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Do I Need an SSL Certificate for My Website?

Does your website need an SSL certificate? Read this guide to learn whether or not your website requires an SSL certificate.

Your business website is a valuable sales and marketing tool that can help customers find you online. Whether you sell products or services or use your website to inform potential customers about your business, you may be wondering whether or not you need an SSL certificate. But what is an SSL certificate? An SSL certificate secures your website to protect important customer data from cybercriminals.

If you collect personal information from customers, whether it’s credit card numbers or something as simple as an email address, your website needs an SSL certificate, even if you don’t sell anything. SSL certificates ensure that this data travels securely from a user’s browser to your website server without being intercepted by hackers. An SSL certificate is also essential to General Data Compliance (GDPR) if your website stores personal information.

Making your website secure adds HTTPS to your website instead of HTTP. While customers might not notice this in the URL, they expect your website to be safe. Search engines like Google also expect your website to be secure, and having an unsafe website can be bad for your ranking on search results. Ultimately, securing your website and protecting your customers' data can help build customer trust and make them confident in your business and website.

If you're asking yourself, “Do I need an SSL certificate?”, the fact is that every website should have an SSL certificate, even if they don’t sell anything online. Let's go over why more in-depth below.

SSL is a type of encryption protocol that secures data between browsers and servers so it can't be intercepted. This makes it impossible for hackers to read customer information. Ultimately, SSL certificates create a safer website experience for businesses and customers.

Depending on their browsers, customers may be warned about unsecured websites with a popup or message that requires users to click a button to proceed. These warnings scare customers away because they see a potential security warning that suggests they could be hacked. If you don’t have an SSL certificate, you’re likely to lose many customers due to a browser's security measures.

If your website collects any information from customers, including emails, addresses, names, or business names, you must have an SSL certificate to make their data secure when it’s transferred to your server. However, even businesses that don’t sell anything or collect data through their website should still have an SSL certificate to protect their website traffic.

Advantages of SSL certificates

Now that you understand what SSL certificates are for and why they’re important to customers, you might wonder, “Do I need an SSL certificate for my website?” So, here are some of their advantages to help you decide if they're worth it.

  • Keeps data secure. SSL certificates protect customer data, including names, addresses, email addresses, and credit card information, from cybercriminals who can use this information to steal identities.
  • Enhances trust between customers. Customers expect your website to be secure and protect their data. If you don’t have an SSL certificate and they get a pop-up warning suggesting your website isn't safe, they’ll lose trust in your business and may not continue onto your website.
  • Meets PCI/DSS requirements: PCI/DSS is mandated by the Payment Card Industry Security Standard council and set up by the major credit card companies and banks for companies that accept, store, and process cardholder data. If you don’t have an SSL certificate, you may not be able to work with a payment processor to sell products online.
  • Authenticates your identity: Encryption can enhance your brand reputation because it authenticates and validates your business.
  • Improves ranking on search engines: Google rewards websites with SSL certificates by helping them rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) because it offers their users better security.

It’s also important to note that an SSL certificate can help you dodge legal issues. If there’s a security breach and customer data is compromised because your website doesn’t have an SSL certificate, you may face legal consequences. SSL certificates prevent customer data from being stolen while providing you with the preventative measure you need to avoid an expensive lawsuit.

Do I really need an SSL certificate?

Some websites require SSL certificates, and others don't. However, having an SSL certificate is recommended for all websites, no matter what you use them for.

If your website has any of the following, you most likely need an SSL certificate:

Checkout processes

All e-commerce websites that collect customer information, like credit card numbers or mailing addresses, should have an SSL certificate. Few customers will give you their sensitive financial information if your website isn’t secure. Additionally, when applying for merchant accounts to collect online payments, you may not be able to find a payment processor without having an SSL certificate already implemented on your website.

User logins

If customers use your website to log into a portal or your website collects any personal information on your customers, you need an SSL certificate.

Forms that collect sensitive information

Any website asking users for information requires an SSL certificate to prevent cyber criminals from intercepting data. Confidential information isn’t just credit card numbers; it could mean any personal information, including an email address or phone number.

There are some situations when you don’t need an SSL certificate. However, since browsers notify users that your website isn’t secure, potentially scaring away your website visitors and potential customers, there’s no reason not to have an SSL certificate.

Types of SSL certificates

Even if you’re in the process of obtaining an SSL certificate for your website, you might put it off because the multiple options can be confusing. Ultimately, the type of certificate you need depends on the level of authentication required.

The types of SSL certificates are:

  • Domain Validation: DV certificates are easy to get and only require proof of ownership for the domain. Domain validations show trust indicators for browser users, including the HTTPS:// string in the URL before the domain. This type of validation only validates the control of the domain, not the legitimacy of the business, so they’re not recommended for e-commerce websites.
  • Organization Validation: OV certificates are the next level of authentication in which businesses must authenticate their domains by confirming that the business is legally registered. OV SSL certificates can only be issued to organizations, making them a better option for business websites. Like DV certificates, you’ll receive the HTTPS:// string at the beginning of the URL and other trust indicators like the padlock near the URL in a browser.
  • Extended Validation: EV certificates are the highest level of website security for businesses and their customers. They’re the industry standard for all e-commerce websites. To get an EV SSL certificate, you must meet stricter requirements and be vetted by a specialist. However, even though the process takes longer, it’s ideal for all businesses because it can increase trust.

How to obtain an SSL certificate

If you’re ready to get your SSL certificate to boost your reputation online, you might wonder how the process works. Luckily, obtaining an SSL certificate is easy for business owners. There are many different ways to get an SSL certificate. Still, the easiest way is to purchase one through your website hosting provider by verifying your domain and business ownership.

Here’s how you can obtain an SSL certificate for your website:

1. Determine the type you need

We’ve already discussed the types of SSL certificates available to businesses and individuals. We recommend getting the highest level of security through the EV certificate. Still, you can choose whichever one you want based on the level of protection you need.

2. Talk to your hosting provider

Almost all hosting providers offer SSL certificates, so you may not have to deal with a third-party organization if you don’t want to. However, if you’re unsure if your plan comes with this security feature, talk to your hosting provider to see if you can get one for free or purchase one.

3. Create your SSL certificate

If you choose not to get an SSL certificate from your hosting provider, you can get one from a third party for free by doing some research online. Once you’ve decided where to get your certificate, it’s time to generate one by entering your website URL. If you’re using a third-party vendor, you’ll need to create an account that will store your certificate before finalizing your order.

4. Verify domain ownership

Your SSL certificate won't work until you verify domain ownership. You can verify ownership in a few ways, including HTTP file upload, DNS, or email.

5. Install your certificate

Once domain ownership has been verified, you can install your SSL certificate. Most providers will give you a set of instructions for how to get started. You can confirm it’s working by looking for the HTTPS:// in your website URL or finding the browser's padlock.

Securing your website with an SSL certificate

SSL certificates are a feature every website needs, whether or not you sell products online or collect valuable personal data from customers. To run a successful business website, you need an SSL certificate to prevent traffic interruption. Even if you don’t collect any information from your website visitors, your website requires an SSL certificate to prevent customers from getting a pop-up that indicates your website is unsecured.

An up-to-date SSL certificate is vital for every business website, but that’s not all you need. If you want to convert your website traffic, you’ll need a professional business website that integrates with marketing automation tools to effectively target the right customers at the right time. Mailchimp’s website builder can help you connect with customers and use their data to send them automated marketing campaigns, helping your website convert more visitors into customers.

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