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Does Your Website Need an SSL Certificate?

We looked into it so you don’t have to. Here’s what you need to know about SSL certification.

No matter the type of website you have, ensuring its security should always be a priority for you. From strengthening your admin passwords to steering clear of phishing emails, you need to take various steps to safeguard your site and its associated information at all times.

As you look for additional advice to secure your website, installing an SSL certificate often ranks on top of expert suggestions. As a result, if you ever perform a web search asking “Do I need an SSL certificate for my website?” The answer seems to be a resounding ‘Yes’ from all across the web. This also leads you to learn how to get an SSL certificate for your website.

To help you understand what SSL certificate is, what are its benefits, and why exactly you need it for your website, here is a detailed guide to this security layer and its importance for your site.

What is an SSL certificate?

An SSL certificate is a digital security mechanism that is based upon the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol. While SSL has been replaced by the advanced and more effective Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol, the term “SSL” is still widely used across the web to refer to this type of security measure.

Is HTTPS and SSL certificate the same thing?

Websites that are secured through SSL are also referred to as HTTPS websites, which stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. This sets them apart from websites that use the default HTTP or Hypertext Transfer Protocol without SSL protection. That is why, when you get the advice to move your website to HTTPS, it is referring to the installation of an SSL certificate on your site.

What does an SSL certificate do?

An SSL certificate is a digital file that is placed within your website’s server. Through this file, your website is able to encrypt any data that is being exchanged between your site’s server and any users who visit it from the front end.

In turn, any unauthorized party that tries to read this data is met with a jumbled mix of characters that are illegible to read. This makes it impossible for hackers and bad parties to decipher confidential or even basic information that is being exchanged between your domain and your website’s visitors.

But due to a sophisticated combination of authorized keys in the SSL certificate, your website’s server is able to verify this data and read it automatically without exposing it to bad actors. This process, called a TLS handshake, makes sure that you can perform the intended functions for your website’s visitors without compromising their safety and privacy.

These keys that are used for encryption purposes are provided by issuers of SSL certificates. This way, you don’t have to worry about setting up long strings of intricate passphrases all by yourself. In turn, this simplifies the process of getting an SSL certificate for your website.

What types of keys do SSL certificates contain?

The keys in SSL certificates contain a private digital signature or private key by an authentic issuer or certificate authority (CA) of the SSL certificate. Additionally, they also comprise a public key that is attributed to your website. It is this combination of private and public keys that allows SSL certificates to encrypt data for safety purposes and decrypt it for your website’s server.

After the installation of an SSL certificate on your website’s server, whenever a visitor submits any data to your website, it is encrypted and associated with the public key of your website. This encrypted information then goes through the decryption process using your SSL certificate’s private key. This allows you to read the data as it was submitted, while also protecting it between the sending and receiving ends.

What other benefits does an SSL certificate have?

If you are still asking yourself “Do I need an SSL certificate for my website?” Learning what an SSL certificate is able to do for your site can help you make an informed decision.

In addition to its encryption mechanism, an SSL certificate also verifies your website’s identity for other platforms such as search engines and web browsers. As a result, having an SSL certificate gives your site’s potential visitors the assurance that they are dealing with a secure website. This also stops malicious parties from illegitimately posing as your website.

What details do SSL certificates have within them?

An SSL certificate typically contains the following details within it.

  • Domain name. This is your website’s main URL for which you get the SSL certificate.
  • Subdomain names. This highlights any subdomains on your website that are also moved to HTTPS.
  • Owner name. This outlines your name or your organization’s name as the website owner.
  • Certificate Authority name. This refers to the CA or seller that issued the SSL certificate.
  • Issuance date. This describes the date on which the certificate was issued.
  • Expiration date. This determines the expiration date of the certificate.
  • Public key. This identifies your website’s key.

This information comes in handy when you are learning how to get an SSL certificate, as it tells you exactly what details will be included within your certificate.

What types of SSL certificates are available?

SSL certificates are available in different types. The kind of SSL certificate that you end up selecting affects how credible your website looks to your site’s visitors and the search engines alike.

There are three types of SSL certificates.

Domain validation (DV) certificate

The domain validation (DV) certificate is the basic level of verification for SSL certificates. It only verifies who owns the website by having correspondence with the email address that is in the domain registration records.

While the trust level that DV certificates offer to websites remains minimal, they do provide your website with the padlock icon next to the web browser’s address bar. Since there is very little verification involved, these certificates also offer you the benefit of being available within a few minutes of purchase or request.

Organization validated or individual validated certificate

The organization validated (OV) and individual validated (IV) certificate is the moderate level of SSL certificates that also offers a moderate level of trust.

Under the OV/IV certificate, you go beyond domain ownership verification and also establish the legitimacy of your organization or person. When verified by a trustworthy CA, this tells visitors and search engines that your website belongs to a verified entity or individual.

Typically, the OV/IV certificate holds an elevated level of trust and proves sufficient for websites that don’t have any financial transactions being performed on them. You can get this type of certificate within a period of 3-4 days of your request.

Extended validation certificate

The extended validation (EV) certificate is the highest level of SSL certificates and bears the highest level of trust. This certificate not only encompasses both your ownership and organization verification, but also looks into additional factors such as the legal standing of your business.

This makes the EV certificate the most advanced SSL certificate. This also sets it as the most sought after certificate for those organizations that handle sensitive or financial transactions.

Since EV certificates go beyond the usual checks and verify the legal standing of the organization running a website, you need more processing time to obtain this certificate. Typically, this takes around 6-7 days for you to get this certificate from the day you apply for it.

These features outline what is an SSL certificate and the benefits that they generally bring to the table for website owners. But if you are still wondering if installing this security mechanism is the right fit for you, your website, or your online store, you can consider the many reasons why they are an essential element for all types of websites.

Does your website need an SSL?

An SSL certificate is a crucial element for every modern website.

It is because you need an SSL certificate in order to:

  • Secure your website’s visitors and data.
  • Establish your reputation and status.
  • Improve your online presence and search engine results rankings.

As a result, getting an SSL certificate helps you steer clear of sensitive data leaks, enhances your site’s reputation, and also improves your site’s rankings over the search engines.

When put together, these benefits make it critical for your website to use an SSL certificate and make the move from HTTP to HTTPS.

To help you understand these requirements in a detailed manner, here’s an overview of each of these benefits and why they are important for your website.

Encrypt your website’s data

The first and foremost advantage of an SSL certificate is how it encrypts your website’s data and secures the information of your website’s visitors. This includes private information such as passwords, financially-sensitive details such as payment or credit card information, as well as personally-identifiable details such as full name, phone numbers, and billing or shipping addresses.

If your website gets targeted by a malicious party and doesn’t have an SSL certificate, these bad actors can intercept the data being exchanged between your website’s server and its visitors. This causes your visitors’ information to be compromised and puts them at risk.

However, this not only puts your visitors’ privacy and safety in jeopardy, but also exposes you to potential financial and reputational losses. The reason is simple: In case the data breach is significant, it can lead you to legal troubles such as lawsuits and settlements.

Even if you only obtain details such as email addresses from your website’s visitors, it is imperative that you encrypt such information after learning how to get an SSL certificate and moving your website to HTTPS.

But this often brings you to ask if you need this encryption feature even if your website doesn’t exchange any payment or sensitive details with your clients. Once again, the answer is yes (it’s becoming a running theme, but for good reason!).

Establish your authenticity

Apart from helping you secure your visitor’s data, an SSL certificate verifies the authenticity of your website. This helps when other websites such as search engines are trying to determine the legitimacy of your website. If you have an SSL certificate that is signed by a certificate authority (CA), these websites steer clear of slapping warnings next to your domain name.

With the growing talk about the importance of cyber security, many users now know what safety red flags they should look out for while interacting with a website. Even if the respective website visitor is not aware of these facts, their web browsers can now warn them about websites with an expired SSL certification or with no such certification on it. This appears in the form of a “Not Secure” warning or an open/marked padlock icon next to the address field of the browser window.

Besides making your website’s visitors apprehensive about their visit to your domain, this can have drastic effects on the web traffic that you obtain through search engines or even direct traffic that you get through emails, newsletters, or customer referrals.

Since SSL certificates are not difficult to install, this gives you all the more reason to go ahead with the installation and establish your website’s authenticity over the web. But the benefits of getting an SSL certificate do not end here by any means and continue to offer even more perks.

Improve your site’s search engine presence

Moving your website to HTTPS through SSL certificate also provides you with the ability to enhance your search engine rankings and online presence. It is because Google considers HTTPS as a ranking factor. In fact, the world’s largest search engine confirmed its growing preference for HTTPS websites publicly, all the way back in 2014.

This means that if your website doesn’t have an SSL certificate installed on it, it can get a hit on its rankings and drown out your presence to potential visitors. This can affect your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts and prevent you from making the most out of your outreach activities. In turn, you may not attain your goals for elevating your visibility despite your best efforts.

On the other hand, if you have an SSL certificate on your website, it can work as a ranking factor for search engine presence and help improve the keyword rankings of your website. This ensures that you are leaving no stones unturned in your pursuit to obtain higher visibility over the web. This also boosts any SEO activities that you are performing for your website and lets you attain maximum benefits from them.

Where to get an SSL

You can get an SSL certificate through a Certificate Authority. Commonly known as a CA, such a provider can easily be found over the web. More often than not, hosting providers and marketing services also perform the role of CAs for their clients.

This allows you to obtain your choice of SSL certificate from a provider that you can trust or already deal with in order to use their services. By making further inquiries about the type of SSL certificates that these providers offer and how much they charge for it, you can choose a solution that seems to be the right fit for you.

While finding a CA for your SSL certificate, keep the following factors in mind.

  • The type of SSL certificate that you need.
  • How urgently you require your site to move to HTTPS.
  • How much the provider is charging you for the SSL certificate.

Keep in mind that many providers offer SSL certificates free of cost. But typically, these are DV certificates that may not work for you if you are dealing in very sensitive information.

You can also get an SSL certificate from Mailchimp, which could very well be the easiest process for you to go through.

Start your online business

While setting up your website, it is important to give it a solid foundation with all the required tools for success. By taking care of essential elements such as SSL certificate installation, you can ensure that you are covering all your bases from the get go.

With new features such as the point-and-click Website Builder and domain setup, Mailchimp can help you obtain your very own SSL certificate without any hassle. When you purchase a domain through Mailchimp, you can make use of free domain registration services as well as an SSL certificate.

This makes your website ready to be operated over the web without going through third-party hosting providers. This allows you to fulfill your website’s hosting, design, and basic security requirements under the same and reliable banner.

To check all these boxes on your list, start your online business or blog with Mailchimp. For further information, don’t hesitate to go through our help section or reach out to our team today.

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