There are a lot of articles on the Internet putting forth the idea that your website must be secured with an SSL certificate. Some have even gone so far as to use headlines like “Google Drops Support for HTTP on Chrome” which implies that websites will not be accessible to people using Google Chrome as a web browser. That type of headline is very misleading.
So what exactly is an SSL certificate, how do they work, and what are their benefits and drawbacks?
Understanding SSL Encryption and SSL Certificates
When data that is not encrypted is submitted to a website, it is susceptible to being intercepted by a third party. This is especially true when working over Wi-Fi.
SSL Encryption is a way to protect information while it is transferred back and forth from one computer to another over the Internet. Think of it as turning the transferred data into a secret code that only one person – in this case the computer on the receiving end – has the only translator that can decipher the message. In this analogy the SSL Certificate is that translator.
What are the benefits of SSL Encryption?
The initial and most important benefit to SSL Encryption is that it protects the information submitted by users to your website. Whether your operate an online store or a website used for marketing or lead generation, your customers may be sending you information via your website. With SSL Encryption and an SSL Certificate they can be assured that the information they are providing to you is secure and will not fall into the wrong hands. Also, utilizing SSL Encryption and SSL Certificates is an excellent way to demonstrate to your customers that you care about securing their information.
The second benefit to SSL Encryption has to do with SEO. Although Google Chrome will not be blocking access to unencrypted sites yet, they have decided to make it a factor to be considered when ranking your site on their SERPs (search engine results pages). Additionally, some of the leading web browsers have gone so far as to indicate a website’s security level by displaying an icon in the URL bar, such as a green lock icon or the word “Secure” in green type.
Being someone that works in marketing and advertising, I take SEO and a brand’s online trust just as serious as the security of the information being transferred.
Are there any downsides to SSL Encryption?
Cost is one of the leading disadvantages: providers of SSL certificates need to set up a trusted infrastructure and validate your identity, so there is a financial component involved. Additionally, website performance can be impacted because of the encryption process. Additional server resources are required, which could possibly lead to your website slowing down and becoming less responsive. This generally only affects websites with very high volumes of user traffic.
The Answer to Your Question about SSL.
Since security, brand trust and SEO are all important in marketing and advertising, it’s clear that the benefits outweigh the downsides. The good news is that competition has kicked in, resulting in more development by leading website hosting providers to help address the drawbacks. Website hosts like GoDaddy, Bluehost, Hostgator and many others have started offering free and low cost options for SSL encryption as part of their website hosting plans.
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash.