Should You Install an SSL Certificate On Your Website?
If you run ANY kind of a website these days, chances are you have heard of SSL (secure socket layer) certificates. This is especially true if you know anything about e-commerce websites. In fact, just the fact that you’re reading this blog post makes it highly likely that you have some awareness of SSL and what it is, unless you’re just some kind of a weirdo that randomly reads articles covering topics that they’ve never heard of! Okay, okay….I have done that too, but admittedly that was a weird time in my life!
What IS SSL?
While the focus of this article is intended to be LESS about WHAT SSL certificates actually are and more about whether or not you need one, I will keep this explanation as brief and non-technical as possible. Simply stated, SSL is a more or less safe way of passing potentially sensitive data over the internet. The obvious example would be credit card information…but that’s not the ONLY kind of sensitive data that can be passed over the internet.
So, for example, if you are selling products or services on your website and you are NOT relying on a 3rd party service to process credit cards for you (think PayPal and similar services) then you absolutely MUST have an SSL certificate installed.
Ok, enough about WHAT they are. Now, on to IF you should install one.
If you are the type of person that likes articles to be short, sweet and to-the-point then I will simply tell you “YES” you should have an SSL certificate even if you’re NOT selling something through your website. It’s sad but it’s true.
Now, if you’d like to dive a bit deeper I explain why, at least in my opinion, you should have an SSL certificate installed on your site no matter what.
It’s NOT for the reason(s) you’ve been told – and by “told” I mean “SOLD”
First of all, let me tell you that you DON’T need one for the reasons that GoDaddy (as much as I love GoDaddy) and other web hosts tell you that you do. Which is to say you DON’T need one to rank well on Google. That is complete HOGWASH and frankly, I wonder how they sleep at night telling people that garbage.
That said I WILL concede that there ARE scenarios where having an SSL certificate absolutely CAN be beneficial to your ranking power with Google if all other things are equal – BUT – the number of cases in which all other things are equal are damn close to ZERO. Again, I am not going to explain all that here, it could be an entire article in-and-of itself. And in fact, that just gave me an idea…!
Then WHY Have an SSL Certificate at all?
Ok, So if it’s not truly about assisting the ranking power of my website AND I am NOT selling anything, then why the HELL should have an SSL certificate?
My answer boils down quite simply to a sleazy move on the part of some internet browser developers. You see, they have decided to place a “warning” directly in the face of their users that can (and does) cause unnecessary panic in the minds of their users. I’m sure that by now you’ve seen it. It looks like this:
That probably looks familiar, right?
Now, the average internet user doesn’t realize that this warning simply means that the website they are currently visiting doesn’t have an SSL certificate and that they might want to think twice before submitting information through it. No. They simply think that all of a sudden their computer is going to be hacked because they visited a, GASP! “unsecure” website.
NEWSFLASH – we have all been visiting websites without SSL for a looooong time. The only time this is a problem is, again, if we are submitting information to them that we’d like to be cautious with.
Now please bear 2 things in mind.
First: I am NOT saying there is some kind of conspiracy going on in which browser developers stand to benefit from doing this. Certainly not that I know of anyway!
Second: I do realize that I haven’t answered the original question yet – at least not DIRECTLY – which is why you should have an SSL if your website doesn’t sell anything or process sensitive information in any capacity.
The reason is, to double back just a little bit, because the average internet user – you know, the ones that would never read an enlightening article such as this, will simply see a warning in their address bar and panic. They will immediately leave your website when they see the words “not secure“.
Example: have you ever shown your grandparents something online? Get the picture?
The nice thing is, SSL certificates are NOT expensive. In fact, some web hosts such as Site Ground issue them standard with their hosting accounts. And even the hosting companies that have you pay for them don’t really charge all that much. At the time of this writing, for example, I think GoDaddy’s price is in the neighborhood of $70 for a year with fluctuations based on specials and promotions they may be running.
So….is it slightly “scammy” that there is SUCH a huge push all over the place for ALL websites to install one? Well, I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
Is it a good idea to get one nowadays? Most DEFINITELY.
So whether or not you got the answer you were hoping for I can’t be sure! Unless of course you’d like to leave me a comment below. But in ANY case, I truly DO hope that this article has been useful to you in some capacity. If you know of anyone else that may find it useful, feel free to share in any way you feel moved to do so.
Marc is a Dad, a Web Designer, a Creator of Branding and an occasional blogger . (and probably in that order!) with some affiliate marketing thrown in for good measure.
He owns Thirsty Fish Graphic Design, A one-man web design biz., based in Corning, NY which is in the heart of the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate NY.
He enjoys physical fitness and healthy eating to an annoying degree, playing guitar, playing piano, sketching and most of all hanging with his daughter doing just about anything!