That Google sure likes to keep itself busy. They’re constantly making new rules for search engine optimization. They’re always making new products that are too good not to be used. And they’re always making you jump through hoops. And now they want you to use something called “SSL” on your website.
As usual, however, Google knows what it’s doing. That SSL certificate they want you to install so your website isn’t flagged as unsafe is actually really important, and it will benefit both you and your customers.
What’s an SSL Certificate?
SSL, or secure sockets layer, is a security technology that makes the connection between your website and its visitors safer. When a visitor accesses your website, the visitor’s browser and your website make a connection. If that connection is not safe, someone can eavesdrop on your “conversation.”
With an SSL certificate in place, the connection between your website and the browser is encrypted. Only someone with an encryption key would be able to see the information that’s exchanged between the website and the visitor. So anyone who would want to eavesdrop would end up emptyhanded.
Do You Need an SSL?
Every website would need additional security features, right? It can’t hurt, after all, so it’s better to have one than not. However, SSL Certificates are not free, and if you’re about to invest money in one you should be sure that you really need it.
The information that’s transmitted between the website and the browser isn’t always sensitive. A regular session will contain regular information that no one needs to snoop around — they can get it on their own if they visit the website.
However, if you ask visitors to leave sensitive information, things become different. If your website has fields the visitors need to fill out to leave their email or any other type of information, then you need an SSL certificate. This is the type of information hackers will look for — emails, names, passwords, credit card numbers. And if your website is showing “http” in the address bar instead of “https,” they will be able to get it.
What Happens if You Don’t Install an SSL?
No one can make you use an SSL certificate for your website. There’s no legislation that requires you to do it. But if you don’t, and you still ask your customers for sensitive information, your visitors will not be the only ones who are in trouble.
Google and its web browser Chrome will flag the connection between your website and a visitor as unsafe if you don’t use an SSL certificate. And that can be a big problem for you because it’s a clear signal that your website cannot be trusted. Your visitors are getting increasingly sophisticated when it comes to security, and they might not be too happy to give their information to an unsecured website. That means that those forms you’ve been carefully crafting will not perform well, and you’ll be using newsletter signups or customers.
On the other hand, if your website uses an SSL certificate, its visitors will be able to see it. That serves as a trust signal, and it can boost your website’s performance. That alone might be a reason to invest into an SSL certificate, even if you don’t really need it.