Have you ever noticed that some web URLs begin with ‘http://’ and some begin with ‘https://’? Or maybe you noticed the ‘s’ on the URL when you’ve ever browsed sites where you are required to enter personal or sensitive information?

Maybe you’ve never really thought twice about the extra ‘s’, or even noticed it but basically, that extra ‘s’ included in the URL means that the connection to the site is secured and encrypted and that any information you enter will be shared with that site in a safe way. In other words, your personal info like credit card details will be safe.

The technology which in fact powers this ‘s’ is referred to as SSL and it stands for Secure Sockets Layer.

So let’s start at the beginning…

What is SSL?

The definition on SSL.com explains it like this:

“SSL is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browser remain private.”

These days, there are not that many websites that will not ask you to enter some or other details. Say for example you land on a site that asks you to enter your email address to receive an ebook, once you enter your details and press submit, the information you entered can be intercepted by hackers.

This is just one example of information being intercepted, other examples can include banking transactions like entering your credit card details to pay for something online. Your credit card details or personal information is something you don’t want to land in the hands of a hacker which is what makes SSL important.

The way this kind of interception can take place in a number of different ways but one of the more common means is when the hacker places a small, undetectable ‘listenint’ program on your site. This program then waits until someone starts typing their info into the site. It then activates and captures the information before sending it back to whoever is trying to steal the information.

And before you ask yourself, ‘really?’ – the answer is yes. These things happen a lot more often than people think.

This is why it is so important to understand if a site its secured because when you visit a site that is encrypted with SSL, your browser makes a connection with the server, checks the SSL certificate and then connects your site with the browser. Meaning, the connection is made secure and no one apart from you and the website you are visiting can see or even gain access to that particular information being entered.

This secure connection also happens a lot faster than you’d think especially since a lot of users have started reporting that a site with SSL loads faster than one without. You just have to visit the site and your connection is instantly secured.

Does SSL affect SEO?

No is the short answer and the long answer is that Google has actually been running tests that take into account whether a site uses secure, encrypted connections as a signal in their search ranking algorithms.

This means that the more secure your site is, the more it stands a chance at being ranked better. Think about it. Most people these days actually stop browsing on a site if they see it is not SSL secure. Whereas before it was a matter of making your site secure, now it is also about ensuring your site is secure and can still rank well.

How can I tell if the site is secure?

There are a few things to take a look at.

Firstly is the URL, you’ll want to see ‘https://’ and not ‘http://’

Then you will notice (if the site is secure) that there is a little padlock that appears in the URL bar, either to the left of the URL or to the right. The padlock is clickable for you to see more information about the website and the company where the certificate originates from.

Then finally, you will want to check the certificate is valid. So even if there is ‘https://’ and a padlock, checking the certificate will make sure that it is not in fact expired. If you’re on a site that asks you to enter a lot of information, it is always worth checking the certificate is valid and the site is actually secure.

How do I get my site SSL secured?

You need to understand what kind of certificate you will need. Say you have content on multiple platforms (with separate domains), you may need different SSL certificates. For most websites, a standard SSL certificate will be good but for companies that operate within specific industries, there may be SSL certificates specific to that sector.

Also, remember that these certificates are not infinite. They expire after a certain period of time so it’s good to note this so that your certificates never expire without you updating them.

Finally, do I really need an SSL certificate?

Unfortunately, given the day and age we live in today, the short answer is yes.

Pretty much any way you look at it, it’s a good idea to ensure that your site visitors information is always secure. Whether you use your site to build lists or you have an e-commerce site, your visitor’s information should be one of the top priorities for you.

Some may think that it can be cheaper to maintain their sites without these certificates and while this may be true, it is not the wisest cost-cutting measure to adopt. Data information is one of the most important things to keep in mind when you have a website these days.

Having the attitude of “nothing will happen to us” is the wrong way to approach your site’s security. Opting not to have SSL security can end up costing you a whole lot more than the investment it may require you to make.