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With Google confirming that in early July 2018 they will be flagging non-HTTPS websites as ‘not secure’ in their Chrome browser, now is the time to jump on the SSL certificate bandwagon, if you haven’t done so already. We explain what SSL certificates are and why they are important.

What is SSL?

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer – a digital security certificate associated with your website. It ensures that data processed by your website, i.e. passwords, credit card numbers etc, is encrypted. Once your certificate is associated with your domain, your website will display a padlock next to your web address showing that your website it secure. Your full web address will also start with https:// rather than http:// (the s standing for ‘secure’).

Adding an SSL certificate to your website can sound daunting, but with the tools available to assist with this it is a relatively simple process.

Even if you do not have an e-commerce store or process payments on your website, it is still strongly advised that you install an SSL certificate to ward off potential hackers or malware, and to stay on the right side of Google’s new policies.

Google to penalise non-HTTPS websites

For some time Google has been pushing for webmasters to secure their websites with SSL certificates, and in July this year they will take a another step towards enforcing this by clearly marking non-secure content as ‘insecure’ on their next Chrome browser release. At the time of writing (May 2018), exact implications of the Google update remain speculative, however it seems a safe assumption that non-HTTPS websites will be affected in terms of search engine rankings in the near future.

How can I add a SLL certificate to my website?

Many hosting providers include Let’s Encrypt on your website’s cPanel. Let’s Encrypt enables you to create a free SSL certificate for your website, and if this is available in your cPanel the process is straightforward. If this is not available through your cPanel you can always create a certificate directly through their website, and typically your hosting provider will be able to issue you with a SSL certificate, although this may come at a cost.

How do I check if my SSL certificate is working?

Once your website is up and running with your SSL certificate you can check the status of your certificate with this great free tool, Why No Padlock? Here you can monitor and troubleshoot any issues SSL certificate if it is installed but not showing the secure padlock next to your web address

What is mixed content?

Once you have installed your certificate and checked your domain with the Why No Padlock? tool, this may show some errors under the ‘mixed content’ section. It is important to fix up these errors as they will prevent your SSL certificate from functioning correctly. Mixed content means that you have a mixture of http:// and https:// links somewhere in your site, for example a direct hard-coded link to another page on your website that starts with http://. – don’t forget to check external files .such as css and .js files.

If you don’t want to do this manually there are a number of plugins that will run this automatically for you. Adding an SSL certificate to your website can sound daunting, but with the tools available to assist with this it is a relatively simple process, and the importance of this is only getting more prominent.

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Liz is a Web Design expert with over 15 years experience covering design, UX, & development. She uses her knowledge to develop beautiful and engaging websites for small businesses.

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