Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a cybersecurity protocol responsible for creating a secure connection between a web server and a browser. It uses a combination of public-key and private-key encryption to protect personal information (e.g., credit card numbers, login credentials, email addresses, etc.) users provide on a website.
To establish a secure connection, an SSL certificate is installed on a web server. It is a digital certificate that authenticates a server’s identity and domain ownership and encrypts any information provided through the website.
An SSL certificate is an indication that the connection to a server is guaranteed safe.
The easiest way to know if a website holds an SSL certificate is to visit the website and check the address bar in the browser. A padlock icon to the left of the URL and an HTTPS address (instead of HTTP) indicate that a website has an SSL certificate. This means users can safely provide sensitive information through the website as it is transferred over a secure network.
Clicking on the lock icon will provide more information about the domain owner and its SSL certificate.
Keeps user data secure
The primary purpose of an SSL certificate is to encrypt — or convert into a cipher or code — sensitive information sent over the Internet so that only the intended receiver can access it. This is especially important if your website requires users to sign in, fill out a form, or access personal accounts.
Having SSL encryption keeps private information from being stolen or tampered with by hackers and identity thieves.
Verifies domain authenticity
To get an SSL certificate, you must go through a validation process conducted by the Certificate Authority (CA). CA verifies the authenticity of your website, domain, and business. Once you’ve proven your authenticity, CA will issue the digital certificate for your website. This certificate enables you to prove to users that your website is authentic, not a fake website created by a hacker.
Boosts SEO ranking
Google values user experience, preferring to take users to safe websites with HTTPS. Because of this, websites with an SSL certificate rank higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs) than other unsecure websites. If your website is secure, you’ll more likely to appear in relevant customer searches and earn a higher position in the SERPs.
Gains user trust
An SSL certificate comes with a padlock icon and HTTPS. These are visual indications for users that your website is secure. This increases their confidence and trust in your business. And this trust can translate into other business benefits.
Your website will still function even if it doesn’t have an SSL certificate, but it will be susceptible to many types of cybercrime. Plus, search engines will warn users your website isn’t secure, discouraging traffic and conversions for your business.