Why you should upgrade your website to use SSL
02 May 2017

Why you should upgrade your website to use SSL

SSL or Secure Sockets Layer is a technology that allows visitors to connect to a website using an encrypted connection. This means that even if someone is able to intercept the messages that the browser and website send to each other, they won't be able to decrypt and understand them.

You can tell whether you are connected to a website using SSL or not by looking at the URL in the browser address bar. Most websites will have an address that starts with http:// in which case the connection is not encrypted. However if the address starts with https://  then the connection is using SSL and is encrypted.

In the past it was generally only sites that dealt with financial information such as taking customer credit card details that used SSL connections. However that is starting to change, and as usual in the web world the change is being driven by Google.

There have been two recent developments that web owners should be aware of:

  • Approximately 1 year ago Google indicated that they would start looking at whether a site was using SSL, and if so it would be taken as a positive SEO indicator, meaning it would have some benefit to search engine rankings. At the time however they were very clear that the impact would be minor and almost certainly not worth putting a site onto SSL for alone
  • In the last month Google have announced they will no longer allow sites on their Google Merchant platform unless they are using SSL for any customer interation. This is not just taking credit card details, but any details including just a name.

Together these show the direction that Google is taking, in that they are starting to expect any sites which take any sort of customer information will use SSL. Where Google lead most other web companies will follow so we can expect over the next few months that more and more services may require sites to use SSL.

Fortunately if your site is running on a modern platform then updating it to SSL shouldn't be too much work. The main steps are:

  • Purchase an SSL certificate (generally in the region of £70 - £80 per annum)
  • Update your web host and content management system to use this SSL certificate
  • Ensure you have a redirect setup to redirect anyone visiting on the non-SSL link to the new SSL link
  • If your site is interacting with a payment gateway you may need to update the settings on that gateway to reflect the change in website address
  • If you are using WebMaster tools or similar platforms ensure you setup a new website property as these tools will usually treat the HTTPS site as a new website
  • Over time migrate any links or stationary to use your new HTTPS address - provided you have a redirect setup you can take some time doing this as all visitors to the old URL will be automatically redirected to the new URL

Going forward we are likely to see a lot more sites migrate to SSL and while this will involve quite a lot of work to implement it can only be a good thing if more and more sites secure and encrypt all their users data, not just financially sensitive data. If you want to show your users that you take their privacy and security seriously then getting ahead of the curve and putting your site onto SSL is one way to do this.


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