What is an SSL Certificate? A Complete Guide for Website Owners

What is an SSL certificate

Written By seankivi

I have been designing and building WordPress websites since 2017. Since then, I have been blogging and teaching people how to save money building a website.

April 4, 2023

When you are building a WordPress website, you will need to secure it. The best way to do this is to get an SSL certificate. You may now be wondering, “What is an SSL certificate?”

In this blog post, you will learn what an SSL certificate is, common issues you may experience when installing one, and how to find the best deal. 

Before we jump into where to get the best deal, there are some terms you need to know.

When I started building WordPress websites in 2017, I had no idea about SSL certificates. 

Installing an SSL certificate was even a bit more difficult to understand.

You need to get a keycode and activate it on your website.

It can all be super confusing, so I really hope this blog post can help you. 

Now, let’s get to it!

By definition, what is an SSL certificate?

An SSL Certificate (Secure Sockets Layer Certificate) is a digital security measure to establish a secure and encrypted connection between a web server and a user’s browser. 

This encryption ensures that sensitive data, such as:

  • Login credentials
  • Personal information
  • Payment details

Remains private and secure when transmitted over the internet.

If you don’t install an SSL certificate, people that browse your website will immediately know. 

When you install an SSL certificate on your website, the user will see ‘https://

what is an SSL certificate? It ensures your website is secure

But if you don’t, people will also know. Your website will say ‘http://’ instead. 

Can you remember when you connected to a website to make a purchase?

If so, can you imagine how you’d feel making a purchase with a website that doesn’t keep your information secure? 

The Importance of SSL Certificates in website security

Installing an SSL certificate make your website more secure, so people feel comfortable buying from you.  

And online security has become more critical than ever in today’s digital age.

Most people will not even attempt a purchase unless they see ‘https://’ on your website. 

But why are SSL certificates so important?

It’s because they safeguard sensitive data and maintain users’ privacy. 

They help protect your website against cyber threats like: 

  • Data breaches
  • Phishing attacks
  • Man-in-the-middle attacks 

Data breaches are simple enough to understand.

Yahoo!, Cambridge Analytica, and various banks have had massive data breaches.

They reduce confidence in your online trust score. 

Phishing is a term used when people try to steal user information from your website.

Think of information like passwords, banking details, etc. 

And a man-in-the-middle attack is when someone eavesdrops on your website.

They monitor information that people send to your website and try to steal it.

It also means they try to steal your information too. 

As you can see, SSL certificates are pretty important. 

But when were they developed, and by who?

A brief history of SSL Certificates

Netscape first introduced SSL technology in the mid-1990s to secure online transactions.

Over the years, SSL has evolved, and its latest version is called Transport Layer Security (TLS).

However, SSL is still widely used to refer to the security protocol.

Basically, that means that TLS is a more advanced technology, but when people talk about SSL, they are also talking about TLS. 

The industry standard for this lingo is SSL. It’s all you need to really worry about. 

Here’s why you need an SSL certificate on your website

As the internet continues to grow and security concerns become more prevalent, understanding what an SSL certificate gets more important.

They can help your website in multiple ways, which I will outline below. 

Boost your search engine rankings

In 2014, Google announced that it would prioritize websites using HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) in its search rankings. 

As a result, having an SSL Certificate installed and properly configured on a website can improve your search engine rankings. 

It goes without saying, but that will make your website more visible and accessible to visitors.

Secure websites often experience:

  • Increased user engagement
  • Lower bounce rates
  • Higher conversion rates

All of which can positively impact search engine rankings.

Comply with data protection regulations

The GDPR is a European Union (EU) regulation that aims to protect the privacy and personal data of EU citizens. 

If you’re reading this, you’re likely in America. So, why am I talking about a policy that is only a legal requirement in Europe?

Mainly because I live in Europe.

But also because complying with GDPR will also ensure that your website is legal in the USA.

In the USA, a website must have state-specific security for its visitors. 

And the best way to do that is with an SSL certificate.

If your website processes any payments or contains people’s personal information, you need to keep your website secure. 

For websites processing online payments, complying with PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) is mandatory. 

One of the key requirements of PCI DSS is the proper encryption of cardholder data during transmission across public networks. 

Having an SSL certificate fulfills this requirement. 

Need help securing your website?

Fill out the form below, and I can help you set up an SSL certificate on your domain quickly and cheaply. 

New Field

15 + 15 =

Reducing cart abandonment rates

An SSL certificate will boost consumer confidence when buying from your website.

One of the main reasons for cart abandonment during online shopping is a lack of trust in the security of the transaction process.

By displaying visual indicators of a secure connection, SSL Certificates can increase consumer confidence and encourage them to complete their purchases.

Not to mention, an SSL certificate will make your visitor’s experience more smooth. 

A smooth and secure shopping experience is vital in retaining customers and reducing cart abandonment rates. 

Implementing SSL Certificates on e-commerce websites can improve user experience, increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Protecting website reputation with an SSL certificate

Modern web browsers display security warnings for websites that do not use HTTPS or have expired or improperly configured SSL Certificates. 

These warnings can deter users from visiting or interacting with a website, damaging its reputation and credibility.

If you don’t have one, as I said before, people will know, and it will hurt your brand’s trust. 

Install an SSL certificate today to secure your site and become a trustworthy online website.  

Types of SSL Certificates

There are various kinds of SSL certificates. To help you know which is best for your website, we will explore them below. 

Domain Validation (DV)

Domain Validation SSL Certificates provide the most basic level of validation.

This type of SSL means that you control your domain and have the right to request an SSL certificate. 

This validation process typically involves the Certificate Authority (CA) emailing you or requiring you to create a specific DNS record.

You can get a DV SSL Certificate issued quickly, usually within minutes or hours. 

As such, they are an attractive option for website owners needing basic encryption and authentication. 

However, they do not include information about the organization behind the website.

Organization Validation (OV)

Organization Validation SSL Certificates require additional validation steps compared to DV certificates. 

The CA verifies your organization’s existence and legitimacy by checking its registration details and contact information. 

This process provides a higher level of trust, as the SSL Certificate includes information about the organization behind the website.

OV SSL Certificates are a popular choice for businesses and organizations that want to demonstrate their authenticity to users while providing a secure browsing experience. 

Due to the additional validation steps, the issuance process may take a few days.

Extended Validation (EV)

Extended Validation SSL Certificates have the most stringent validation process. 

The CA conducts a thorough background check on the organization, verifying its legal, operational, and physical existence. 

The process also requires your organization to prove its ownership and control over your domain.

Websites with EV SSL Certificates display a green address bar with the organization’s name, giving users a highly visible trust indicator. 

These certificates are especially suitable for e-commerce websites, financial institutions, and other businesses that handle sensitive information. 

They offer users the highest level of assurance.

Wildcard and Multi-Domain SSL Certificates

Wildcard SSL Certificates are designed to secure a primary domain and subdomains under a single certificate. 

This type of certificate uses an asterisk (*) as a placeholder for any number of subdomains. 

Wildcard SSL Certificates can be issued as DV, OV, or EV certificates, depending on the level of validation required.

Also known as Subject Alternative Name (SAN) SSL Certificates, Multi-Domain SSL Certificates allow website owners to secure multiple domains and subdomains with a single certificate. 

These certificates are suitable for businesses with multiple websites or platforms that must be secured under one certificate, simplifying certificate management. 

Like Wildcard SSL Certificates, Multi-Domain SSL Certificates can be issued with different levels of validation, depending on the organization’s needs.

I recommend using Name Cheap for creating secure and easy-to-manage SSL certificates.

The SSL certificates from Namecheap are inexpensive, simple to set up, and offer cheap renewals.

How to obtain and install an SSL Certificate

Here comes the best part of this blog post! Now that you know what an SSL certificate is, you may need to install one on your website.

So let’s walk through the steps of installing an SSL certificate on your website. 

Choosing the Right SSL Certificate

When choosing an SSL certificate, you should consider factors such as:

  • The level of validation needed
  • The number of domains or subdomains you need to secure
  • The desired visual trust indicators you want when selecting an SSL Certificate

The choice between DV, OV, EV, Wildcard, and Multi-Domain SSL Certificates will depend on your website’s specific needs and users.

Next, you must choose a reputable and reliable CA to issue the SSL Certificate. 

Obtaining an SSL Certificate

To get an SSL, you need to generate a CSR on their web server to obtain an SSL Certificate. 

After generating the CSR, you need to submit it to the CA, along with any required documentation for validation. 

Once the validation is complete, the CA will process the request and issue the SSL Certificate.

Most websites will walk you through how to do this. I recommend using Namecheap.

Their customer service is excellent.

They can walk you through doing everything, step-by-step. 

Installing the SSL Certificate

Once the CA issues your SSL Certificate, you will receive the certificate files. 

These typically include the primary certificate, intermediate certificate(s), and sometimes the root certificate.

You should upload the received certificates to their web server, placing them in the appropriate directories specified by the server’s documentation.

To activate the SSL Certificate, you must update the server configuration to reference the uploaded certificate files. 

The configuration steps will vary depending on the web server software (e.g., Apache, Nginx, IIS). 

Now you know what an SSL certificate is

I hope this blog post has been helpful. You should now know what an SSL certificate is, why they are so important and how they keep you safe. 

If you think the content was useful, go ahead and sign up for my email list.

I’ll be making more content about making WordPress websites and everything related to starting a business online. 

Still need a bit of help? Let me know below!

New Field

4 + 14 =

You May Also Like…

Wix vs WordPress: Which Website Builder is Right for You?

Wix vs WordPress: Which Website Builder is Right for You?

Are you having trouble deciding which website builder to use? In this post, I compare two of the most popular options, WordPress and Wix, to help you make an informed decision. I’ll examine each platform’s features, pros and cons, security, mobile-friendliness, and more to help you decide which one is right for you. Whether you’re a blogger, small business owner, or looking to build a large e-commerce store, read on to discover which platform can help you achieve your website goals.

How to Get a Domain Name in 2023

How to Get a Domain Name in 2023

Getting a domain name is the first step in establishing your online presence. A domain name is your website’s address on the internet, and it’s essential for building brand recognition, credibility, and making it easier for users to find and share your website. Choosing the right domain name can be a challenging task, but with the help of this ultimate guide, you’ll be able to get a domain name that is easy to spell, remember, and reflects your brand identity. From brainstorming to registering and connecting your domain name to your website, you’ll learn it all.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *