If you’ve been practicing SEO for any amount of time, you have surely come across SSL i.e. Secure Sockets Layer — technology which secures and safeguards data being sent between two systems e.g. a server and a browser. This prevents criminals from accessing or modifying any information transferred, including potential personal details.
Search engines have made security a factor in their ranking algorithms, thus a SSL is practically mandatory for all who seek greater visibility in the SERPs.
We’ve been persuaded to obtain an active SSL certificate for our sites, but beyond that, there doesn’t seem to be a clear indication as to which provider we should strongly consider, nor what type of SSL to invest in (among other concerns).
There still appears to be some ambiguity surrounding the topic.
With that in mind, we have tried to understand, simplify and communicate the main concept of SSL and what we need to know with relation to the internet & SEO.
What is TLS?
TLS is short for Transport Layer Security and while it is often referenced as an alternative to Secure Sockets Layer, it is merely an updated and more secure version of SSL. We still refer to our security certificates as SSL because it has been around for a long time, but when you are purchasing SSL you are actually getting TLS.
How Many Kinds of SSL Certificates Are There?
For webmasters, there are five common forms of SSL certificates to be aware of:
1. Single Domain Validation (DV)
A basic SSL which will cover a single domain or subdomain. They provide encryption and protection for all information exchanged with a website, but don’t provide validation of the organization’s authenticity. Most live websites are secured with a single domain SSL.
2. Organization Validation (OV)
Organization validation certificates provide everything a domain validation certificate offers, but they require manual verification where a human reviews the application and ensures the organization which owns the site is genuine.
3. Extended Validation (EV)
Extended validation certificates are the complete package. They provide everything an OV does, plus the green bar that’s commonly displayed in a user’s address bar. This certificate requires some extra vetting and manual processing which will take some time before the certificate can be issued.
4. Wildcard SSL
Wildcard SSL certificates enable site owners to secure multiple subdomains under the same certificate, rather than having to purchase an SSL certificate for each and every subdomain. If you have a website with multiple subdomains, this is the SSL for you.
5. Multi-Domain/UCC SSL
Multi-domain SSLs enable organizations to secure multiple independent domains on a single certificate, saving time and money in the process. They are also known as Unified Communications Certificates (UCC). Because this certificate can protect both internal and external domains, Microsoft has recommended this type of SSL for use on its Exchange servers.
As you may have gathered, not all SSLs are created equal — and it’s important to determine which SSL is right for you.
If you own just the one site, we recommend the Single Domain SSL.
If you own a number of subdomains, we recommend the Wildcard SSL.
If you own a number of websites, we recommend the Multi-Domain SSL.
If you own a medium-to-large size company, we recommend the Extended Validation SSL.
Where Can I Get a SSL Certificate From?
There are only a handful of companies (Certificate Authorities) that issue SSL certificates. They include:
As expected, they all have a wide range of offerings and subsequent pricing structures. The good news is that we don’t need to compare all plans individually.
The SSL Store compares all but one of the aforementioned companies on their website.
SSL.com is another established provider who also has a diverse selection of plans choose from.
Where you end up obtaining your SSL from is not nearly as important as the act of obtaining one.
Can I Install SSL Myself?
It is technically possible, however, we do not recommend it. While some hosting companies and CDNs provide SSL installation as a part of their packages, the other option would be to have a professional company handle it for you. The SSL Store offers a SSL installation service for a small fee, which is worth the investment if you are even slightly unsure of what you are doing.
How Do I Know If I Have SSL Installed?
It’s simple. If you check the address bar and see a green padlock before the address, you have SSL installed. If you want to get further into the details of your SSL certificate such as the organization name, server, expiration date, issuer, location etc. you can look to an online SSL checker which can provide you with such information.
We hope this overview of SSL and how it relates to websites & SEO was clear and insightful. If you have any comments or suggestions, Let us know!
Sebastian Hovv is the CEO & founder of SEO 101 and the author of the book, The Little White Book of SEO. With over 13 years of experience in SEO, he has become an expert in the field and a contributor to the world of online marketing education through the online courses and learning material SEO 101 provides.