If you have a website or a web application you must have heard about certificates for your website/application. They are often called SSL certificates. Most of the time you hear about them when they are expired or when the registrar starts sending you email reminders to extend the certificate.

SSL-certificates are important. Every website and application should have one.

4 reasons your site should have a SSL certificate:

  1. They guarantee that the website the user receives and sees is the same as the one you have on your server or webhosting account and nobody could intercept the connection. That’s why online banking sites were the first to use SSL certificates. They don’t want passwords and bank statements leaking while they are being transmitted to the user.
  2. Another party that may change the information being transmitted is the internet provider. In some countries (especially Indonesia) they insert visible advertisements into websites. In other countries it’s often invisible trackers. When you serve your website over https with a SSL certificate this is not possible. Passwords stay secret and no advertisements will be injected.
  3. Search engines are pushing towards a fully encrypted internet where every site is only available over https and thus has a certificate. They do this by rewarding sites with a certificate with a higher position in the search results. So yes, a certificate is good for your SEO score.
  4. Certificates can also be used to guarantee the authenticity of your website. If you order an EV certificate the certificate authority will do a thorough check to verify your company. This is also why EV (extended validation) certificates are more expensive. For most businesses and websites this is not required. Banks obviously have these certificates and you can recognize them by the name in the address bar in your browser.

What it looks like in your browser: Different types

What should I do, now that I know this?

  1. Find out if your website or application has a certificate. Open a browser and go to httpS://www.yourwebsite.com. If you see your website and your browser shows no errors you’ve got one! In Google Chrome there will be a little green lock icon in front of the url.
  2. It’s also important to make sure all visitors are redirected to the https-version of your website. This means that if they go to http://yourwebsite.com they are automatically redirected to httpS://yourwebsite.com.

Pro-tip: verfiy that the certificate is installed properly on the SSL Labs website. Enter your domain name and wait for the test suite to complete. It’s free and takes about 2 minutes. If the result of the test is a B or lower you have some things you need to improve.

SSL Labs results

Pro-tip: setup a monitoring tool to warn you when your certificate is about to expire. I’ll explain this in another blogpost.