If you are new to the web design world and you’re setting up a site for the first time, you may be wondering whether or not you need an SSL certificate. Simply put, an SSL certificate allows you to send encrypted and secure data from the website visitor’s browser to the web server where your site is hosted. SSL certificates are identified by the “https://” commonly seen in the address field when visiting a website, where the “s” stands for “secure.” If the site you’re visiting displays only an “http://” in the address field, the site you are visiting does not have an SSL certificate installed.

While SSL certificates were introduced in 1994, it wasn’t until recent years, that it became increasingly important for all website owners to use them. Initially, SSL certificates were predominently used by those collecting sensitive data on their sites. However, in 2014, Google announced that search rankings would be affected by whether or not a website had an SSL certificate, therefore encouraging website owners to install security certificates regardless of the sensitivity of the data being transmitted on their sites. In 2017, Google introduced the “Not Secure” message in the address field of the Chrome browser when users typed the address of a site that did not have a security certificate installed. In July of 2018, the “Not Secure” message became permanently visible in the Chrome browser for sites lacking an SSL certificate. Other browsers followed suit by using things like a green indicator for websites secured with an SSL certificate, or a “non-secure” message when typing in a form field on a website lacking a security certificate. 

Ultimately, there are three key reasons to install an SSL certificate, regardless of whether or not you intend to collect sensitive information on your website.

Security
No matter what type of information you’re collecting on your website, even if it’s something as simple as an email address or a contact form correspondence, it’s important to ensure all information is transmitted as securely as possible. An SSL certificate allows you to encrypt all data submitted through the forms on your site, ensuring you are the only recipient. 

Credibility
First, an SSL certificate will improve your credibility with those visiting your site. When users see a “Not Secure” message at the top of their browser window on your website, they may start to question your overall security practices. They may give pause when considering a donation (even if your site links to a third party vendor to accept online payments). By installing an SSL certificate, you can remove any immediate concerns over the way your organization collects and stores personal information and other sensitive data. 

SEO
While the use of an SSL certificate may not have a significant impact on your rankings in the SERPs, it definitely plays into the algorithm. In order to ensure you are doing your due diligence to remain relevant in online searches, it’s important to install a certificate for your domain. Thankfully, the process has become much less expensive and significantly less work than it once was. With a quick call to your web host, you should be able to get a security certificate installed in no time. 

 

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