SSL certificate is a term that you might have heard of while interacting with the internet. You might also have come across the HTTPS website and HTTP websites, and you might not know the difference between the two. Well, this article explains the subject of SSL certificate, the difference between HTTPS and HTTP, and concludes by explaining why SSL is of great significance in Search Engine Optimization. The article will also focus some light on which SSL certificate you should choose.
SSL Certificate- Meaning, Significance and how SSL Works
SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. An SSL certificate is usually installed on servers of websites and performs the critical role of securing or encrypting the communication between the web servers and the clients’ browsers.
The certificate is an almost indispensable ingredient in data and website security. All firms, businesses, and organizations value their information, and those of their clients must have the certificate. The internet is an insecure place with data breaches and cyberattacks happening almost every second. A Clark school study conducted by the University of Maryland shows an attempted data breach on an average of 39 seconds per minute. This study justifies the need for cybersecurity and, consequentially, the need for an SSL certificate.
An SSL certificate will encrypt all the data files and information transferred between the servers and the users’ browsers. The communication will take place in a coded form such that only the intended recipient will have the required key to access the communication. This makes it difficult for hackers to intercept the communication. A hacker will not decipher the real meaning of the information being transferred even when he succeeds in intercepting the information.
Here is a brief description of how the certificate works:
- A browser that attempts to access a web server with the SSL will request the webserver to identify itself.
- The web server will then send the browser a copy of its SSL certificate.
- After sending the copy of SSL to the browser, the browser will then check the certificate and establish whether the certificate can be trusted. If it does trust the certificate, it will send a message back to the webserver.
- The web server then sends an acknowledgment, digitally signed, to the browser requiring both parties to operate only on an encrypted session.
How to Know If a Website is Secure
All internet users should always ensure that their connection is secure. An insecure connection could put your data and all your digital resources into great jeopardy. To know whether a website is secure, you will have to check if it has an SSL certificate. To ascertain this, look at the URL of the website. If the URL begins with HTTP, it means that your connection is not secure, and you are at risk. If, on the other hand, the URL starts with HTTPS, it means that the connection is secure.
How SSL Certificate Affects SEO
Google takes data security with the seriousness that it deserves. Google will always ensure that it protects the privacy of web visitors. To ensure that this is achieved, in 2014, Google announced that HTTPS would be used as a vital ranking factor. This meant that websites with an SSL certificate would rank higher than the sites without SSL. So, this has been the case ever since.
Ever since this announcement was made in 2014, website owners set out to ensure that their websites rank higher by having an SSL certificate. In 2015, Google made yet another announcement that showed how crucial an SSL certificate was in the ranking of websites. In the announcement, Google made it clear that the SSL factor would be used as a tiebreaker in a situation where two sites equaled in all other ranking factors. Suppose your competitor’s website has equaled your website in all other ranking factors, but your website is HTTPS, whereas your competitor’s site is HTTP. In that case, your website will rank higher than your competitor’s website in the search engine results pages.
Google has continually encouraged website owners to migrate from HTTP to HTTPS by continuously increasing the HTTPS factor’s ranking weight.
To prove the impact of SSL security on search engine optimization, Brian Dean, SEMRush, SimilarWeb, and MarketFuse conducted a study and found that there was a moderate correlation between HTTPS and higher rankings on the search engine results pages. A Moz study also discovered a correlation between HTTPS and higher rankings in the search engine results pages.
If it is your wish that your website ranks higher in the search engine results pages, then it is about time you started thinking about acquiring an SSL certificate.
Which SSL Certificate to Choose
It matters a lot which type of SSL certificate you are going to choose. Different types of SSL certificates with which you can choose from are explained below:
Domain Validation SSL certificate: This is the easiest and cheapest SSL certificate type you can acquire. No official paperwork will be required during its acquisition. All that is done is that the Certificate Authority issuing the SSL will need to verify if the buyer of the certificate owns the domain that the certificate is to be attached to. The verification will usually take a few minutes, after which the SSL certificate is issued.
Domain validation SSL certificates are usually suited for small business ventures and websites that only need basic user details. However, the DV SSL certificates will often not provide strong data encryption that is required for a website, and therefore you have to look for other certificate types.
Organization Validation SSL certificate
This category of SSL certificate will provide for more robust security than the DV certificate. To acquire an OV SSL certificate, you will need to prove that you are the real owner of the domain with which the certificate is attached. You will also need to prove that you are the owner of the organization purchasing the certificate by verifying the business related documents. The whole process of acquiring an Organization Validation SSL certificate can take up to 2-3 days.
Once installed on your website, a padlock symbol will be displayed near the address bar of the site, and the URL of the website will begin with HTTPS. This is a plus when it comes to building trust in your customers.
Organization Validation SSL certificate will be a great option if you are establishing a new business that requires an extra layer of encryption and one that needs to be trusted by its clients.
Extended Validation SSL Certificate
An Extended Validation, commonly referred to as an EV SSL certificate, offers the highest encryption level you can ever require. It is also expensive. The acquisition of an EV SSL certificate is usually a rigorous procedure.
After the successful acquisition of this type of certificate, you will receive a padlock, name of the business, and HTTPS.
Extended Validation SSL certificates are ideal for large E-commerce stores, banking institutions, and other organizations that deal with highly sensitive information such as credit card and debit card details of their clients.
Wildcard Domain SSL Certificate
A wildcard SSL certificate is one that protects all the other subdomains that fall under the main domain. It is the ideal certificate choice for a website with multisite networks. It is also appropriate for websites that have several subdomains. A Wildcard SSL certificate is the most cost-effective choice because you do not have to purchase an SSL certificate for every subdomain.
Cyber breaches such as Man-In-The-Middle attacks have become so rampant. This has led to the need for websites to strengthen their security. SSL certificates have come in play to offer the most effective data encryption required by sites to protect all the communication between the web servers and web visitors. Apart from just providing the required encryption, the SSL certificate has significantly impacted SEO. This article thoroughly explained the subject of SSL certificate, the different types of certificates, and its impact on SEO.