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If you are involved in managing a website from project managing, creating content to managing the website from a technical perspective, then you are surely at least aware of SSL/ HTTPS. There has been a lot of information around lately on the benefits of having an SSL certificate on your site, but the headlines have been talking about HTTPS as a ranking factor.

What is SSL/ HTTPS

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browsers remain private and integral, no matter what kind of connection is established between them.

Why you should upgrade to SSL

1. Improve Privacy and Security

Many people know that unencrypted traffic between your browser and a website, when carried on an open WiFi network, is broadcast, and essentially available to any nefarious listeners close by. However, even many password protected WiFi networks still leak information to motivated hackers.

By choosing to use an SSL certificate, not only are you improving the security situation for your users, you’re also letting them know that you care about that.

Security is improved by preventing plaintext passwords from being exposed on the network. Privacy is also improved by scrambling all of the rest of the traffic between the user and the website.

2. SSL is an SEO Ranking Factor

Since Google announced that SSL was becoming a small ranking factor in their algorithm, SSL certificates have received a lot of attention. I suggest most people move to HTTPS, but SEO is the least important reason you should. There are more than 200 ranking factors in Google’s algorithm.

3. Better Referral Data in Google Analytics  

For the fellow data lovers out there, this will be the biggest reason why you will switch to https for all pages on your site. When a visitor comes to a page on your site that does not have SSL enabled via a referral from a page that has SSL enabled the visit is tracked as ‘direct’ rather than ‘referral’. So if and when you make the switch you are likely to see your direct traffic  decline, and referral traffic increase.

What type of SSL certificate should you get

There are two primary types of SSL certificates to consider:

Standard Validation SSL

Cost: ~$100

Extended Validation SSL

Extended Validation SSL.jpg

Cost: $100 – $500

The standard SV certificate is sufficient for ensuring that web traffic is encrypted. The EV certificate shows that the certifying authority has done additional work to ensure that you are who you say you are. Most web browsers (like Chrome, Firefox, etc.) will show the user that you have been subjected to that additional scrutiny.

How to get an SSL certificate

If you are prepared and able to install your own SSL certificate, you can buy one directly from a Certificate Authority (CA), like Symantec or Geotrust. Otherwise, it’s common to purchase one directly through your hosting provider, who may do the install for you. For example, Zenutech (full disclosure: often recommended by North Studio) describes their offering on their website. Other examples include GoDaddy, Rackspace, and Network Solutions.

The fact that the world’s leading search engine is encouraging webmasters to move in this direction suggests that it may become a standard in the future. Improved data and most importantly the increased privacy and security for your visitors leads us to conclude that getting an SSL certification for your website is something you should strongly consider.