What is SSL and Do You Need It?

A few years ago, when Google changed their algorithms once again, they included SSL into them; giving better ranks to the sites that use it over sites that did not. But just what is SSL? And do website owners really need it? Like most things in building a website, it really depends.

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and it’s a type of security technology that creates an encrypted link between a web host’s web server and an individual’s browser. This link allows a user to place personal information on a website and know that the information will be kept private and confidential. After all, who wants to enter their credit card information on a website not knowing whether or not that information will be kept safe?

So the next question is: do website owners need to install SSL?

Many website owners think that they should purchase an SSL certificate, which will provide the SSL on a website or page, simply because it will increase their Google ranking. But there are many things that can affect a page rank and website owners that don’t really need an SSL certificate can use other strategies, such as implementing SEO strategies, to boost their page rank without purchasing an SSL certificate.

Website owners really need to have an SSL certificate if they’re going to be asking visitors for personal information. Websites that sell products and take credit card information to place orders should definitely have an SSL certificate. In these cases the SSL doesn’t necessarily need to be placed on every page of the site but perhaps just the checkout pages or on the store pages.

On the other hand, businesses that only accept PayPal may not need an SSL certificate at all. Because the customer will be taken to the PayPal site to pay, they won’t be paying the business directly and so a certificate may not be necessary.
Sites that offer memberships might also want to take the time to install an SSL certificate, because members will have to provide at least some personal information in order to activate their membership. Even when only an email address is provided, it’s still personal information and still needs to be protected. In fact, any time a person has to fill out a form – even just to subscribe to a newsletter – the website, or at least the page the form appears on, should be protected with SSL.

So which website owners don’t have to worry about SSL? Those that are only running a blog or a website that is intended to strictly provide information probably don’t need to worry about purchasing or installing SSL. Because no personal information is being given, there’s really nothing to protect. And the benefit of a higher Google ranking probably isn’t worth the time, money and effort needed to install SSL.

SSL is an important part of many websites, but that doesn’t mean that it’s important for all websites. Before ordering an SSL certificate, it’s important to fully examine your site to determine whether or not you’re asking people for personal information of any kind. If you are, an SSL certificate needs to be installed but if you’re not, it’s really not necessary.