If you have logged into your website lately, you might have seen an alert about your SSL certificate, or not. Some website CMSs are starting to warn users that the time is coming. Really, you have until March of 2019 until the cut-off date with Google, but you might just as well get it done now.
What is an SSL Certificate?
Have you ever noticed that some websites use http:// and others have an “s” for https://? The SSL certificate is an added step of security and it shows up in that extra “s” in the https at the front of your website address. Since most of you reading this are not big website tech people, that’s general all you need to know. In the past, I’ve only worried about SSL certificates with clients that had eCommerce sites or gathered any sort of sensitive information on their websites (think HIPPA compliance, credit cards, etc.).
Why do I need an SSL Certificate?
If you do not gather sensitive data with your website, you might be wondering why you suddenly need an SSL Certificate. One word: Google. Google judges website architecture and infrastructure as part of its SEO (search engine optimization) score. Google wants everyone to have SSL Certificates, so everyone will have SSL certificates. If you want to rank well in search, you might want to get that certificate now rather than wait until February or March of next year.
How do I get an SSL Certificate?
Your web hosting company will either sell you a certificate or it is included with your hosting already (which means they will tell you it’s “free” but really you are already paying for it in your hosting fees). All web hosting companies have different SSL Certificate protocols, so you have to go to their support page and search “SSL Certificate” and see what they say. Typically, it’s a button to install it to the server with all-in-one hosting. Some sites will have you download it to your computer and go to your website to install it there. But whichever way you go, do a backup first!!!
SSL Certificates are not done there!
You still need to make other updates after you install the certificate. First, go to your website via https:// and see if it works. Yes? Good. If not, you may need a plugin. Now go to your Google Analytics, Google Webmaster, and Search Console tools and add all new versions of your URL (https:// and https://www.) as new sites. This will be helpful in the future to reduce the number of “unavailable” results you get in your data. You’ll also want to test all of your other website forms and Google Analytics funnels to make sure everything is still working. Often times, you’ll need to duplicate everything into the https:// format and make the https:// the primary page. It’s pretty time consuming and tedious, but you’ll only need to do it once.
Until you have to upgrade your PHP. *sigh* By the end of 2018 it sounds like everyone will have to be off of all versions of 5.x PHP. Face-palm.