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What is an SSL Certificate?

Updated: Jan 19

In our digital online world, an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate authenticates your website to your customers when doing business on the web. This post will explain how SSL certificates work, how to tell if you have one and how to get one for your website.

How does an SSL certificate work?

When an internet user is sending information to your web server, such as a credit card number for a purchase, the user's web browser accesses your website server to establish a secure connection. The certificate allows encryption of all the information sent to the server by the user using SSL technology. This protects the user from having their information stolen by hackers when entering data onto your website.

How can I tell if I have one on my website?

Many website hosting companies offer free SSL certificate services with their hosting plans so you will want to check your plan first. The easiest way to tell if you have an SSL certificate is as follows:

  • Check the URL of your website. If it begins with https (vs. http), the "s" is indicating you have an SSL certificate.

  • Click on the padlock to the left of your URL in the web address and look for the "Certificate is valid" link. This will tell you the expiration date of your SSL certificate and any other details pertaining to your certificate.

  • Visitors to your site may receive an "Error" message indicating you do not have a valid SSL certificate. That is not only a big indicator but will drive traffic away from your website!

When should I get an SSL certificate for my website?

If you take personal information from a user, or sell products or services on your site where users enter their credit card information, you are required to have an SSL certificate to be PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant. An SSL certificate can be obtained by any website (not just e-commerce sites) so your website visitors know they can trust your site when submitting their personal information.

How can I obtain an SSL certificate?

There are different retailers and different types of SSL certificates you can obtain on the market. It is important you obtain an SSL certificate from a trusted certificate authority (CA), versus a self-signed SSL certificate (this is a certificate you sign yourself).

The first place to check is your web hosting provider. You can also purchase a certificate separately from your web hosting company, such as through another hosting company (such as GoDaddy, NameCheap, Bluehost, Hostinger, etc), through your domain registration provider (or another domain registration company), or a third party SSL provider such as If you purchase a certificate separately, you will need to make sure the certificate is installed on your website through your web hosting provider or with an SSL plugin for a WordPress site.

Remember, you want to provide your website visitors with a safe experience on your website. Keeping your SSL certificate up to date lets your customers know there is an additional later of security in place on your website to encrypt their personal information and significantly reduce the risk of their data being stolen off your website. And, as an added bonus, secure websites will rank higher in search engine results compared to sites who do not have a certificate or whose certificate has expired.


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