Do agencies need an SSL secure shopping certificate for their client’s websitesBy Lawrence Dy
Ask anyone who has been on the receiving end of a cyber breach: when it comes to online security, the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure should be every business’s mantra. SSL secure shopping is one of the most important layers of security an ecommerce business can add to its operations.
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But is a secure shopping SSL encryption necessary for every client website? And what happens if you deliver a client site without this certificate? In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how this little website certificate can make a big impact on security, when it should be used, and when it can safely be disregarded.
What is SSL secure shopping?
SSL is an acronym for Secure Sockets Layer, a tech protocol that creates a safe and secure environment over which sensitive data, like passwords or credit card information, can be transferred. By adding an SSL certificate to their websites, businesses can prevent attackers or malicious software from scraping private data.
We’ve all become more comfortable with online shopping, so it’s easy to forget that every time a transaction takes place online, there is some risk it will be intercepted by bad actors. Over 20 percent of all retail purchases are expected to take place online in 2023 (Forbes). While that may keep your agency busy creating and managing ecommerce websites, it’s important to ensure that any data transferred on those sites are secure.
Cybersecurity is no small matter: it’s expected to cost companies $10.5 trillion by 2025, a more than 300% increase over the preceding 10-year period (Embroker). A data breach can be a costly and reputation-tarnishing experience for businesses. Individuals whose data is compromised can experience identity theft or bank fraud.
SSL shopping plays a vital role in avoiding these negative outcomes by preserving the privacy and security of online transactions. Given the ever-increasing risk of cyberattacks, offering secure shopping SSL encryption is a must for agencies working with ecommerce clients.
How it works
In the most basic terms, SSL secure shopping ciphers data so that it can’t be understood even if it’s intercepted.
It works by establishing an encrypted connection between a user's browser and a website's server. This means that whenever a user visits a website with SSL enabled, that site’s server presents an SSL website certificate containing a public key. This initiates a secure connection between the two. Next, the browser and server perform an “SSL handshake”, a digital agreement to connect securely using an encryption method. Websites with an SSL certificate begin with HTTPS.
Once the SSL handshake is complete, any data transmitted between the browser and the server is encrypted using the agreed-upon method, ensuring that it remains secure from eavesdropping or tampering. If an attacker attempts to intercept the encrypted data, they would only see a series of seemingly random characters, rendering the information useless.
So what is an SSL certificate, exactly? Basically, it’s an encryption tool that scrambles data, protecting it from prying eyes.
Agencies: are SSL secure shopping certificates necessary for client websites?
Whether you need an SSL certificate for a website project comes down to what type of website your client is operating and the nature of the information being exchanged on the site.
Sites that process transactions and sites that collect sensitive user information all need SSL certificates. For example, an online fashion boutique or a medical practice requiring users to input personal health information would both require SSL secure shopping certificates to protect their customers' data and ensure a secure online experience.
Conversely, websites that don’t process transactions or collect private information, like personal blogs or online portfolios, might not strictly require an SSL certificate. However, even in these cases, there are compelling reasons to consider implementing one. As you’ll see in a moment, an SSL certificate can benefit websites that don’t technically require it by enhancing visitor trust and even boosting SEO performance.
Since SSL secure shopping certificates are quite easy to implement, it’s a good best practice to use them on client websites by default.
Wondering how to get an SSL certificate? Many top website builders today come with free SSL protection, so whether you build websites in-house, resell website builders, or use white-label experts to fulfill your projects, there’s often no added cost to adding this critical security layer.
Benefits of having an SSL secure shopping certificate
SSL secure shopping certificates are small but mighty, with more benefits than you might expect at first glance. Let’s dig into the pros of purchasing an SSL certificate (or getting it for free through your website creation software).
Protection of sensitive information
The primary purpose of an SSL secure shopping certificate is to safeguard sensitive information exchanged between user browsers and a website's server. As privacy specialist Bruce Schneider puts it,
Data is the pollution problem of the information age, and protecting privacy is the environmental challenge.
With the certificate in place, all data transmitted is encrypted, making it unreadable to any person or bot attempting to intercept it. This ensures that personal and financial details, like credit card numbers and login credentials, remain confidential.
Many SMBs might wonder if SSL secure shopping is legit, or even particularly necessary, when there are much larger websites out there for cybercriminals to target. Given that 43% of cybercrime is directed at small businesses, this false sense of security is unwarranted (Embroker).
Smaller businesses may be less aware of the growing reality of cybersecurity risks and lack the in-house expertise of large businesses. As their agency partner, you can inform them of the importance of using secure shopping SSL encryption to protect their client data.
Increased customer trust
SSL secure shopping certificates can impact customer trust and confidence in the business. It seems like every year brings another high-profile data breach, with everything from social media sites like Facebook to retailers like Home Depot being affected (Upguard). Consumers are increasingly savvy about the risks of sharing their personal data online.
An SSL secure shopping certificate signals to visitors that your client's website is secure and takes the protection of their data seriously. The padlock icon or "secure" label displayed in the address bar of a user's browser provides an easily recognizable visual cue that the site is safe to interact with.
Better search engine rankings
Security tends to be the primary focus when it comes to SSL certificates, but another reason to love them is that Google favors websites with this added security feature. The tech giant has been calling for “HTTPS everywhere” on the web for nearly a decade now and has confirmed that having an SSL certificate is a ranking signal (Google).
If you sell web design services or resell website builders, bundling these solutions with SEO is an effective way to boost your agency revenues. Additionally, bundling these services can help your clients get the most out of their websites by helping them get discovered in search. Implementing SSL certificates for websites is a plus not just from a security perspective, but also from the standpoint of discoverability.
It can be helpful to remind clients that Google’s algorithm is designed to deliver the best possible user experience. Anything that improves UX is also likely to help their site rank higher in their relevant search engine results pages (SERPs).
Risks of not having an SSL secure shopping certificate
We mentioned earlier that even websites that don’t strictly need an SSL certificate may still want to get one. Let’s take a look at some drawbacks of failing to use SSL certificates for websites.
Loss of customer trust
When a website doesn’t have an up-to-date SSL secure shopping certificate, users see a warning icon and the words “Not Secure” on the search bar:
Clicking on it explains that sensitive information shouldn’t be entered into the site:
Not exactly encouraging, is it?
Customers don’t have to be experts in how SSL certificates work to understand that any website labeled as “Not Secure” probably belongs to a business that doesn’t take their privacy and data as seriously as it should.
Users might also see the following warning:
They can click on the “advanced” button to get the option to proceed to the website anyway, but after seeing this warning, most users will simply be deterred and navigate away from the page.
Even if a website doesn’t facilitate transactions or collect user data, this warning can cause them to be perceived as untrustworthy or even dangerous by visitors. Building a positive online reputation can take a lot of work, all of which can swiftly be undone with a flag like this from Google.
Risk of data breaches
While attacks do sometimes circumvent SSL certificates, websites lacking SSL protection are far more susceptible to cyberattacks. Data breaches can have far-reaching consequences for both businesses and their customers.
For businesses, a data breach can lead to financial losses, legal liabilities, and damage to their reputation, potentially eroding customer trust and loyalty. For customers, the unauthorized exposure of their personal information can result in identity theft, fraud, and a host of other negative outcomes.
Websites that only collect passwords may think they don’t face as serious a risk as ecommerce sites. However, since many people reuse the same password again and again, a data breach can give attackers access to other accounts causing more harm in the process.
Possible SEO implications
Since HTTPs is a ranking signal for Google, giving your clients the best chance of being discovered in search requires using an SSL certificate. Failing to do so gives Google’s algorithm bots a cue that the website may be unsafe for users, pushing it below secure competitors on the SERPs.
Exceptions to needing an SSL secure shopping certificate
Occasionally, a website can get away without using an SSL certificate. However, hopefully we’ve convinced you by now of the many benefits of adding this layer of protection.
Because they collect credit card data, ecommerce websites are a natural target for cyberattackers. Websites that do not engage in online transactions or collect sensitive user information might not strictly require SSL protection.
If you’re building a website for a photographer client who only plans to use the site to showcase work and write a blog, you could get away without using an SSL secure shopping certificate. In this case, no user data is collected because there is no need for users to create login credentials or make purchases.
Again, while an SSL is not needed in this case, the client would still benefit from increased trust and improved search engine rankings with an SSL certificate.
Small businesses with low-volume transactions
Small businesses with a low volume of transactions may be less likely to be targeted by a cyberattack since only a small amount of data could be collected. However, with SMBs being such a frequent target of cybercrime, you can never be too sure.
As the low-volume business grew, purchasing a secure certificate for the website would become increasingly important.
Frequently asked questions
What is SSL secure shopping?
SSL secure shopping refers to the use of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology to encrypt data transmitted between users and the websites they visit. This process ensures that sensitive information, like credit card numbers and login passwords, can’t be accessed by hackers and cybercriminals. SSL secure shopping is crucial for maintaining the privacy and security of online transactions.
Can SSL website be hacked?
SSL websites can potentially be hacked. While SSL secure shopping provides a robust layer of protection for private data, no security measure is completely foolproof. SSL websites can still be targeted by hacking attempts, especially if other aspects of the site's security have been neglected. That’s why implementing a comprehensive approach to website security, including regular software updates, strong passwords, and secure hosting, can minimize the risk of data breaches.