, then the guys at HostAdvocate.Com (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org) and VexaPlus Technologies (contact: email@example.com) can help you immensely.
How to check SSL on a website
There are so many tools, free of course, that can be used to check the validity and the strength of your SSL installation. At VexaPlus Technologies we use SSL Labs and it has proven to be very reliable. Just enter your domain name, click scan, wait for a few seconds, and you are done.
Well, this article has touched on the most salient points, I think, for the uninitiated. The idea was to bring the most important aspects of Secure Socket Layer (SSL) to the non-technical person and to help anyone with a website to be able to make the ultimate decision of getting an SSL Certificate for his or her website, not just because of its encryption capabilities, but also for the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) ranking factors.
In your experience, could you tell us what you think about SSL certificates and whether you believe it is a necessary thing.