Modern field guide to security and privacy

Have a website? Get started on securing it.

SSL certificates make web transactions safer, enhance trust with customers, and boost search engine rankings.

Imagine a thief in a parking lot, checking door handles to find one that’s unlocked.

Secure Sockets Layer certificates (SSLs), work much the same way for websites.

Whenever a website is opened or information is submitted on a page, that data gets sent across a network that involves numerous different servers. Unencrypted data, like an unlocked car door, can be intercepted anywhere along the way.

What do SSLs do?

SSLs are cryptographic protocols that provide a layer of encryption for transmitted data such as passwords, credit card information, or even email addresses.

By encrypting data before it gets transmitted, the information becomes worthless to anyone trying to access it. When the data reaches its intended destination, it’s then validated and safely unencrypted.

SSLs also provide validation of the entity that runs a site, assuring users that they’re dealing with a legitimate business or organization.

Users can recognize when a site uses SSL because the URL, or site address, will start with “https” rather than just “http.”

Good for business

SSL certificates help organizations build trust with customers. Consumers want reassurance that their information is secure when they submit it on a website. This is especially true for e-commerce sites where visitors are asked to provide their credit card information.

In a 2014 survey conducted by GlobalSign, 84 percent of customers said they would abandon a transaction if they felt the connection was insecure.

Trust is also a factor on non-commercial sites. When someone is creating an account, logging in, or even filling out a form with personal information, they like to know the site receiving that information is secure. Seeing the SSL marker also reassures users that they are on a company’s official website rather than a fake “phishing” site.

Adding an SSL certificate can also help improve a website’s search ranking.

In 2014, Google began giving ranking preference to sites that use SSL assurance. The company stated in a blog post that the influence on search rankings was small, but that it might increase the importance of SSL in its search algorithms in the future.

Reading between the lines: Google has a goal of all sites being secured with SSL. So even if a sit is a blog or doesn’t involve e-commerce or login data, there’s a still a real benefit to adding SSL protection.

Finding the right certificate

There are several different types of certificates that include the same essential level of encryption. All of them are available from Namecheap, a domain name registrar and web hosting company, by following the links below.

  • To secure a blog or other basic site in which security isn’t a top concern, a basic “Domain Validation” (DV) certificate could be a good option. These don’t require paperwork and are easy to purchase and setup.
  • To secure a site with login credentials or forms that collect personal information, an “Organization Validation” (OV) certificate would provide more protection. In addition to security, these certificates display a dynamic site seal visible to all users.
  • Finally, the highest level of SSL validation comes from an “Extended Validation” (EV) certificate. Sites with (EV) certificates show the familiar “green bar” in the browser’s address bar along with the company’s name. Look for EV certificates on sites where credit card information is exchanged.

Namecheap is an ICANN-accredited domain name registrar and web hosting company. Namecheap offers domain names, along with full-featured hosting packages, secure SSL certificates, WhoisGuard privacy protection service, and more. Follow them on Twitter @Namecheap.