Why you need an SSL certificate and how to install one

In the past, you really only needed an SSL certificate if you accepted online payments, or asked clients to submit sensitive information (like personal details and credit scores). Now, Google is changing the game.

  1. Sites with an https certificate figure higher in search rankings. In fact, last year Google stated that “Getting an SSL certificate is the one thing website owners can do to improve their search rankings.”
  2. Starting in July, 2018, Chrome will start warning people if a site is insecure. Meaning, in the future, you will actually be penalized if your site doesn’t have an SSL certificate. Since more than 50% of worldwide Internet users search via Chrome, I highly recommend you upgrade your site’s security.

What is an SSL certificate?

SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer protocol. This is responsible for creating secure communication between a client and server. This is done by both server and client authentication and the negotiation of an encryption algorithm and cryptographic keys.

In reality, you never see an actual certificate. You will get a security number and a private key.

How do I purchase an SSL certificate?

You can purchase an SSL certificate through third party vendors. However, to make things easy, I recommend purchasing it through your hosting provider. All major hosting providers, such as Godaddy and Bluehost, sell SSL certificates. If you purchased your domain name from the same company that hosts your site, the process is easiest.

If not, you will be asked to verify that you own the domain. This is because all SSL certificates are tied to domain names. Your hosting company will manage this, but the process can take a few days.

How much does an SSL certificate cost?

It depends, based upon the level of encryption and if you want the SSL certificate applied to subdomains. Godaddy charges $59.99 per year for SHA-2 and 2048-bit encryption, which is the strongest on the market. I’ve seen external vendors charge up to $600 for a certificate but personally, I think Godaddy offers the best protection at the most economical rate.

How do I install it?

You don’t need to do anything- your hosting provider does the basic installation. If you purchased your domain from a third party you may need to verify ownership. If you are listed as the site owner in the Whois directory, this is often done automatically.

Will it affect my SEO?

Yes it can unless you remap all your urls! You need to replace all of your http:// links with https:// links.

This sounds tricky and time consuming, but can be done very easily with a plugin. The most widely used is Really Simple SSL. However, it does sometimes conflict with other plug-ins. I recently installed it on a client’s site and it reformatted her whole site- not in a good way.

My favorite is Force HTTPS. You simply install it, enter information when prompted and it does the rest.

Is there anything else I need to do?

Most web hosting companies offer a snippet of code that you can copy into the footer of your site. Once you do that, a small security image will show up, demonstrating that your site is secure. Godaddy offers the option of using a Godaddy or a McAfee image.

HINT: If you don’t know anything about coding, you can create a text widget and add it to your website’s footer. Copy the code into the text field and that will generate the image.

It’s as simple as that!


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