What is https? What is an SSL Certificate? Why do I need one?

So you may have read or heard the term ‘SSL Certificate’ or ‘https’ being banded about and sat there thinking – I’ve absolutely no idea what they are talking about! So, what the heck is it and why do I need one?

What the heck is SSL?

Ok, SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. When installed it creates a secure (encrypted) link between your server (where all your website files are) and your browser (Chrome, Internet Explorer, FireFox, Safari etc..). It ensures that any data passed between those two computers remains private and secure.

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How can I tell if an SSL certificate is installed and active on a website?

With an SSL, this will show as an https connection in the browser address bar. You will often see a padlock symbol too.


What is an SSL Certificate?


Without an SSL (a http connection), there will be no padlock icon and you may even get a warning:


What is https?


Why do I need an SSL Certificate?

There are two main reasons;

1) Google. From the first of October (today!), Google are now going to start to mark websites that are HTTP as nonsecure and it is clear that over time as Google favours HTTPS, this will effect your website’s ranking in search results.

2) User confidence. Well, without SSL/https connection third-parties can view any traffic passing between your site and your reader. Obviously, this is a huge issue if you run an online shop or service where sensitive information like credit cards is input into your website on checkout for example.

So, when you buy online, make sure it’s through HTTPS. If it’s not, then I recommend not to buy from that site. You can see how this will effect those online shops that aren’t using HTTPS going forward.

Nobody panic!

If your website doesn’t have an https connection/SSL certificate installed, don’t panic. It is really easy and quick to install a SSL certificate. This needs to be installed on your website server and so needs to be done by your hosting company or website developer. Most hosting companies are now including an SSL certificate free or an easy add on to your package (I highly recommend SiteGround* for hosting and they offer a free SSL certificate for the first 12 months).

If you are not sure what to ask your hosting company for or need any help, let me know – just ask!

* please note this is an affiliate link, but I do not recommend anything that I don’t use myself.