In recent years, you must have heard a lot about SSL, SSL certificates, HTTPS, website security, etc.
What do we mean by it?
More importantly, how does any of it affect a website owner and his online business?
In this blog post, we are going to discuss what SSL is, what are the differences between safe and unsafe websites, and how does website security affect search engine rankings, user experience, revenue, brand credibility, and the overall online business.
HTTP vs. HTTPS
When browsing the internet, you must have noticed that for some websites the URL starts with http:// while for some other websites, the URL begins like “https://.
Where does that extra “s” comes from and, more importantly, what does it represent?
In the world of internet and online security, that “s” represents that your connection to a particular website is encrypted and secure, which means that any information you decide to share with that website is encrypted and safe.
That extra “s” also represents a technology that we usually know as SSL.
What is SSL?
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. In layman terms, it represents an additional layer of safety and security that protects your data and the information you choose to share with a website.
SSL.com defines SSL as:
“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.”
How does SSL work?
Suppose you visit a website that requires your credit card information. It may have a form that you fill with the necessary information, e.g., personal information about yourself, your bank account information, your credit card information, your address, phone number, etc.
In an ideal world, the information you share would be 100% secure. However, that doesn’t always happen.
Sometimes, hackers intercept this data and steal all the information.
For instance, hackers often place a small data-stealing program that resides undetected on the server hosting the particular website that you are visiting. As soon as you start typing in the information, those data-stealing or “listening” programs become active.
Those programs steal all the information that you type (e.g., your address or credit card information) and send it back to the hacker who installed them.
As you can guess, the hacker can then use that information however he wants to. He can use your credit card and bank account information to purchase stuff. That’s one of the biggest ways cybercrimes happen.
SSL prevents this by protecting people from such hacking attempts and safeguarding their personal information.
SSL creates an encrypted connection with you and the website you are visiting. It means that whatever information you share, while you are in a secure connection that SSL created for you, will not be shared with anyone. No one can access or see the information you share.
That’s how SSL protects online users — by encrypting the sensitive information they share on the internet.
How can online users identify a safe website?
Here comes the more interesting part.
The entire point of SSL is to let people know whether or not a website is secure enough to share personal or sensitive information. It means that online users can now instantly recognize if a website has an SSL certificate.
Google Chrome is leading the way with visible indicators. If a website has an SSL certificate:
- The URL says “https://” instead of “http://”. As we discussed earlier, the extra “s” represents that the website has an SSL certificate and is, therefore, encrypted and secure.
- There may also be a padlock in the URL bar which indicates that the website is secure. It also often explicitly says that the website is “Secure”.
Look at the following screenshot. You can see https:// as well as the lock icon that shows that the website is secure.
You can also click on the lock icon to get more details about the website and the company that provided the SSL certificate.
SSL certificates and online users
SSL certificates ensure that a website is secure. Moreover, online users are also now becoming more tech-savvy, which means they understand what an SSL certificate represents.
Google Chrome’s visual indicators are also creating the much-needed awareness.
Now that online users understand the difference between a safe and unsafe website (the difference between http:// and https://), they do not feel as comfortable visiting an http:// website anymore.
HubSpot did a survey, which revealed that 82% people claimed that they would not browse a website if it is not secure with an SSL certificate. In U.K., that number was 83%.
In other words, if you do not have an SSL certificate, it means that you will be losing approximately 83% of your website traffic. Furthermore, it will also negatively affect your brand authority, credibility, and overall profit.
Moreover, this number is only going to increase in the future.
Google is gearing up for a Google Chrome update which would explicitly ask the online surfers to quit browsing an unsecured website. That warning will pop up whenever they visit a website that does not have an SSL certificate — even if it is not collecting any information from the visitors.
SSL certificates and search engine rankings
Do SSL certificates also affect a website’s search engine rankings?
SSL is actually good for SEO. On the other hand, websites without SSL certificates may find it difficult to consistently rank higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
SSL is now a part of Google’s search engine ranking algorithm. Moreover, a website without an SSL certificate will have a poor user experience and a high exit rate. These indicators further affect a website’s search engine position.
It is also important to remember that Google has publicly announced that if two similar websites, which are equal in search results, are pitted against each other, the website with an SSL certificate will have a slight ranking advantage over the other.
As you can see, there is a clear SEO advantage of having an SSL certificate. For more details, read how does an SSL certificate affect a site’s search engine rankings.
SSL-enabled websites are the future of internet browsing. With more and more browsers showing more explicit warnings against “unsafe” websites, the importance of SSL-enabled sites is only going to increase.
If you do not already have an SSL certificate for your website, you should get one as soon as possible. Read our blog post on different types of SSL certificates to learn which one you should get.