As malicious attacks become more widespread, aggressive and advanced, security is becoming more important than ever. While there are hundreds of ways you can increase the security of your website, there’s a basic thing you can do to lay the foundations of a secure platform – getting an SSL certificate.

What is SSL?

SSL stands for secure sockets layer. In practical terms, an SSL certificate provides a secure connection over the internet – most commonly between a user’s browser and the website they’re visiting. By encrypting that connection, it prevents interception of the data being transmitted over it, which comes with additional benefits.

How do I know if I’m using SSL?

If you’re visiting a website that has a valid SSL certificate, there’ll be two obvious indicators. You’ll see a padlock icon in the address bar before the URL of the site:

And the full URL of the page will contain the letters ‘https://’ at the beginning, rather than ‘http://’:

It’s not a rarity either – over 60% of websites now employ SSL and HTTPS as their first line of defence. But what are the benefits that SSL brings, and why should you get an SSL certificate on your website?

5 benefits of SSL

1: Protect the data of you and your users

We’ve already mentioned the primary benefit of having an SSL certificate on your site. By encrypting the data being transferred to and from the site with 256-bit encryption, it protects it from being read by anyone malicious who tries to get access. Even if there’s a data breach and some of the data is intercepted, it will make it almost impossible to be understood due to the level of encryption it involves. Your visitors can feel safe in the knowledge that their data is in good hands.

2: Reduce the risk of phishing

Those visual indicators we mentioned above are also key to preventing phishing. If you’re unfamiliar, phishing websites are false sites made by those who aim to steal user data. They’re often very convincing replicas of legitimate websites, and try to trick visitors into entering their personal information. A valid SSL certificate on your website is an obvious way of showing that you’re the real deal, which can help your visitors avoid phishing attacks.

3: Increase your search engine ranking

How highly a website ranks in search engine results is key to its success. In 2014, Google announced that it would start including SSL and HTTPS as a factor in its search rankings – and with so many websites using SSL, the reality is that without a valid certificate, a website is very unlikely to rank highly (or at all). Google visibly supports and endorses the use of SSL certificates to secure your website.

4: Secure your customer payments

The encryption we talked about in point two also obviously applies to payment data. When your customers are sending their card details to your site, having HTTPS in the address bar shows that you’re encrypting and protecting those details. In fact, PCI (Payment Cards Industry) regulations require at least 128-bit encryption on any payment data being transmitted, so if you’re taking payments from customers, having an SSL certificate is the bare minimum.

5: Showing your users you can be trusted

We’ve said it already: above all of those technical points, a huge benefit of having an SSL certificate is that your customers know they can trust you. For those who use the web often, having the padlock icon next to your URL gives you legitimacy.

Without one, many potential visitors might simply avoid your site. Google itself adds to this – if you try to navigate to a site that is running on only HTTP using Chrome, you’ll be shown an intimidating screen with a warning symbol. It warns you that the connection is not secure.

It’s like having a big warning barrier outside a shop, warning those trying to enter that they might have their wallet stolen if they go in. Visitors to the site then have to click on a very small advance button to actually reach the unsecured website.

All of these factors break down visitor trust, which further impacts your search engine rankings – if users are leaving the website without clicking on anything (bouncing), it reflects badly on your statistics.

Wondering where you can get your own SSL certificate? At Fasthosts, we include them for free for the first year with our Web Hosting, WordPress Hosting, and Website Builder products. To find out more about what SSL can do for you, call our expert support team on 0333 0142 700.