There are a lot of acronyms on the web and as website owners, you can safely ignore most of them - providing of course that your web gurus know what they're doing. But there is one you need to know and in 2015, it's more crucial than ever to understand its importance: SSL. It stands for Secure Socket Layer but what's important is that it securely encrypts all data between you (and your users) and your website. That little padlock icon you sometimes see in the address bar of your browser? That indicates that the connection is secure and using SSL. Any passwords and other sensitive information you type are encrypted as opposed to sent raw for someone to intercept and steal.
That tiny icon is probably the single most important part of your website these days. With websites constantly being targeted by unscrupulous characters, it's your responsibility to make it as difficult as possible for these people to steal data like passwords, credit card numbers etc. and if you've got no SSL certificate, you might as well just email them that sensitive data.
The padlock icon means that you have been vetted by a trusted authority and a certificate of authenticity has been issued. And there's a type of certificate to suit almost every budget. Various organizations offer free SSL certificates but be aware: these are almost exclusively non-commercial meaning if you’re running a business, you’ll be violating their terms by using the free one. We‘ve just partnered with GlobalSign - one of the most highly respected certificate authorities in the world - to offer certificates and we can issue them for as little as £30 per year (yes, that cheap!)
Aside from the obvious security benefits of being secured with an SSL certificate, you're also instilling trust in your customers. Customers are becoming more and more security conscious and most are cautious about entering their payment information into websites without a padlock icon. Just imagine how many people are getting to your checkout, realizing the site isn't secure and bailing on their order. I assure you, it's more than just the odd few.
And if that's not enough to persuade you, here's a reason I quite like: it affects your Google ranking. Yep, that's right: just like they favor mobile-compatible sites, Google now favors sites secured with a certificate and it currently gives you a slight boost in ranking. They've even said they're considering increasing that boost in the near future. So if you’re at all serious about raising your position in SERP results, get a certificate.
There are a few things to watch though as the types of certificate vary quite substantially in terms of features and price but remember: they all do exactly the same thing and that's to secure your site. Generally the more affordable certificates provide cover for a single domain (just the www part, usually not your mail) and only require a basic level of authenticity checking: a reply from an email address on the same domain. But if you have a little more budget, you can opt for a wildcard certificate which will cover a single domain but also any subdomains on it, including your email. These are generally a bit more expensive but require the same level of vetting. The top level certificates can cover all of the above plus multiple domain names. Maybe you run several sites and want to cover them all without having to update individual certificates every year? These are called EV or "Extended Verification" certificates which require a lot more thorough checks on who you are as a business or person. Documents will need to be sent to corporate headquarters and there's probably some Companies House checking too if you're based in The UK. The benefits of an EV certificate are really that you earn a little more trust from your customers. And get a green padlock icon rather than a gray one. I don't agree with the green padlock "priviledge" though and neither does Google which is why Chrome will show a green padlock regardless of the type of certificate - how nice of them!
So if - until now - you've thought you couldn't afford security for your website, you should now see that getting an affordable SSL certificate isn't difficullt or expensive, you just need to shop around a little. Some companies will charge you a fortune trying to sell you the most elaborate certificate they offer but if you're a small business (like us!) you likely don't need an EV, multi-domain, super wildcard certificate for thousands of bucks every year. As I said before, we are now a GlobalSign partner and can issue and install signed certificates same-day so if you're still missing that padlock, get in touch and we can sort you out - most importantly: without breaking the bank.