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Priya Mervana
Priya Mervana

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Why Every Website Needs an SSL Encryption

An SSL certificate is one of the most important aspects of any website, yet it is often overlooked or needs to be fully understood. This article will explain what an SSL certificate is, why it is vitally important for all websites, and what the main benefits are. After reading this, you'll have a clear understanding of why every single website needs an SSL certificate without exception.

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and is a protocol used to encrypt data between a user's browser and a website. Installing an SSL certificate activates "https" URLs and the Tune icon in the browser address bar. This shows users the connection is secure and protects their sensitive information, such as passwords, contact forms, credit cards, and more, from hackers.

Beyond encrypting data, SSL certificates also authenticate the website owner and enable other important website security features. Visitors can verify that a site is legitimate rather than an imposter site trying to steal data. Search engines like Google can confirm that the website is credible and safe to display in search results.

While SSL certificates may seem technical, they provide tremendous benefits for both website owners and visitors. This article will explain the main reasons why all websites need SSL certificates in today's cyber landscape.

SSL Encrypts and Secures Data

The primary purpose of an SSL certificate is to encrypt the data transmitted between a website and its visitors. When a website uses HTTP rather than HTTPS, this data is sent in plain, unsecured text. This means hackers can intercept passwords, contact form information, credit card details, and other private user data.

With an SSL certificate installed, all data is encrypted before being transmitted. Even if hackers were able to intercept this encrypted data, they could not decipher or use it. The encrypted SSL connection ensures sensitive user information remains protected and secure.

For any website collecting or transmitting private user data, enabling SSL encryption is essential to prevent hacking, data theft, and cybercrime. The data could be login credentials, contact forms, ecommerce checkout info, membership content, or anything else a user submits to the website through forms and applications. SSL encryption keeps this secure.

As web users have become more aware of cyber threats, they now expect all websites to use HTTPS and SSL encryption. A survey found that 72% of internet users do not submit data on HTTP websites due to security concerns. Websites without SSL certificates make visitors uncomfortable and less likely to engage.

As per SSL Certificates Statistics 2024, "The Certificate Authority Market is Expected to Reach $282 million by 2028".

SSL encryption is universally important for any website but especially critical for sites transmitting sensitive user data like:

  • Ecommerce sites collecting payment info
  • Member sites requiring login credentials
  • Web applications and services with extensive forms and data collection
  • Forums and communities where users post private discussions
  • Any website with contact forms active on the site

SSL Certificates Validate and Authenticate Websites

Another key benefit provided by SSL certificates is website authentication and trust verification. When a site has an SSL certificate installed, visitors can verify it is legitimate and not an imposter phishing site.

This is achieved through the certificate authority (CA) system. To obtain an SSL certificate, the website owner must purchase the certificate from a trusted CA like DigiCert or Comodo. The CA verifies the website registrant and issues an SSL certificate bearing their confirmation.

Browsers and users can check the CA trust seal when they visit a website with SSL enabled. This confirms a legitimate business owns the domain rather than a scammer masquerading as the real site. Users feel more secure entering data and engaging with properly authenticated sites.

The CA system also enables extended validation (EV) SSL certificates with green address bars. These perform thorough business validation requiring legal company documents. EV SSL shows the highest level of verification that a website is fully legitimate.

By using certificates from trusted CAs, websites enable security features like:

  • Legal business identity verification for users
  • Anti-phishing and malware protection
  • Domain ownership and reputability confirmation
  • Brand trust and recognition with EV SSL

Together, these make visitors feel safe and confident when browsing, shopping, and entering sensitive data on websites. SSL certificates turn unknown sites into trusted destinations.

Authentication builds user trust and satisfaction. At the same time, it protects the website owner against cybercrime and fraud. This is why SSL certification is a necessity for every real business and organization online today.

SSL Certificates Improve Search Engine Rankings

Another reason all websites need SSL certificates is for better search engine optimization (SEO). Google prioritizes secure HTTPS websites over unsecured HTTP in search results, and sites without SSL certificates will suffer reduced search rankings.

Google first started favoring HTTPS sites in 2014. Initially, it was a lightweight ranking factor and recommendation. However, Google's encryption algorithms have become more dominant over the years.

In 2018, Chrome began marking all HTTP sites as "not secure" in its address bar. Google Search also started displaying "not secure" warnings on HTTP pages. These warnings educate users while also signaling to Googlebot that a site lacks security.

By mid-2020, Google made it official - all websites must migrate HTTP to HTTPS to avoid negative SEO impacts. Sites with SSL certificates will be marked as secure, rank lower, and need help to gain traffic.

Migrating to HTTPS is mandatory because Google wants to promote trusted and secure sites. HTTP websites are considered too risky to recommend to searchers.

Google has full technical capabilities to scan HTTP content, but it deliberately downranks them because security and encryption must now be web standards.

SEO is central to most websites' strategies. Websites need to transition to HTTPS and install SSL certificates to sink in the search rankings. In 2023, there is zero possibility of ranking well on Google without SSL.

If your website still uses HTTP, migrating to HTTPS by installing an SSL certificate should be a top priority. It's required for security and search engine performance.

SSL Certificates Provide Privacy and Data Protection

Privacy has become a major concern for internet users, regulators, and lawmakers alike. Users expect websites to protect their data and handle it appropriately. Failing to do so can lead to serious fines and consequences.

SSL certificates bolster privacy and help websites comply with data protection laws in several ways:

  • Encryption secures user data like emails, messages, documents, and personal details from prying eyes.
  • Authentication shows users that their data is going to the legitimate website URL, not an unknown third party.
  • SSL enables other security features like HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS), cross-site scripting (XXS) filters, and more.
  • Websites can display trust seals and certifications related to privacy standards, security audits, PCI compliance, etc. This builds user confidence in how the site handles data.
  • SSL is often required to comply with PCI DSS for payment processing, HIPAA for medical data, the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act for financial institutions, and various privacy laws.

Essentially, SSL certificates demonstrate that the website values privacy and takes steps to protect user data. This minimizes risks from hackers, builds user trust, and satisfies legal obligations for data security. Websites with inadequate data protections face consequences ranging from PCI fines, lawsuits, loss of regulatory licenses, and damaged reputations.

A website can only claim to take privacy seriously with SSL encryption in place. SSL certificates are not optional when it comes to privacy and compliance. They are the first line of defense every website needs.

Ecommerce Sites Absolutely Require SSL

If any websites require SSL certificates the most, they are e-commerce sites. They should be considered mandatory for accepting any payments or processing financial transactions online.

Without SSL, unencrypted payment details are at major risk of hacking and theft. Customers have zero appetite for sending their credit card information through insecure HTTP connections.

Most payment processors and gateways, such as Stripe and PayPal, will only allow payment processing with SSL certificates enabled. Major card issuers, such as Visa and Mastercard, have also made SSL mandatory in their merchant security rules.

Beyond payments, SSL must encrypt all ecommerce data from customer profiles to order histories. This protects user privacy and prevents compromise of sensitive information that could be used in identity theft and fraud.

SSL also enables compliance with PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards), which is required for accepting cards from all major issuers. If card data is stolen from sites lacking SSL, it risks heavy fines from PCI audits in addition to fraud liability.

Ecommerce sites see much higher abandonment rates without SSL. A recent study found cart abandonment shot up 220% on non-secure HTTP checkout pages. Customers are conditioned to enter payment info only on HTTPS pages protected by SSL encryption and the tune icon.

The visual security cues of HTTPS and SSL certificates foster consumer trust in ecommerce sites. Established brands invest heavily in EV SSL certificates to display the green address bar. This triggers instant recognition and trust in visitors.

In short, SSL certificates are absolutely mandatory for any degree of security, credibility, and conversion success in ecommerce. Some of the reasons include:

  • Encrypting customer data like addresses, orders, and payment info
  • Allowing secure online payments and compliance with PCI DSS rules
  • Boosting customer trust in the site for higher conversion rates
  • Validating the business behind the site through SSL authentication
  • Meeting legal requirements for financial data protection

Ecommerce sites need HTTPS and SSL encryption to generate sales. Customers expect and demand the layer of security provided by SSL certificates on all ecommerce sites.

WordPress Sites Need SSL to Stay Secure

WordPress now powers over 35% of all websites online. This popular CMS manages everything from blogs to ecommerce stores. Since it handles so much website data, WordPress sites critically require SSL certificates.

The WordPress core software is actually very secure overall. However, plugins and themes created by third-party developers can have vulnerabilities that expose sites. There are frequent reports of hacked WordPress sites being attacked to spread malware, send spam, and steal data.

Having an SSL certificate enables additional WordPress security protections to safeguard all sites:

  • It forces the login dashboard and admin pages to use HTTPS for secure access.
  • Allows WordPress security plugins to function properly to detect threats. Many require SSL to work.
  • Prevents man-in-the-middle attacks by encrypting all traffic between the server and CMS.
  • It provides secure FTP transmission for managing media files, backups, staging sites, and more.
  • Encrypts database credentials to prevent access to core WordPress tables and sensitive info.
  • Enables HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) to avoid unsecured HTTP access.

SSL certificates add significant hardening against intrusion for site owners managing WordPress themselves. It shuts down common attack vectors targeting insecure HTTP WordPress sites.

Many WordPress web hosting providers now only allow sites to launch with SSL certificates already installed by default. Some even have one-click SSL enabled. This demonstrates how crucial SSL is for WordPress sites to operate safely.

Government, Education, and Non-Profit Websites Require SSL Too

While ecommerce, SaaS, and online service sites may be obvious candidates for requiring SSL certificates, government, education, and non-profit websites also need encryption.

These sites frequently collect personal data from citizens, students, patients, and donors. Site visitors need to know this information is protected when submitted. Forms, account registration, and profile data should always be encrypted.

Authentication and legitimacy verification are also important. Official government sites need SSL to confirm they are real .gov pages. This prevents phishing, mimicking agency pages from spreading malware or illegally collecting data. The same applies to universities, hospitals, and recognized charity organizations.

Many government sites must comply with FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), and other regulations mandating data protection standards. SSL certificates provide the baseline of encryption needed for compliance.

Non-commercial websites aim to build public trust and engagement. Making sites more secure with SSL certificates reassures visitors and demonstrates that they take their privacy seriously. This encourages more participation, information sharing, and returning visitors.

There is really no exemption for any website category when it comes to needing SSL certificates. All the examples above require security, trust, and data protection for their audiences and use cases.

The Certificate Authority (CA) System Verifies and Trusts Websites

Understanding why all websites need SSL certificates helps in learning more about the underlying certificate authority (CA) system. This establishes trust between websites and users' browsers.

Public CAs like Comodo, DigiCert, GoDaddy, and Let's Encrypt fulfill three primary functions:

1. Verify Website and Business: Confirm registrant and legal business identity before issuing a certificate. It prevents impersonator sites from getting trusted certificates.

2.Issue SSL Certificate: The Certificate contains the website domain, owner identity, and public key. Browsers recognize CA-issued certificates as verified and trusted.

3. Enable Trusted SSL Connection: The browser connects via the website's public key contained in the CA SSL cert. A secure, private, encrypted session is established.

Certificate Authority also offers different validation levels for businesses wanting greater website authentication:

  • Domain Validation (DV) – Baseline validation checking domain ownership and control. Ideal for blogs, small sites, and non-critical data.
  • Organization Validation (OV) – Verifies legal identity, company documents, address, etc. Gives more identity assurance for users.
  • Extended Validation (EV) – The highest standard for checking business entities through legal vetting. Displays green address bar in browsers—maximum authentication and trust.

This CA hierarchy creates a chain of trust between the website and the user, enabled by the SSL certificate. Visitors can verify sites are secure and legitimate down to their root certificate authority. This system provides the backbone of website authentication that makes ecommerce, financial services, and all online communication possible.

While complex behind the scenes, it only takes a simple SSL certificate purchase from any CA to activate enhanced website security and trust.

Let's Encrypt Provides Free SSL Certificates

One final point about making SSL certificates universally accessible: Let's Encrypt now offers them 100% free for all websites.

Launched in 2016, Let's Encrypt is a non-profit CA that provides basic domain-validated (DV) SSL certificates at no cost. Their goal is to encrypt the entire web by removing cost barriers that prevent some sites from enabling SSL.

While Let's Encrypt certificates are fully functional for data encryption, they offer limited identity validation. More established CAs like Comodo and DigiCert still provide superior authentication, brand trust, and support. But for blogs, small sites, and minimal needs, Let's Encrypt does supply the core SSL capabilities.

Between affordable commercial SSL options and free certificates from Let's Encrypt, all websites can and should run on HTTPS with SSL encryption. There are no more excuses not to.


Migrating sites to HTTPS and SSL encryption requires some technical effort. However, web hosts and CAs today make the process much easier through one-click installs, automated provisioning, and free certificate options.

For website owners, there is simply no reason not to get your website protected with an SSL certificate immediately if you still need to get one. It will benefit your visitors, improve SEO, and enable everyone to have a safer, more trusted web.

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between HTTP and HTTPS websites?

HTTP websites use unsecured hypertext transfer protocol. HTTPS websites use secure hypertext transfer protocol and have SSL certificates installed. The 'S' stands for 'secure' and enables encryption.

Is there an SEO benefit to enabling HTTPS on my site?

Absolutely. Google favors HTTPS websites over HTTP in search rankings. Sites without SSL certificates can suffer reduced search traffic and visibility.

Do I need a dedicated IP address for SSL?

No, you can install SSL certificates on shared hosting and servers without needing a dedicated IP. The SSL processes encrypt data before sending it, regardless of IP address.

Can I get a free SSL certificate?

Yes, the non-profit Certificate Authority Let's Encrypt provides free basic SSL certificates for anyone to use. They are domain-validated for encryption but not extended validation.

What's the difference between domain-validated, organization-validated, and extended validation certificates?

It relates to the identity verification level. DV only checks domain ownership. OV verifies organizational and legal identity. EV requires thorough legal vetting for maximum trust.

Do I need SSL if my site doesn't process payments?

Yes, because SSL isn't only about payments. Encryption protects all user data like emails, messages, forms, logins, etc. Authentication also verifies website legitimacy for user trust and security against phishing sites. All websites need these protections.

Can I move my WordPress site to HTTPS without problems?

Yes, most hosts nowadays offer simple one-click SSL installations for WordPress sites. Plugins can also force WordPress to use HTTPS and address any issues with links or embedded content. Proper migration is recommended.

How long do SSL certificates last?

SSL certificates have an expiration date and need to be renewed on average every 1-3 years. The validity length depends on the certificate provider. However, you can automate renewal reminders to maintain uninterrupted HTTPS protection.

What if visitors get SSL certificate warnings or errors on my site?

This typically means there's an issue with the configuration or installation. Please work with your web host or certificate provider to troubleshoot and fix it immediately, as errors will block access for many users. Properly managing and maintaining the SSL certificate is important.

Is there one type of SSL certificate that is best?

The best certificate depends on your site's needs and budget. Basic DV works for many informational sites. E-commerce sites may want more identity assurance with OV or EV options. The highest validation is best for financial, healthcare, and highly sensitive sites transmitting private data.

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