So, you’ve heard the term “SSL certificate” floating about the internet, from your IT team, or from your web developer. You know it has something to do with web security. But really though…what the heck is it? Well, SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. According to Symantec, an SSL certificate is “the standard technology for keeping an internet connection secure and safeguarding any sensitive data that is being sent between two systems, preventing criminals from reading and modifying any information transferred, including potential personal details.”
Have you ever noticed a little green padlock icon in your internet browser’s URL bar? Well, that little green padlock with the word “secure” next to it is one way to tell if a website has an SSL certificate. It usually looks like this:
Another way is to look at the URL itself: “An SSL certificate is installed on the server side but there are visual cues on the browser which can tell users that they are protected by SSL. Firstly, if SSL is present on the site, users will see https:// at the start of the web address rather than the http:// (the extra ‘s’ stand for ‘secure’)” (Symantec). Prior to May 2014, SSL certificates were usually only recommended for websites with an e-commerce function or sites that stored confidential data. You’ll notice that any major online retailer (ie. Target, Amazon, Ebay) will have an SSL certificate. Now, Google is taking it one step farther.
Google = The Godfather
Think of Google as the Godfather of the internet. Whatever they say goes. In true “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” fashion, Google decided to actively reward sites with SSL certificates starting in 2014. According to Symantec, “Google now advocates that HTTPS, or SSL, should be used everywhere on the web and, as of 2014, the search engine has been rewarding secured websites with improved web rankings, another great reason for any site to install SSL.”
In 2018, they raised the bar (again) on the importance of SSL certificates. Google will now be showing warning icons if websites do not have SSL certificates. This is will be very harmful to your website’s SEO. Regardless of whether you sell goods online, the time for an SSL certificate has arrived. Read more about this change >
Is This a Good Thing?
Generally, yes. Google is trying to protect you from the onslaught of malicious actors in cyberspace. Implementation of SSL certificates will lead to more protection of sensitive information across the web. The cost of SSL certificates varies, but you can usually get them through your website host for less than $100/year.