I added SSL to this website over the weekend. It’s something I had literally been putting off for years. There are many reasons why I had failed to prioritize this feature, but the biggest one was simply because I thought it wasn’t really important or necessary.
And here’s the thing: Unless you’re doing eCommerce on your website or collecting sensitive data (logins, social security numbers, etc..) then you still don’t really need SSL in order to operate your website.
But I’ve had a change of heart regarding the importance of SSL that I want to share. And I want to publicly proclaim that circumstances permitting, all websites that I create from this point forward will have SSL.
But first, a little backstory…
What is SSL?
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, which still doesn’t make much sense to most of us on its own. But what it does is allow your website to transmit data in a secure, encrypted format instead of plain text, making it significantly more difficult for anyone eavesdropping on your connection to intercept any usable information.
With an SSL connection, your website will load via https:// instead of http:// (note the “s,” which stands for “secure”). You’ll also get a lock icon in the URL bar of most browsers (more on that later).
How do you get SSL?
To create an SSL connection with your web server, you’ll need what’s called an SSL certificate, which are available from a number of sources. Almost every web server out there will be able to issue you an SSL certificate or integrate with a certificate from a 3rd-party, but the fees these days can vary significantly from absolutely free to around $100/year.
Is SSL hard to do?
Let’s Encrypt has truly changed the landscape in this field by offering free SSL certificates, and many web hosts now make it easy (and free!) for you to add a Let’s Encrypt certificate to your website.
Why is SSL so darn important?
There are many reasons why SSL is important which I’m going to answer below. Not everyone will agree with this statement, but for me the biggest reason of all is about building trust.
SSL builds trust and credibility with your audience
At the start of 2017, Google’s Chrome browser started displaying an exclamation point icon (pictured above in the “BEFORE” screenshot) in the URL bar of all websites that are not secure.
It was this action by Google that finally pushed me over the edge. Because of these changes to the world’s most-used web browser, the use of SSL now eliminates confusion and creates a better user experience more than ever before.
Seeing that beautiful green lock icon with the word “secure” next to it builds an immediate sense of trust with all of your visitors in a very obvious way. It ensures your audience that all information they submit will be transferred securely, and communicates to your visitors that your care about investing in your web presence and the well-being of the people that you serve. It also avoids any potential questions or concerns that may be raised by that strange exclamation point icon being displayed in the URL bar.
Yes, it’s subtle, but it’s important! In a world where competition is high and visitor attention spans last mere seconds, first impressions are everything. Seeing that lock icon gives you an advantage over competitors who lack SSL by building trust with your audience from the very second your page loads.
Remember, in the end it’s humans that we make website for, and it’s real people that will be viewing your website and making a decision on whether to contact you for your services. The best websites are the ones that connect with their audience by delivering a clear message in an easy-to-use format, and SSL very much fits into that model.
Still not convinced? Keep reading.
SSL is the future of the web
Google is pushing SSL hard, and wants all websites to eventually be served over https. What that means is that SSL is a matter of when, not if.
If you don’t set up SSL on your website today, you’re going to need to do it sometime within the next couple of years. Might as well start getting the benefits of having a secured website now.
To help push their agenda, Google is going to step of the visibility of the “not secure” warning in their Chrome browser in the near future. Instead of just a little exclamation point icon, Google plans to display the words “Not Secure” in the URL bar of every page that lacks SSL. Currently this is only done for pages with login forms or forms that collect sensitive data. But soon this will apply to all pages not served through SSL, making that trust-factor mentioned above even more important.
Slight SEO boost
Google said way back in 2014 that it would give a (very) slight preference to websites that are served securely using SSL. For the most part I ignored this because the benefits were minimal, and in my opinion there are much more important things to consider when it comes to your website’s search engine rankings. Nevertheless, SSL is used by Google as a ranking signal, albeit a small one, so it makes sense to do if ranking on the first page of Google is a priority for the success of your website and your business.
Just don’t think that setting up SLL means you’ll automatically get promoted to page 1 of the search engine results.
What are your thoughts on SSL these days?
Leave any questions or comments you may have about SSL below.