With the ever-expanding reach of the internet, both organizations and consumers bear an increasing responsibility to ensure the security of their websites. One fundamental condition of website security is the SSL certificate, which is critical for protecting websites from cyber threats. Furthermore, it substantially impacts SEO, thus making them an integral part of website optimization.

In this article, we will explore the influence of SSL certificates on your website’s SEO and provide a comprehensive guide on obtaining one at no cost.

What is an SSL Certificate?

An SSL certificate enhances website security and functions as a digital certificate. It secures and encrypts information exchanged between a website and its visitors. The internet typically transmits data in plain text, enabling anyone intercepting the communication to read it. Secure Sockets Layer certificates mitigate this risk by scrambling the information, making it unreadable to potential hackers.

By checking the URL in the web browser, you can identify a website with an SSL certificate. If the URL begins with “https” instead of “http” and includes a small padlock icon in the address bar, it signifies the presence of an SSL certificate.

Website with an SSL certificate

A website with an SSL certificate And HTTPS enabled


SSL Certificate Impact on SEO

SSL certificates help to encrypt and protect information exchanged between a website and its users, making it hard for hackers to decipher. However, it’s worth noting that the certificate can also impact a website’s SEO. Let’s analyze how SSL certificates can affect your website’s SEO.

Google’s HTTPS Ranking Signal

Google encourages website owners to use HTTPS for website security. Using HTTPS on websites can increase the chances of ranking higher on Google’s search results as it provides a better user experience. Enabling HTTPS and having an SSL certificate can demonstrate website security to Google, improving the chances of ranking higher on search results.

Improved User Experience

In addition to helping with search rankings, an SSL certificate can enhance a website’s user experience. When a website has an SSL certificate, the URL starts with “https” and a padlock icon in the address bar signals security to visitors. This assures them that any information they submit is encrypted and protected. On the other hand, a website without an SSL certificate is labeled “not secure” and may discourage visitors from entering their personal information. Using an SSL certificate can reassure visitors and improve their overall experience on your website.

Protection Against Cyber Threats

SSL certificates provide website security against cyber threats, which can have a detrimental impact on SEO. Hackers can inject malicious code, steal personal information, and redirect users to spam sites, leading to website flagging and removal from SERP. Google monitors websites for malicious activity and having an SSL certificate adds an extra layer of security to prevent such attacks and ensure website safety from hackers.


Which SSL Certificate Type Should I Choose?

Different Types of SSL Certificates

SSL certificates are essential for website security and SEO rankings. There are three different types of SSL certificates based on the security level.

DV (Domain Validated) Certificates

DV certificates are the least secure among the other SSL certificate types. You can use these certificates on small business websites or blog sites that don’t exchange customer information.

OV (Organization Validated) Certificates

You will get an additional layer of security with OV certificates. They verify the ownership and the legitimacy of the business or organization that owns the website. OV certificates are ideal for websites that capture contact information but do not handle sensitive customer data such as credit card information or login credentials.

EV (Extended Validated) Certificates

EV certificates have the highest level of security for websites and can handle financial transaction information.


Free vs. Paid SSL Certificates  

One of the most critical aspects of website security is having a valid SSL certificate. However, when it comes to choosing between paid and free certificates, business owners must weigh the costs and benefits to determine which option suits their needs best.

Free SSL Certificates

Free SSL certificates are available without any cost, making them an attractive option for many website owners. They provide a quick and convenient way to secure a website and maximize profits. In terms of encryption, it is comparable to paid SSLs. It provides 256-bit certificate encryption and 2048-bit key encryption same as paid SSLs. However, there are some limitations associated with free certificates, including:

Domain Validation SSL only – It’s only limited to domain validation. This option is well-suited for small websites and blogs that do not require gathering information from their online guests.

Usage Limitation – These certificates are not ideal for businesses or websites that collect financial or personal data from their users. In such cases, website owners must opt for OV or EV certificates.

Validity Period – Free SSL certificates mostly have a validity period of 30-90 days and must be renewed frequently.

Support – Since free SSL certificates are available at no cost, users cannot expect technical support when issues arise. They must rely on online forums for guidance and support.

Trust Level – Users may not be fully confident about the adequacy of encryption and protection provided by open-source SSL certificate providers, given that they offer these certificates without charge. There have been instances in the past where free SSL certificates had major cybersecurity issues.

No Warranty – These certificates do not come with any warranty. In case of a data breach, website owners may have to bear the brunt of rebuilding the website and paying for any penalties levied by the government.


Paid SSL Certificates

Certificate Authorities or authorized third-party resellers sell these SSL certificates. These certificates come in various variants, such as DV, OV, and EV, which are commonly sought after. Some of the benefits associated with paid SSL certificates include:

A Large Number of Choices – Paid SSL certificates are ideal for e-commerce, social media, and lead-generation websites that collect sensitive information from their users. Paid SSLs offer three options – DV, OV, and EV – with each type providing varying levels of authentication. Users can also choose from single-domain, wildcard, and multi-domain certificates.

Validity Period – From September 1, 2020, SSL certificates are valid for up to 13 months and must be renewed regularly to ensure compliance with industry standards.

Technical Support – Paid SSL certificates come with dedicated technical support from the issuing CA. Users can access support through email, chat, or call.

Trust Level – Paid SSL certificates come in different variants, and depending on the level of the certificate, they can display the organization’s name, country, city, and state. Website visitors can also see which CA issued the certificate, and they can verify the authenticity of the certificate on the CA/B Forum’s list of members.

Warranty – Paid SSL certificates come with a warranty that covers damages in case of a data breach. The amount of insurance varies depending on the type of certificate.

How to Get Free SSL Certificates

Website owners who wish to safeguard their websites without incurring additional costs can select from several free SSL certificate solutions. These cost-effective solutions provide an excellent way to protect websites. Some of the most popular choices for free certificates include:

Let’s Encrypt Free SSL

Let’s Encrypt, a reputable certificate authority, provides website owners with easy-to-install automated SSL certificates. They promote a more private and secure open web by making SSL certificates widely available. Let’s Encrypt offers free DV certificates with a validity period of 90 days. You have to keep track of renewal dates to ensure continuous validity, although hosting providers often handle this process for their users.

You can install a Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate on a WordPress website by following the below tutorial.


Cloudflare Free SSL

Cloudflare offers a comprehensive solution for content delivery and cybersecurity, including free SSL certificates. With a one-click installation and automatic renewal system, customers can effortlessly enjoy the benefits of Cloudflare’s SSL certificates without worrying about expiration. Additionally, Cloudflare redirects your site from HTTP to HTTPS, ensuring a seamless transition.

For Cloudflare’s Free SSL implementation, we have an informative video guide to assist you. This tutorial covers the installation process on a WordPress site. However, you can utilize this video guide to install an SSL certificate on any website or CMS platform.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What level of encryption do free SSL certificates provide?

Typically, free SSL certificates include 256-bit certificate encryption and 2048-bit key encryption, assuring high security.

What is the difference between a 128-bit and 256-bit SSL certificate?

The bit strength refers to the encryption level. A 256-bit SSL certificate provides stronger encryption than a 128-bit SSL certificate.

Is it possible to install an SSL certificate on shared hosting?

Yes, you can.

How long is the validity period for free SSL certificates?

Usually last 30-90 days and require regular renewal.

Do free SSL certificates provide adequate protection for critical consumer information?

Free SSL certificates usually offer domain validation and may not protect critical customer information adequately. In these circumstances, OV or EV certificates are preferable.

What are the encryption algorithms used in SSL certificates?

SSL certificates use encryption algorithms like RSA and ECC to secure website-user communication.

Can SSL certificates be installed on multiple domains?

With multi-domain and wildcard SSL certificates, you can secure multiple domains or subdomains with a single certificate.

How can I verify the installation and functionality of my SSL certificate?

You can use online SSL checking tools or browser-based tools to confirm the installation, validity, and appropriate setup of your SSL certificate.

What factors should we consider while using SSL certificates on e-commerce websites?

SSL certificates with higher security levels, such as EV certificates, are typically necessary for e-commerce websites to safeguard customer payment information and establish trust.

Can SSL certificates be used for securing email communications?

SSL certificates can be used to protect email conversations by enabling encryption techniques for email servers such as SSL/TLS.

Can I use an SSL certificate for securing subdomains?

You can use a wildcard SSL certificate to secure all subdomains or a multi-domain SSL certificate to secure specified subdomains.

How long does it take to obtain and install an SSL certificate?

The time it takes to obtain and install an SSL certificate varies based on factors such as certificate type and validation procedure. It might take anything from minutes to days.

Does switching from an HTTP to an HTTPS website affect SEO?

If you can properly implement 301 redirects and update internal links, you can switch from HTTP to HTTPS without negatively impacting SEO.

Do SSL certificates provide complete protection against all forms of cyber threats?

SSL certificates are generally used to encrypt data in transit, preventing interception and alteration. They do not, however, offer comprehensive protection against all forms of cyber risks.