An SSL certificate makes your website more secure, and helps customers and site visitors feel more comfortable browsing your site and sharing information with you.
In today’s look at SEO best practices, we'll lay out tips on how to check for, set up, and maintain an SSL certificate on your website.
What Is an SSL Certificate?
SSL certificates are small data files that digitally bind a cryptographic key to an organization’s details (including domain name, hostname, or server name, as well as identifying details for your organization).
SSL stands for “secure sockets layer”, and the certificate verifies you have this layer of security in place across your entire website. When installed on your web server, the certificate activates the padlock and the https at the start of each URL on your site. This shows that you use secure connections between your web server to a browser, so site visitors can rest assured that their information is protected.
SSL certificates are used to secure information for safe credit card transactions, data transfers, and user logins. But they’ve become the norm for virtually every type of website, whether they have portals and online payment options or not.
Why Get an SSL Certificate?
There are many reasons an SSL certificate is a good investment:
Google uses it as a ranking signal: If you have one and keep it current, it will help bolster your rankings on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) and improve key performance indicators for SEO and ad campaigns as a result.
It improves website security and reduces the risk of data loss or theft.
It builds trust with site users and shows you care about protecting customer/client data, resulting in a greater likelihood of them taking key actions (like making a purchase) on your site.
SSL has gone way beyond ecommerce. It’s par for the course for any top-ranking, well-established website regardless of industry or site functionality.
How to Check for and Purchase SSL
SSL certificates have to be purchased. They’re not in place automatically when you set up a website. The simplest way to check for SSL is to look at the URL bar in your browser window:
Is there a little lock to the left to the URL?
Does the URL start with https instead of http?
If the answer to both of those questions is yes, your SSL certificate is in place and up to date. If no, it’s time to remedy that.
We recommend buying an SSL certificate from your hosting company, so it’s easier to monitor and implement from the dashboards and tools you’re already using.
SSL certificate costs vary based on the provider, and whether or not you’re choosing single-domain or organization validation options. Organization validation is a greater investment but offers more points of website security. Prices (per year) for single domain SSL range from $20-$250, and organization validation cost (per year) ranges from $150-$350 on average.
How to Set Up and Maintain Your SSL Certificate
SSL certificate setup varies according to the hosting site you choose to purchase it from. Some will put it in place and activate it for you after you purchase the certificate. In other cases, you’ll have to log into your hosting dashboard and manually select your certificate from your hosting settings menu.
Once you set it up, we suggest taking the following steps:
Do a website audit to make sure it is in place on all pages, including subdomains.
Check it after any site updates or changes to your content management system (CMS).
Make sure your site is set to force all traffic to https instead of http.
Set up auto-renewal of SSL along with your domain name, so there are no gaps in site functionality or security.
If you have questions about SSL certificates or are wondering how to further improve your site security and stability, check with your web developer and performance marketing agency regularly. Make sure you work with teams who value security as a top priority.