Adding an SSL Certificate to your website is a good option if you are going to be taking sensitive information from your website users and you want your site to be secure.
Getting an SSL Certificate makes it so that the connection between a web server to a browser is secure. It also changes the beginning of your URL from http to https. For example, if you look at the URL of my website that you’re on right now, you’ll notice that it starts with https, and depending on your browser you might also see a little lock and the word Secure. This means that this site is secure and has an active SSL certificate. Luckily, adding an SSL certificate is easy and I’ll show you how.
Why you need SSL
So, if you have a shop, a membership site, or even just a normal site, adding an SSL certificate is a good idea. Of course you want your users data to be secure. If you have ever tried to enter a password or credit card information on a site and it comes up and says ‘this site is not secure’, it’s likely because the creator of that website did not add an SSL certificate, or they have one but they aren’t using it properly. So, having an insecure website can keep your users from entering information or making a purchase, and you never want that.
There is also the fact that Google has said that they are moving towards a more secure web, and will be giving search priority to sites that are secure. This means that not having a secure site could hurt your SEO, essentially making your site show up further down in search results than it would if it were secure.
How to Install SSL
While there are paid certificate options, luckily there are also free SSL Certificates available that you can add to your website in just a few clicks.
To install an SSL certificate on your website, first you just need to log into your hosting dashboard. Since I use Dreamhost I can guide you exactly where to go and what to click, but if you don’t use Dreamhost it will still be possible to set up an SSL certificate through your host.
Once you are in your dashboard you just want to look for something that says secure hosting, or SSL, or https. If you are using Dreamhost, you want to click on Domains in the toolbar on the left, and then click on Secure Hosting.
Once there, you will see a list of SSL certificates that are already active on your site if you have any. If you haven’t added an SSL certificate to a domain yet, then there will be no items in this list.
On this page are also your options for what kind of SSL certificate you can install. There are paid options here and free options. If you feel like you might want a paid certificate then you can read Dreamhost’s resource about the differences, but ultimately I feel that the paid certificate and the free certificate offer the exact same level of security. The only difference with the paid certificate is that you are essentially paying for a brand name that you can display to your customers to say the site is secure.
If you do decide you want a free certificate, the one you want is the Let’s Encrypt SSL. Click on the type you want, and on the next page you will have to select the domain you want to apply it to.
On Dreamhost, choose the domain you want, check that you agree to the terms, and then click Add New. Then you will receive a message here and an email telling you the SSL is being installed.
Now you just have to wait for the SSL certificate to become active. You will know that it is when you see that the URL on your website has changed to start with https, and your site has the little lock and the word Secure.
If you have existing content on your site when you install your SSL, you just have to make sure the content you already have is secure. You can run your site through a service like Why No Padlock? to check, and then if it lists any insecure resources on your site, you just have to make them secure, in most cases by changing the http to https.
Once you have an active SSL certificate on your site and your site has been confirmed to be secure, you can ask your customers for information, passwords, and payment information without having to worry about any sort of security issues!