illustration of a man sat in a bean bag on a laptop looking for the best ssl certficate for his website to protect his customers information

How to Select the Best SSL Certificate for your Website

Having a valid SSL Certificate gives your website legitimacy and provides visitors with confidence that they are accessing a trustworthy website.

It’s also the first line of defence for protecting you and your customer’s personal data from cyberattacks where successful breaches can have a profound impact on your business.

impact of SMB Website breaches statistical analysis by Sectigo - February 2021

But how do you know which is the best SSL Certificate to protect your website?

Firstly, it is important to know that all certificates are not the same.

So, let’s delve a little deeper into what SSL is, and how it works so you have a better understanding of how to select the right certificate for your website.

What is SSL?

SSL actually stands for Secure Sockets Layer and prevents others from reading and modifying the information you share during the transfer between two systems using data encryption to scramble the content.

Take a look at the URL below.

example of website using SSL.

The extra “s” in HTTPS:// stands for “Secure”.

Any data you share with the website is now encrypted and safe during the transfer.

The encryption works by scrambling the data by using a “public key“. It’s called public because you can openly share this with others to use to encrypt data.

Anyone intercepting the data transfer will only see gibberish.

illustration of how encryption works with ssl certificate using public and private keys.

image used under the fair use policy courtesy of Digicert

However, you cannot use the same key to unscramble the data.

Instead, you need to use a different key called a “private key

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This is stored separately and secretly which the owner only has access to.

A public key and a private key are paired and unique to one another.

Typical pages where you would add these certificates for encrypting data are when the user has to:

  • enter login credentials
  • register personal details
  • subscribe to receive information
  • use a payment gateway
example of PayPal's gateway solution.

What’s the Difference Between SSL and TLS

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) was first developed by Netscape back in 1995 and was shortly superseded by TLS (Transport Layer Security) in 1999 by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), an international standards group.

When you implement SSL to your website today, from any reputable vendor, then it will actually be using TLS even if the term they use is SSL. The reason for this is that users still associate SSL with website encryption.

Sometimes you may see the term SSL/TLS to help alleviate this confusion.

What is an SSL Certificate?

Simply put, an SSL Certificate is a digital certificate that authenticates the website you are visiting and proves they are who they say they are.

The certificate also contains the public key (used for data encryption), enabling secure communication between your web browser and the web server.

Without it, you cannot implement SSL on your website.

How to Tell if a Website is Using SSL/TLS

There are a number of indicators to tell if a website is using SSL/TLS.

1. The URL contains HTTPS:// instead of HTTP://

example of url containing the secure internet protocol HTTPS.

As previously mentioned, the “s” stands for “secure” and is the first indicator that a website is using SSL/TLS. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean the website is secure and you should check the following to be certain.

2. A closed padlock prefixes the URL

example of the lock image signifying that an SSL certificate is available.

The padlock is another indicator that a website is using SSL/TLS.

This padlock is clickable, enabling you to see more information about the website and the authenticity of the Certificate.

3. The SSL Certificate is in date and valid

Even if a website has the HTTPS:// protocol and a closed lock in the URL bar, you need to check that the certificate is still operational and hasn’t expired.

An expired certificate means the data between your web browser and the web server is not encrypted and therefore not safe.

You can check the validity of the certificate by clicking the ‘closed lock’.

best ssl certificate for

The full acronym HTTPS stands for “Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure”

How to Choose the Best SSL Certificate

There are 3 different types.

Types of SSL Certificates

1. Single Domain

This type of certificate protects only one domain and therefore cannot be used for sub-domains or a different domain altogether.

Example = Protected = Not protected = Not protected

This is the best SSL Certificate type for businesses that want to create an online presence with a single website.

2. Wildcard

This type of certificate still works with a single domain, but can also be applied to protect sub-domains.

Example = Protected = Protected = Not protected

3. Unified Communications (UCC)

Also known as multi-domain, this type of certificate protects up to 100 domain names including sub-domain names.

Example = Protected = Protected = Protected

This is the best SSL Certificate type if you have multiple websites to manage.

Validation Levels of SSL Certificates

There are 3 validation levels.

1. Domain Validation (DV) SSL Certificate

This shows that the domain is registered and valid. It is the quickest form of validation and is considered low-level encryption requiring only the bare minimum of company documents/checks to verify.

This is the best SSL Certificate for blogs and information-only websites.

2. Organisation Validated (OV) SSL Certificate

This includes the company name and the location where it is registered as well as the domain. The Certificate Authority (CA) will actually contact the person or business directly to confirm the validity of the business.

This is considered a medium level of encryption and is highly trusted by users.

3. Extended Validation (EV) SSL Certificate

This is the highest level of encryption and requires the website owner to submit to an identity verification process to confirm they own the domain and the related business associated with it. This ensures the website owner is legally entitled to collect data to perform certain actions.

This is the best SSL Certificate for websites that collect personal data or process online web payments.

It is also the most expensive and can take a while to acquire.

Why You Need to Implement SSL

If you sell products or services directly from your website then you must have SSL/TLS to encrypt the user’s personal data and credit/debit card information.

Even if your website doesn’t sell products or services, you should still use SSL. This is for two reasons:

Establishes Trust

Since GDPR was introduced, data privacy and protection are expected from users visiting your website and SSL provides that level of security and trust.

If websites don’t have SSL implemented or the certificate is not valid, this is the type of message users will face from browsers like google.

user alert message stating website is not secure as it doesn't use ssl or have a valid ssl certificate.

As you can imagine, few users would continue to your website if confronted with this type of message.

Websites that don’t use SSL today, can expect a higher bounce rate.

Improves Your SEO

Whilst Google’s algorithm is a closely guarded secret, they have made it clear that SSL is being used as a ranking signal to help determine search results. It is only a lightweight signal compared to high-quality content, but with all other ranking factors being equal your website will be in a higher position in search results than your competitors if you have implemented SSL.

How Much Does an SSL Certificate Cost?

This depends on the web hosting/service provider, the type of certificate and the validation level needed.

Some charge a little, others a lot, and some will not charge you at all.

At 3Bwebsitedesign data privacy and data security is not something we think should be a choice based on your budget. Domain Validation (DV) certificates and the implementation of SSL are FREE with all our web design packages, including renewals.

Key Takeaways

Yes, SSL Certificates help to boost your page ranking but they do much more than that. They provide your customers with confidence that you take the protection of their personal data seriously.

Online fraud is growing and encrypting your customer’s data during the transfer considerably reduces the risk of hackers stealing their data.

As well as security, these certificates also provide trust. Trust that your company is legitimate and will provide the business services you say it will.

If you are starting a blog or informational website, then Domain Validation (DV) is the best SSL Certificate to protect your web visitors and provide them with confidence.

However, if you are collating personal data or allowing for payments online, then it is highly recommended to have a higher level of security in the form of the Extended Validation (EV) certificate.

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About David Christopher

He is the founder of 3B Website Design.  He has over 25 years of experience in digital media, marketing and communications with 20 years working for a Fortune 500 company, heading up Digital Media & Communications for EMEA.

Security & Data Protection

February 8, 2023

Are you looking for

Affordable Web Design?

Hello, I’m David Christopher. I provide quality web design for startups, small businesses and sole traders at amazing prices.

Maybe we can work together?


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