What’s an SSL Certificate and Does My Website Need One?

September 19, 2016 Maria Valdez Haubrich

SSL certificate

Does your small businesses website need an SSL certificate? Before you decide, it’s important to understand what an SSL certificate is. SSL stands for “secure socket layer,” and an SSL certificate is installed on your website server to do two things.

First, an SSL certificate protects sensitive information such as customers’ personal data, logins or credit card information. It does this by “encrypting” any data transmitted back and forth via your website. Once the data is encrypted, even if hackers manage to intercept it, they won’t be able to decipher it.

Second, an SSL certificate lets visitors to your site know that the site is authentic—in other words, the site legitimately belongs to your business. That’s because before an SSL certificate is issued, your identity must be authenticated. This is important because hackers sometimes create fraudulent versions of websites to lure people to share credit card numbers and other sensitive information. With an SSL certificate in place, your customers can feel confident that the site is yours and not a fraud.

Once you have an SSL certificate installed, your website will display the “https” prefix in front of your URL, with the “s” showing that it’s secure. In addition, visitors will see a symbol indicating the SSL certificate (usually with some type of lock).

Now that you know what an SSL certificate is, does your business need one? If you sell products or services online, or if you collect any type of customer data, the answer is definitely yes. For example, if you want your customers to create accounts with your business and use passwords, share their credit card numbers or other financial information, or make appointments online that involve sharing their addresses and phone numbers, you will need an SSL certificate for them to feel comfortable doing so.

Website visitors are leery of sharing information with any website that doesn’t prove it’s secure. This is one reason that large ecommerce websites, such as Amazon or Zappos, have an advantage over small ecommerce businesses. Customers know these sites are trusted, so they feel safe purchasing from them and sharing their financial data. If you want to help create a level playing field and gain your customers’ trust, an SSL certificate is a big step in the right direction.

The SSL certificate also benefits you by safeguarding the information that customers share via your website, helping to protect you from the risk that data will be stolen or hacked and cause problems or lawsuits for your business. Although adding an SSL certificate to your business website does have a cost, you’ll find that the expense is well worth the benefits in terms of increased security and customer trust.

Find out more about SSL certificates.

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Author information

Maria Valdez Haubrich

Maria Valdez Haubrich

Maria Valdez Haubrich is Chief Liaison Officer of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her company’s blog at SmallBizDaily.com.

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