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A Beginner’s Guide to SSL Certificates

31 Jan 2017

You know your site needs to be secure, which requires an SSL certificate, but beyond that, you aren’t sure where to begin. Here is what you need to know about SSL certificates so you can give your site the security you need to be trusted by your customers and by Google.

An SSL Certificate Explained

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and it is the security method that is used to protect sensitive data on your site, like a user’s credit card number, social security number, password, etc. Instead of data being sent as plain text, the SSL uses a public and private key to encrypt the data so hackers cannot see it. So the SSL certificate is essentially proof to visitors that you have this data encryption in place. Once you have the SSL certificate, your URL will begin with https instead of just http, so it is easy for visitors to identify that your site is secure.

Why an SSL Certificate Is Important

There are three reasons that you want to have an SSL certificate in place, no matter what type of website you have:

  • If you do not have an SSL certificate and your site gets hacked, you could be liable for not properly protecting the sensitive data. In fact, if you accept credit cards on your site, the Payment Card Industry requires you to have an SSL certificate.
  • With an SSL certificate, you can earn the trust of your visitors, so they will be more likely to complete a purchase on your site. If you do not have an SSL certificate, most people will not enter any personal information for fear of it being hacked.
  • When you have a secure site, you can reap the benefits of a ranking boost from Google, as sites with an https URL will rank higher if all other factors are equal.

Types of SSL Certificates

Now that you understand how SSL certificates work and why you need them, let’s explore the three different types of SSL certificates available:

  • Domain-Validated – This is the standard type of SSL certificate. It only checks to make sure the domain name is, in fact, registered to you by making you confirm the registration via email. Only use this type of SSL for an internal system, as it offers the least amount of protection.
  • Organization-Validated – With this SSL certificate, real agents will validate your domain ownership, as well as confirm you have the proper contact and location information registered. Since the verification process is more in-depth, the security provided is greater; however, this type of SSL certificate is really only for information-based company sites—not e-commerce.
  • Extended Validation (EV) – For the ultimate level of security, an EV certificate is highly recommended. This SSL certificate requires a thorough validation process of your legality as a business, which is not required with the other two certificate types. As a result of the rigorous validation, you will be rewarded with a green padlock display in your browser bar, giving consumers an extra reassurance they can shop with confidence. If you do any business online, this should be the type of SSL certification you obtain.

With an SSL certificate in play, you can protect the private data of your customers while improving your site’s reputation in the eyes of Google. To learn more about SSL certificates, contact Zero Gravity Marketing now.