SSL Certificate explained

Written by Jamie Bowers

Hands on laptop keyboard with metal cup on the left

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Imagine walking into your bank and as you go to open the front door, you realized they have no front doors…just a big gaping entrance that allows anyone to come and go as they please. Now imagine you walk up to the counter and the teller asks you to shout your name, birth date, debit card number, and your PIN before they can look up your account information. Do you think you would continue to bank with this company? Probably not.

Your website is an instrumental tool in building trust with potential customers. Building trust requires offering a secure platform for your users to interact with, and one aspect of maintaining a secure website is having an SSL certificate.

What is an SSL Certificate?

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, which is a standard security protocol used to establish a secure and encrypted connection between a website and its users. An SSL certificate is a digital document for a website that verifies its identity and ensures an encrypted, secure connection between a website and a browser.

The Importance of SSL Certificates

Having an SSL certificate for your website is important for several reasons.

First, it helps to protect sensitive information such as personal data, credit card numbers, and login credentials from being intercepted by hackers or malicious third parties. This is especially important for websites that handle sensitive information, such as e-commerce sites or those that require users to create accounts.

You may think, well I don’t sell anything on my website so I’m not collecting bank account information or anything like that. Email addresses are considered personal information. If you have a form to signup for a newsletter, then you’re collecting personal information, and having an SSL certificate is necessary. An SSL certificate is also essential to General Data Compliance (GDPR) if your website stores personal information.

Second, having an SSL certificate instills trust in your website and brand. Online users and consumers are becoming more cautious about sharing their personal information online and more aware of security settings. By having an SSL certificate, you can help assure your users that their information is safe and secure, making them more likely to do business with you.

How Does an SSL Certificate Protect Website Users?

An SSL certificate works by encrypting the data that is exchanged between a website and its users. This means that even if a hacker manages to intercept the data, they will not be able to decipher it. Having an SSL certificate also authenticates the identity of a website, ensuring that users are communicating with the correct and legitimate site.

How Can You Be Sure Your Website Has an SSL Certificate?

If you’re not sure whether your website has an SSL certificate or not, there are a few ways to check. First, look at the URL of your website. If it starts with “https” instead of “http”, this indicates that your site is using an SSL certificate. Additionally, most browsers will display a padlock icon in the address bar when a site has an SSL certificate. Although, Google Chrome discontinued the use of the padlock symbol in the fall of 2023, and the new tune icon has replaced it.

You can also contact your web hosting provider to confirm whether an SSL certificate is installed on your site. They will be able to provide you with more information. Our recommended web host is WP Engine, and hosting with WP Engine includes security certificates. You can check out their hosting packages here.

Common Problems With SSL Certificates

One common issue with SSL certificates is that they may expire, leaving your website vulnerable. It’s important to regularly check the expiration date of your certificate and renew it when necessary. You can check the status of your SSL certificate with your hosting provider.

Another issue is a ‘not trusted error’, which could indicate that the SSL certificate is approved by a company that the browser does not trust. This means the certificate authority (CA) is not on the browser’s list of trusted SSL certificate providers or that the certificate was issued by the server itself.

There are other times when your website has an SSL certificate but content on a secure page isn’t secure. This is a mixed content error. The insecure content could be an image or embedded video script, which causes the browser to display an error message instead of loading the page. If you’re using WordPress, you can download a plugin such as Really Simple SSL to fix mixed content errors.

Conclusion

An SSL certificate is an important component of a trusted website. It protects sensitive information, instills trust in users, and maintains the integrity of your brand. It also connected to providing website visitors with a positive user experience and having a strong online presence for your business.

Does this all seem a bit technical? We’d love to discuss your website needs and what web enhancements would serve you best! Book a free discovery call. We’d love to hear about your vision for your business and how your website can create a clear path forward for your customers!

Hi! We’re Zainatain

Zainatain is a web design and conversion rate optimization company fueled by coffee ☕, adventure ✈️, and a healthy dose of humor 🤣. We believe in the power of digital interfaces to accelerate business growth and help our clients achieve their business goals.

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