SSL Certificates: What They Are & Why Your Website Needs One

By Kris LaGreca

SSL Certificates: What They Are & Why Your Website Needs OneNew Possibilities Group

SSL Certificates: What They Are & Why Your Website Needs One

When you’re shopping, you’d never hand your credit card over to the cashier and tell him or her to share it with their co-workers before giving it back. The same goes for publicly broadcasting personal information such as your social security number, date of birth, or mother’s maiden name (worse if all in the same sentence!) We’ve all learned how to protect sensitive information offline and an SSL is necessary to keep that same data secure online.

An SSL (secure sockets layer) is used to encrypt date sent between your customer’s web browser and your website. Address pages of sites using SSL normally begin with “https://” as opposed to “http://” and the browser will display a padlock or other indicator to confirm the connection is secure. Keep in mind that when you purchase SSL, what you’re really buying is an SSL certificate which then needs to be installed onto your web server. Once installed, your website’s pages are encrypted.

SSLs are most often used when you want to request sensitive information—like passwords or credit cards—that needs to be hidden from third parties. Virtually all websites (especially e-commerce businesses!) need protection and SSL offers one of the most secure ways to get it. Without SSL, the data remains unencrypted and any computer between you and the server can see and access all confidential information.

In addition to offering customers encryption of their personal data, utilizing SSL during your custom web development is a smart move in a number of other ways:

Gain Customer Trust

Many consumers remain fearful of online fraud—and rightfully so! We’ve all heard credit card and identify theft horror stories or, worse yet, have experienced them ourselves. When your customers see the browser padlock or the SSL trust seal indicating that your site is secure, it increases their confidence in doing business with you through your website, and that can lead to repeat sales and referrals.

Authentication

When you obtain an SSL certificate, you also receive what is known as a server certificate. This additional certificate acts as a mediator between servers and browsers and lets your customers know your site is trustworthy. Visitors to your site can view its SSL documentation to validate that your site’s certificate is up-to-date and to reassure themselves that your site is authentic and their information will be protected. (Also: be sure to periodically check that your SSL certificate is, in fact, up-to-date, as you don’t want a customer to get a security warning during the check-out process.)

Required For Credit Card Payments

Nothing is more important than making sure your customers’ credit card data is secure while using your site. Compliance with the PCI Data Security Standard, or DSS, requires a minimum 128-bit encryption for all online business large or small who accept credit card payments. PCI standards let your customers know the SSL certificate uses the required strength of encryption, that it’s from a trusted source and that they can be sure their personal information is being entered on a private page. The SSL certificate also secures any and all data a customer chooses to have stored on your server for future purchases.

SEO

Search engines have begun using the SSL encryption factor or https indicator as a ranking signal. Though currently in the early stages and not a top pointer like high-quality content, many of these search providers have indicated they will increase their reliance on it as more and more web designers switch to secure sites.

Brand Power

You can inspire consumer trust and confidence and take advantage of brand power through your SSL certificate. The most established certificate providers offer trust indicators and site seals that lend credibility to your site. Keep in mind that your greatest branding opportunities come from leading providers who are already recognized and trusted by consumers. Note that some low-cost SSL resellers will provide you with a generic certificate. Premium certificates will display your site name next to the badge icon in your browsers address bar, further enforcing your brand identity.

Remember: your goal is to convert your site visitors into paying customers and to do that successfully requires that you gain their confidence. To bring it back into the real world scenario, no one buys from a salesperson they sense is dishonest or unreliable. Use the trust indicators provided by an SSL certificate and you’ll maximize what may possibly be the most important factor in driving conversion rates: trust.

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