Yes, You really do need an SSL certificate

“Do I really need an SSL certificate for my website?”

This is one of those questions that I’m hearing a lot more often from my clients. Typically, they’ve heard a rumor or something from a friend of a friend and are confused about it all.

Strictly speaking, the only time you need an SSL certificate is when you’re collecting or transmitting sensitive information through your website. Although there’s never really a strong argument not to use an SSL certificate, unless you really needed one, most people didn’t get one primarily due to the cost of obtaining one.  But, starting in 2015, an organization called Let’s Encrypt began offering free SSL certificates in an effort to make the web more secure.

Google first started talking about HTTPS/SSL certificates back in August 2014, stating at the time that it was going to be a “lightweight” ranking factor that they estimated would affect fewer than 1% of global queries.

In December 2015, Google announced that they would be adjusting their indexing to look for more https pages, looking for the https version of http pages without being told to. Additionally, Google says that if both http and https versions of a page exist, they will choose and index the https version, assuming it isn’t blocked.

Enabling HTTPS on your website requires the use of an SSL certificate. SSL certificates and HTTPS protocol encrypt the information sent between your computer and the internet so that it can’t be read by unknown parties if intercepted.

Many hosting companies now offer Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate registration and installation in an easy to use interface on your control panel. Check with your hosting company to see if they offer this benefit. My preferred hosting company, Siteground announced that they spent some time over the holidays issuing “several hundred thousand” Let’s Encrpyt SSL certificates for all domains currently hosted on their servers, and will automatically issue them for new domains and accounts.

If your hosting company does not offer free Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificates, you can choose to keep your site there, either without a SSL certificate, or purchase a SSL certificate either through your hosting company or a third-party provider. Depening on your current search engine ranking, hosting without a SSL certificate may or may not have a sigificant impact on your site’s ranking.

If you choose to move to a hosting company that offers it included with your hosting plan, many hosting companies will offer to move the site for you. But, that complimentary move may not include converting your site to using HTTPS or making sure redirects are put in place properly so your existing links and traffic aren’t affected.

If your website isn’t using HTTPS, I can help. Get in touch so we can discuss options.

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