Web Design Cybersecurity SEO

What is an SSL Certificate?

Nathan Maas Jun 8, 2022

Picture of two laptops showing one with a website with HTTPS security and the other without it

Learn more about what an SSL certificate is, why they're important and how you can use them to enhance your website.

What is an SSL certificate?

SSL stands for secure sockets layer. SSL certificate is a bit of code on your web browser that provides security in online communications. It is like sealing a letter in an envelope before sending it through the mail. Once the website has an SSL certificate, it has a seal where information like credit cards or addresses can travel securely, and no one else can see it. Along with the security, it provides a badge, if you will, for your website. Each certificate is associated with a specific domain unique to your website. This certificate lets your customers know that they are on the right website and secure.

Authentication Process

SSLs inspire trust because each SSL certificate contains identification information. When you request an SSL certificate, a third party verifies your organization’s information and issues a unique certificate to you with that information. The third-party researches your company assures identity and encrypts data. This is known as the Authentication process, which helps verify your website.

Why does my website need an SSL Certificate?

The first reason is that SSLs keep online interactions private even though they travel across the public internet. It helps customers gain confidence to provide personal information on your website. Suppose your website asks customers to sign in, enter personal data on your website, such as credit card information, or view confidential information such as health benefits or financial accounts. In that case, you need to keep the data private!

What is Encryption & Why Are There Different Levels?

Encryption is a mathematical process of coding and decoding information. The number of bits tells you the size of the key. Like a longer password, a larger key has more possible combinations. In fact, 128-bit encryption is one trillion times stronger than 40-bit encryption. When an encrypted session is established, the strength is determined by the web browser's capability, SSL certificate, web server, and client computer operating system.


HTTP is without password encryption through an SSL certificate. HTTPS is secure and utilizes SSL and password encryption. With HTTP, if someone types in a password like ABC6789, a hacker will see it precisely as ABC6789. If the website is HTTPS and the customer or user enters the same password, a hacker will see something like jdr8201. The password is scrambled so that hackers and anyone looking can not see the actual password or data being entered.

Example of SSL in Use

John wants to buy a golf cart. There are two computers involved in the transaction. The server hosting the ABC golf carts website and the laptop John is using to shop from. In between this transaction is the SSL certificate. The SSL connects both computers and confirms the company's identity through what's called a handshake. During this process, if John uses a credit card, shipping information, and orders the golf cart, all this information entered is scrambled and then descrambled so that no one can steal the data in the process. SSL provides online shoppers with a safe, secure environment. A green icon (padlock) is shown in the top left with this process to let the customer know that the website is secure and safe.

Other Benefits & Reasons:

  • An SSL certificate is a factor in Google’s search ranking algorithm.
  • When you do not have SSL, it will tell customers that your website is not secure.
  • Google has made SSL mandatory on their site and flags websites without it.
  • SSL Helps You Satisfy PCI/DSS Requirements.
  • As imitation websites continue, SSL helps ensure customers are less likely to go to fake websites that look like yours.
  • It makes your website load faster and improves optimization.
  • It is affordable and a must for any website!

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Insight by Nathan Maas

Account Manager

Nathan is a digital marketer passionate about how storytelling, targeted messaging, and implementing technology create business-changing content. As an Account Manager, he is responsible for assisting with communication to help his clients increase brand awareness, generate leads, and acquire new customers.

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