If you are the owner of a website, chances are that the thoughts of achieving a higher search engine ranking and improving the security for visitors keeps you up at night. However, there exists a way that can help you do all this without spending a single cent. And that solution is an SSL certificate. This nifty thing ensures that the connection of your website remains safe and secure, thereby boosting its Google rankings automatically. The best part is, you can get these SSL certificates and avail all the benefits for free. Read on to find out more.
Understanding the Nature of SSL Certificates
When you are browsing different websites, you might have noticed that some of the URLs begin with
“http://” while others have “https://” at the start along with the icon of a green padlock on the side. The latter group of websites is SSL-encrypted. But what exactly is SSL? Well, the term is short for Secure Sockets Layer. An encrypted link is set up between the browser of your site visitor and your server thanks to the SSL so that all data transmitted between the two stays entirely secure and private.
But how does this benefit you? Well, for starters, when your HTTP connection remains unsecured, it is possible for third-parties to look in on the traffic that passes between your server and the browser of your readers. This is a huge blow to the privacy that your visitors expect from your website, not to mention an extreme risk against sensitive details, such as credit card information. However, at present, there are lots of different forces like Google that are promoting the usage of safe HTTPS connections for traffic of all kinds; including things which you thought did not need any protection.
How Can Your Website Benefit from SSL Certificates?
Earlier, you were required to think about SSL only if you planned to begin an eCommerce website. However, late 2014 saw a complete change in the mindset of web developers and owners, and the main reason was Google’s decision to include SSL in the list of ranking factors. What this meant was sites using SSL Certificates were going to receive a boost in terms of their search engine ranking page. Though it was not a huge increase, it was a boost nonetheless, and one which was bound to impact the number of visitors your website received on a regular basis.
Google is planning to go even further now. Since the start of this year, Google marked all HTTP pages that collected your credit card details or web passwords as “not secure”. This had a significant impact on the accessibility of websites, since owners now found their login pages on WordPress marked as non-secure just because of the fact that they were not yet using HTTPs. According to Google, it would soon expand this feature so that all HTTP pages were treated in the same manner. And it would be off-putting for visitors to see warnings in their URL bar. Such a drastic measure was essentially taken so that websites would not only pay more attention when it came to securing their connection, but also to ensure that they got the necessary SSL certificate for their site.
What Types of SSL Certificates are Available and How Much Would They Cost?
While there are premium SSL certificates available, you can get more or less the same benefits from free SSL certificates as well. So, why would you want to spend your hard-earned money on something that you can get anyway without spending any coin? Different types of SSL certificates exist, each with a varying level of trust, and depending upon your requirements and your needs, you have to select the right one for your website.
The main difference between premium and free SSL Certificates is that premium themes provide Extended Validation along with greater security measures. These usually charge on an annual basis, and are suitable for websites that process payments. However, if you have a website which does not process any payments, you are not missing out on much by using an SSL certificate you got free of cost from the Internet.
Some Common Options for Getting Free SSL Certificates
There are numerous options available to websites that want to get their own SSL certificates, and some of the most commonly used free options are listed below.
When you are the owner of a normal WordPress website, you do not normally come in contact with sensitive information such as credit card details. For you, the best option to get a free SSL certificate would be to approach a service known as Let’s Encrypt. You get almost all SSL benefits without any hassle. The best part is that a lot of the important top web hosting companies have partnered up with the service to ensure that websites face no problems when it comes to installing SSL certificates.
Now, there are two separate ways which you can use to avail Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate:
I) Installing the Certificate on Your Website Using cPanel Account
We mentioned earlier how there are hosts who have been partnering up with the service to provide free SSL certificates to their customers. What happens is that it inputs the SSL certificates right into the cPanel dashboards of the users. The process is completed quickly. All you need to do is locate the proper Let’s Encrypt button and then select the domain of your choice.
II) Configure Let’s Encrypt Certificate with the Help of “SSL For Free”
There are some hosts that do not provide any type of support for Let’s Encrypt. In such instances, you shouldn’t give up on the hope of an SSL Certificate for your website. Instead head to a website – SSL For Free. You can use this website to configure your Let’s Encrypt certificates. However, you will initially be required to access the FTP of the website and gain the support of your host. Thus, your best option would be to try and locate a host capable of providing direct support for Let’s Encrypt since it makes the process a whole lot easier.
What makes Let’s Encrypt so unique is its ability to offer automated certificates as they only provide domain validated certificates. It is possible to set your server up in a way that the certificate gets renewed automatically before the date of expiration so that you do not have to go through the hassle of renewing, verifying, and then installing the certificate once again in manual mode.
This is known for being the very first certificate authority that is entirely free of cost. The model that CAcert follows is entirely separate from other certificate authorities. Here your identity gets verified by a volunteer of the service who interacts with you and then reviews all the documents that were issued by the government directly. Some of these volunteers ask for a minor fee but others do not charge anything. CAcert is known for dealing in lots of different products, including Server Certificates, Client Certificates, Code Signing Certificates, Assured Client Certificates, and Assured Server Certificates. All of these certificates remain valid for a limited period of time. So, when you avail one from them, make sure you check how long you can use the certificate on your website for.
Open Source Project Certificates for Free
When you are working on an Open Source project but require a certificate, then it best to avail one from GoDaddy. These are among the cheapest available online, and once you avail this certificate, it remains valid for a period of up to one year. You can also get a wildcard certificate for your Open Source project from GlobalSign. This certificate will last as long as your project remains active.
Trial SSL Certificates
These SSL certificates are the real deal and you do not have to worry about them not getting the job done properly. The only drawback is that these trial SSL certificates remain valid only for a few days, and in some cases, a few weeks. There are some certificate authorities that provide trial SSL certificates valid for a period of almost three months.
There is a free plan available on Cloudflare that gives you a shared SSL certificate for your website. If you are an active user of Cloudflare, this feature enables you to ensure that your site is up and running with HTTPS.
Due to the way Google is promoting SSL certificates at the moment, it would be unwise to ignore them. Search rankings matter for every website, and if you want yours to improve, you need to move to SSL or risk facing penalty from Google. To avoid such a thing, you can easily get a free SSL certificate without spending any money thanks to services such as Let’s Encrypt. And you should not be opposed to getting an SSL certificate in the first place. After all, who doesn’t want to provide their visitors with the guarantee that all their details are safe and sound!