What is SSL?
SSL or Secure Sockets Layer is a protocol for encrypting all communications between your computer or mobile device and a website. You can tell when you are connected to a secure site, such as OrangeCat.com, by looking for the little green padlock at the left side of the address bar in your browser.
If you do any banking online, you can bet that your connection is secured by SSL. Now other websites are starting to add SSL to their arsenal of protective strategies. And Google is rewarding those sites with better ranking signals.
Why is Google giving secure (https) sites better ranking?
Here is the explanation from Google Webmaster Central Blog:
“At Google I/O a few months ago, we called for “HTTPS everywhere” on the web.
“We’ve also seen more and more webmasters adopting HTTPS (also known as HTTP over TLS, or Transport Layer Security), on their website, which is encouraging.
“For these reasons, over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms.”
So the bottom line is, when you make your website secure by adding SSL, you can expect to receive a higher ranking from Google when compared to non-secure websites.
How do I get SSL for my website?
The easiest way is to have your hosting company order and install your SSL Certificate for you. Once this is done, you can (must) start using the “https://” prefix on your web pages.
Having your web host install the certificate for you will cost your a few dollars. OrangeCat.com charges $124.95 per year and a one-time $50 setup charge to install a Comodo SSL Certificate on your website.
There are several options when it comes to the purchase of SSL Certificates, some costing much more than $125 per year. The advantage to having your hosting company sell you a certificate and install it for you is that they will handle the yearly renewal of the certificate for you. Keeping your certificate in force means your customers will never see a “certificate is expired” notice when they come to your web pages.
There are several companies that will sell you what your hosting company will call a 3rd party certificate. They come in a range of prices. You will need to either handle the certificate purchase yourself, including getting a CSR request from your hosting company or let your web host install it or some combination thereof. Again, there will be some cost involved depending on how much assistance you need.
What about free SSL certificates?
There are several companies that offer SSL Certificates for free. One that is getting a lot of attention is “Let’s Encrypt.” Let’s Encrypt is a project of the Linux Foundation. It is sponsored by Mozilla, Google, Facebook, Automattic, Shopify and many others.
Unless your webhost has added Let’s Encrypt to their cPanel offerings, you will need to do some manual installation procedures. Your host’s Tech Support team may or may not help with that.
If you are a WordPress user, WPEngine is a Managed WordPress Hosting service that is optimized for WordPress and will install a Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate for you. See WPEngine‘s website for more information.
With ever increasing security threats to web users, SSL is becoming more and more of a necessity. You can make the move now and be among the first to get improved ranking (which seems to stick to websites over the long term) or you can wait.
But as consumers become more aware of online security, not having SSL on your website will start costing you in both the short and long term.