Why all small business websites need SSL certification

Having SSL certification - also known as the https prefix - is no longer just beneficial for your business website, it is practically essential.

SSL certification has always had its benefits. Those in the website hosting game have argued for years that the advantages of SSL certification are too good to pass up. But now, things have changed.

Having SSL certification — also known as the https prefix — is no longer just beneficial. It is practically essential.

he online world is perhaps the fastest-moving, most adaptive environment known to man. It is constantly growing, morphing and changing how we interact with it. The evolution of https is just another piece of this ever-moving puzzle.

SSL certification has been around for a long time. An extra security measure attached to websites, it secures all data being transferred between the site and the user accessing it through encryption. Those without SSL certification simply don’t secure that data.

While many small businesses are already certified, others have yet to include the encryption process in their website structure. However, it is becoming more and more apparent that those without the https prefix are going to get left behind. Why?

Google is paying more attention to SSL certification

It has long been known that Google pays attention to SSL certification. In fact, the company itself has stated that having https is considered in its ranking algorithms. However, Google is now taking things a step further.

As a service business, Google takes pride in customer care. It wants to provide users with what they want — and this includes a safe web browsing experience.

Https is not only a signal; it’s a guarantee that data being passed between website and user has an extra level of security. Google can’t guarantee the website itself is secure and safe but, by sending users to SSL certified websites, it can at least keep them safe from external threats.

As of 2017, Google started warning users when accessing websites that are not SSL certified. If a website requires you to enter details, such as a login or a form submission, and it doesn’t have the https prefix, Google will alert users to the fact that the site may not be secure.

This is huge. If Google tells you viewing a website could be dangerous, are you going to ignore it? Businesses that fall under the category of logins or personal data acquisition will see massive spikes in bounce rate and a fall in organic traffic, should they fail to have SSL certification.

Web browsers are paying attention, too

In January 2017, Mozilla launched the latest version of its popular web browser Firefox. The update came complete with a number of new bells and whistles, one of which being a warning system for SSL certification, or lack thereof, similar to that of Google’s.

The browser will display a small padlock symbol with a bright red line through it, next to an information icon. Clicking the icon will reveal two pieces of information to users: That their connection is not secure and that login details could be compromised as a result.

A post on the Mozilla blog discusses the move towards this new, heightened state of SSL awareness, stating a desire to ‘keep users safe online’ as the motive behind the latest update. It is likely that other web browsers will soon follow suit, increasing the chances of high bounce rates occurring and traffic dropping even more than if just Google alone was clamping down on http domains.

User awareness is on the rise

People are fast becoming more aware of their online security. With cybercrime rates skyrocketing and many of us having already fallen victim to web-based crime, internet users are more cautious than ever.

SSL certification is not an underground piece of security software that only your web development team is aware of. It is prominently displayed in your web address and with a small padlock on a user’s search bar. Users may not know the difference between http and https, but they definitely know the difference between a padlock and a lack of.

Without the little padlock symbol, users may suspect that your website is not secure and might be apprehensive about signing up or sharing personal data; data you likely require to convert.

SSL certification puts that little padlock in the corner of the search bar right next to your website address and shows your users that they are secure in their browsing and data sharing.

Mobile apps are changing the game

Last year, Apple announced that any and all apps developed for its iOS software must be certified with SSL. Essentially, all apps must have data encryption in order to gain approval from the computer giant.

The regulation has yet to come into effect, but we can expect to see it take place early this year. But why, you ask, is this relevant to my business website?

Plenty of businesses have chosen to create apps with links out to their websites. Others have put links advertising their business into other apps and receive a great deal of traffic from such links.

If SSL certification is required for apps, a move designed to keep users safe, it is likely that regulations will eventually come into place allowing apps to also only link out to SSL certified websites. Similar to how Google is clamping down on http websites, Apple may soon follow the same sort of protocol. If this circumstance came to pass, business websites without SSL certification would face immediate drop-offs in traffic from click-throughs and ad placements, severely affecting sales.

Being proactive on SSL is far safer than being reactive.

Website hosting services are making SSL certification mandatory

With a move towards SSL certification seemingly unavoidable, a number of major hosting services have announced they will no longer host websites that are not secured. However, not all services have made the pledge. Small businesses may find their service is not forcing them to upgrade, but that doesn’t mean you are off the hook.

In the future, you may want to switch services, or your service provider may no longer be able to offer what you need. In this circumstance, you’ll want to move to a new website hosting service; if things turn sour, you may be forced to move quickly.

If your website isn’t SSL certified, this will undoubtedly cause problems, limiting your choice of providers and certainly cutting out the big names in the industry. If you invest in SSL certification now, though, you’ll save yourself from any trouble further down the line.

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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