What is SSL and why is it important?

You might have seen the term online or noticed a few of your fellow small business owners talking about it at the last networking meeting, but what is SSL? Why is it important? and should you be worried if your website doesn’t have it? In this blog, we’ll answer all of these questions and explain how this techy term can help your business to succeed online.

What is SSL?

In technical terms:

Secure Sockets Layer (also known as SSL, SSL Cert or SSL Certificate) is a digital certificate that authenticates a website and encrypts information passed through an online connection. 

To you and me:

It provides a secure, private connection when browsing the internet! It keeps your website protected and provides a safe experience for your customers. 

SSL has become the foundation of internet security, keeping you and your customers safe from hackers as your valuable data travels through the world wide web. Every day we are reminded about the imminent online security threat and how important it is to protect our data – not just financial data, but any data. We already know that we should purchase some kind of malware protection and create complex passwords, but we should also be ensuring that we’re buying from and browsing trusted websites. SSL provides that level of security and we should all be aware of its greatness! 

How do I check if a website is safe?

It’s easy to spot if a website is being actively protected by SSL – all you need to look out for is the https:// at the start of the website’s URL and a closed padlock icon next to it. It might look something like this:

A website and domain being actively protected by SSL

Chances are, your customers will be looking out for this too – so make sure your site is protected!

If a website isn’t protected, you might see something like this:

An example of an un-secure website and domain not being protected by SSL

You might even be faced with one of these scary messages:

A browser security warning

This is all the more reason to make sure your website is protected: if you are trying to sell products, the last thing you want is your customer’s browser warning them off!

Why is SSL so important?

We’ve covered the main points of securing data and protection from online hackers, but SSL provides more than just that, especially if you’re running a business. SSL can also:

  • Boost your Google rankings (who doesn’t want that?!): Google now considers SSL important for ALL websites, not just for those with checkouts or password-protected areas. With more activity online than ever before, Google and other major search engines are dedicated to ensuring security threats are kept to a minimum, so they’re using https as a ranking signal, encouraging more people to be safe online and rewarding those that are already doing so. 
  • Provide credibility and build customer trust: Seeing ‘https’ or the closed padlock next to your website’s domain name instantly tells your website visitors that you are a legitimate business and that it’s safe to not only browse your website, but also to purchase from it.

What happens if I don’t have an SSL cert?

Your business probably won’t thrive online – and might not even survive. If you’re selling anything online or your website visitors need to provide any data, such as credit card credentials or information via a contact form, you need to have an SSL cert in place. Even if you aren’t collecting this information, SSL will improve your SEO and your customers will know you care about their online security – it’s a win-win situation! If your customers don’t trust your website, you could miss out on valuable business – or they might even be blocked from accessing your website completely if their browser deems it too unsafe to visit. 

While it’s always good to think about your website’s security, our advice would be to go one step further than this, and to invest in an SSL certificate today. There are lots of helpful guides out there to help you to choose the right SSL for you – or if you’re using a website builder like ours, you might already have an SSL certificate included in your package; or perhaps your provider can supply one at an extra cost.

We know how important online security is for any business, so we’ve included SSL with every premium Go Sitebuilder package, completely free of charge; all you need to do is enable it! If you have a Go Sitebuilder website, here’s how:

If you don’t have a website or you’re looking to create a new responsive website that you can update from anywhere (plus a FREE SSL cert), sign up for a free trial with Go Sitebuilder.

What pages do I need on my website?

When you’re creating a website, it can be hard to know where to start – and when it’s okay to step back for a while. There are loads of different pages you can have, and it can be overwhelming trying to imagine how you’ll find time to create them all. However, we’ve got good news for you: you can create a professional, complete website with just six essential pages. These pages will cover all the bases, from showing your personality to sharing your products – and you can add any other pages you want to add later!

Homepage

This is where your customers will land when they first come to your website, so make sure you make it engaging and clear! Give your company’s name pride of place, and follow it by a subheading or strapline to ensure it’s clear to every visitor what you do – remember that not everyone will be there because they looked you up specifically! Maximise your chances of converting new customers by showing them that you can give them what they need.

Use call-to-action (CTA) buttons to provide clear pointers to other key areas of your website via a menu and short sections leading to these areas (e.g. a short introduction to you, followed by a link to the full about page), to give your customers an easy path to follow and keep them engaged. They’ve come to your website for a reason, so make it enticing for them to stay there!

About page

People like to know they’re doing business with a human being, and this page gives you a chance to show them that you’re just that! Show your customers who you are with an insight into your motivations and personality. You could do this by telling the story of why you started the business; introducing your canine- or feline-in-chief; telling people a little about your background… just be yourself!

For another human touch, don’t forget to add a photo! If you’re a little camera shy, you could always use a photo of your four-legged-friend or your workspace – just something that will inject even more personality into the page, while keeping it visually engaging.

For more advice on creating an effective about page, we love these tips from Moz.

Contact

There are countless reasons why a visitor to your website may want to contact you: a query about a product or service; a business enquiry; a collaboration request… the list goes on, so make sure you give them a way to get in touch! The simplest way to do this is a contact form, but if you have a bricks-and-mortar location, then use a map feature to show them exactly where you are. You can also include an email address and phone number if applicable – but make sure your email address is something professional and in keeping with your wider branding.

Store OR product information

If you have products or services to sell, an online store is the perfect way to do this. Even if you also have a physical location, selling online means that you don’t ever have to miss a sale. You can sell without even being awake! Make sure your products are all clearly listed, with all the relevant information; this will save your customers having to ask for clarification or return items, and it will save you from having to answer questions or process returns!

If you don’t have products or services which can be listed in this way, you should still have a products/services page: this is a great place to show off what you do! Give all the information you think potential customers will need to make a decision, and, for extra impact, include your contact details on this page too – giving them a way to take the next step once you’ve won them over!

Testimonials

Until your customers have seen how great your products or services are for themselves, the best way to breed their trust is to show them how satisfied other people have been. If you don’t have testimonials already, why not reach out to some of your satisfied customers to see if they’d be happy to provide one? If you’re going to do this, just make sure you’re complying with GDPR, and not contacting customers or sharing their data without their consent.

It’s up to you how you structure this page, but a good rule of thumb for any copy-based page is to keep it visually engaging with product images and an easy-to-read layout. For extra impact, you could also place testimonials or quotes throughout your website!

Blog

Just like the about page, a blog is a great way to show your personality and create a loyal following. As well as this, it’s also a place to share exciting news, from product updates to promotions. If you need any more persuasion, businesses with blogs receive 55% more traffic than those without!

If you can, it’s good to get into the habit of sharing regular (e.g. monthly) updates. This will help you to get into a routine and open up the lines of communication with your customers. If you don’t always have big developments to share, that’s okay! You can also update on smaller or more personal developments, such as plans, house moves, goals and more. Your customers will appreciate the insight into the human behind the company. If you’re stuck for ideas, articles like this have some great advice.

Once you have these pages, you’ll find that your website has a complete, professional feel to it. When visitors come to your site, they won’t be left wanting at all – just these few pages will give them all the information they need to really engage with your business.

If you don’t already have a website, you’ll need a simple way to create these essential pages. We’ve designed Go Sitebuilder to be a simple and effective way to get online, giving you everything you need to grow your business, wherever you are – no technical skills needed! Try it free today.