Do I Need an SSL Certificate? A Non-Boring Explanation for the Layperson

Posted by Lindsey Bowshier on Jul 15, 2019 11:23:43 AM

website with SSL Certificate

Yes.

I know I don’t know you, or your website, or your goals, and all those other important factors that a responsible web marketing strategist should understand before making a recommendation, but I stand by my statement:

"Every website should have an SSL Certificate."

_Lindsey Bowshier, Tribute Media

What is an SSL Certificate?

I’m not even going to tell you what it stands for. It’s irrelevant to my point. My mission here is to help you see the correlation between an SSL certificate and getting traffic to your website and converting that traffic into leads. SSL is a factor in your Google ranking; it plays a role in a visitor’s first impression of your site, and, in some cases, their ability to even get to your website. It's one of the most basic SEO musts!

SSL puts the “S” in “secure” or something like that. It definitely puts the “s” in “https://” Meaning, your SSL Certificate is the difference between this:

secure site with SSL

And this:

not secure http

Or, depending on a user’s browser settings, this:

website not secure

That’s right. Some people may never even make to your site if they have browser settings designed to prevent them from browsing non-secure sites. You might not have that setting, but believe me, many people do, and they aren’t all wearing foil hats. They could have been your customer. But you scared them because you didn't take the time to secure your site.

You can read more about the functionality and technicalities of SSL Certificates on SSL Shopper. This content is well-written and shouldn’t make your eyes glass over. It’s just slightly more technical than I wanted to get into for the purpose of this blog post.

Common Reasons Businesses Choose Not to Have an SSL Certificate

Here are a few totally understandable reasons some businesses have chosen not to have an SSL certificate (and why you should reconsider whether you do or don't have these reasons):

I don’t take payments on my website.

Of course you don’t. You’d have to have an SSL certificate to do that. But if you do sell products from your website and send users off-site to a third party payment application such as PayPal, you may have already raised their hackles by not having that coveted “S” or pretty green lock in the browser bar. They may never make it far enough to see they can safely give you their money.

I don’t collect personal information on my website.

That’s fair. But unfortunately, that is irrelevant in 2019. Google told us 5 years ago they are using HTTPS as a ranking signal. That requirement is never going to go away.

SSL Certificates cost money.

That’s true. But what is it costing you NOT to have an SSL certificate? There is no telling how much traffic you lose because you aren’t considering this as just another cost of doing business.

How to Get an SSL Certificate

Since this is for the non-technical person, I’m going to give you non-technical advice: Ask your tech person. Or, more specifically, ask your web hosting provider. Tribute Media automatically includes an SSL Certificate for every website we host now. Obviously, we feel very strongly about this, and so does our hosting partner, Pantheon; so an SSL is just rolled right into our hosting price.

If you host your site with the agency that built it, I’d advise you go through whatever support process you would go through to request any other website updates. They should be able to advise you on the process and pricing for obtaining an SSL for their hosting platform or will just take care of it for you and invoice you.

If you host your site through the same platform you host your domain (such as GoDaddy, 1&1, NameCheap, etc.), they should offer an upgraded package that supports an SSL certificate, which you pay for separately. For example, if you are on GoDaddy’s Economy plan (the cheapest), you’ll need to upgrade their Ultimate Plan which is a $9/month jump up in your monthly hosting price, plus you’ll pay $79.99/year for your SSL Certificate (at the time of this writing).

As far as getting it set up with one of these providers, I can’t quite say. The downside to low-cost web hosting is that support processes vary and might not be as easy as picking up the phone. But they should all include at least some kind of support available on their sites, so I would start there.

Little locks for one and all!

SEO and PPC whitepaper

Lindsey Bowshier

Written by Lindsey Bowshier

Lindsey is the director of web strategy at Tribute Media and holds a B.A. in English and Communication with an emphasis in Journalism. Outside of work, Lindsey participates in a "super-cool-not-at-all-nerdy" writing group. Her favorite writer is Dorothy Parker.

Please Leave a Comment: