Here’s an easy analogy to remember what a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate is – think of a passport. An SSL certificate is the internet version of a passport for your website. You use your passport when you travel to a foreign country to authenticate your identity. Your website uses an SSL certificate to authenticate itself to visitors and their browsers (via a certificate authority site seal, SSL https url, web browser padlock, or green browser window - see picture sample below).
An SSL cert will also encrypt information that is shared between your site and your visitor. The information may be credit card numbers to facilitate a purchase. Or, it could be account information like passwords or personal information.
SSL certificates also go by the name of digital certificates. Some people call them “SSL Certs” or “digital Certs” for short.
Why do I need an SSL Certificate?
It seems like every day we hear about another new way thieves steal your identity or perform other types of internet fraud. Visitors to your site are wary of interacting with a site they do not trust. They don't want to fall victim to identity theft or a phishing scheme. The appropriate SSL certificate will help your website gain your visitor's trust. Your customers will be more confident in your website and will be more willing to complete a purchase, or share sensitive information. Hence, an SSL certificate will help raise your conversion rate, and make your website more effective.
Gartner Research has done a study that said that almost 70 percent of ecommerce shoppers have abandoned an order because they did not "trust" the transaction. Of the shoppers that abandoned their order, 64 percent said that the presence of an SSL Certificate on the website would most likely have prevented the abandoned shopping cart.
How does an SSL Certificate let my visitors know that my site is secure?
Once you have an SSL Certificate installed on the server that houses your website, your site will display three instantly recognizable symbols that let customers know your site is secure:
1. A padlock symbol that appears in their web browser when your site is opened.
2. The SSL "https" prefix in front of your URL address in the browser.
3. A Certificate Authority's Site Seal that appears on your website.
If you want your visitor's browser bar to turn green, you need to get a type of SSL Certificate called an Extended Validation certificate. This is the highest validation SSL Certificate level.
To figure out what type of SSL certificate is right for your website, read this blog.