Ever wonder about that padlock icon next to your protocol or what it does? When you’re doing transactions online, you don’t want to compromise your customer’s private information they trustingly give you. The solution? Add SSL certificates to provide another security level for your website.

Search engines take great lengths to ensure proper security measures. That being said, this feature is fast becoming a necessity. So much so that if your website does not have an SSL certificate, it would be tagged as not secure. Expect that your traffic would dwindle, with fewer customers buying from you. Adding this certificate would not only boost your ranking, but it also encourages trust between you and your buyers.

This article guides you about what is an SSL certificate, discusses the different SSL certificate types to identify the right one for your online business, and pinpoints the common issues tackled when installing SSL certificates on your server. Keep on reading to learn more about SSL certificates!

What Is an SSL Certificate?

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. Common applications that use SSL connections include Internet banking and any transactions that require transfer and sharing of sensitive information online. With more rigid privacy standards, most websites can now benefit from an SSL connection.

What SSL does, in the basic sense, is to secure and protect the connection and data during transmission between the server and browser using encryption. It prevents data from leaking, thus, impeding theft. In case data is stolen, it would be near impossible to decode it because of the encryption.

When someone tries to intercept the message, they are presented with an illogical set of characters that’s impossible to decipher. With an SSL certificate, your customers are assured that the data they’re sharing with you is safe. The bottom line, you want to be assured that no one has read or altered the message before the intended receiver could read them.

SSL certificates employ public-key cryptography, which prevents tampering of information, and ensures that the receiver is the actual recipient. Before data gets shared, SSL certificates ensure a handshake between the sender and receiver of the message. These certificates also make sure that the data is untampered when it reaches the recipient.

In the past, there was no encryption to the data being shared online. Identity and information theft was rampant because personal data was unconcealed. SSL was developed by Netscape 25 years ago for data integrity and authentication in communicating through the Internet. With SSL/TLS certificate, a website would have an HTTPS protocol instead of the standard HTTP.

What’s to Learn about TLS

If you’re trying to learn about the SSL certificate meaning, you’d most likely come across the term TLS or Transport Layer Security. You can even say that the SSL is the first version and its upgraded version, the TLS.

On the other hand, the latter has undergone several changes to suit the current data breach risks. These two terms are often used synonymously, with the term SSL/TLS encryption being the most popular.

Should you be worried about transitioning to a TLS certificate?

Technically speaking, your SSL certificate is already equipped with TLS features. The phrase SSL certificate refers to SSL/TLS certificates altogether. So that’s not really an issue. The last time update was in 1996; therefore, the actual SSL certificate is obsolete. Also, that year, TLS was developed from the 3.1 version of SSL. However, Netscape didn’t develop TLS technology. Instead of being a newer version of SSL, the name was changed to TLS.

Many websites no longer use the SSL certificate, but because of its popularity, the name stuck. When providers offer you SSL certificates, they are referring to the TLS version. The most recent TLS version is TLS 1.3.

The HTTPS and SSL Connection

When you look at your website URL, you’d see the abbreviation HTTPS to the right of the black padlock symbol. This means you have a secure connection, and the website uses an SSL or TLS connection. If the URL shows the traditional HTTP symbol, it means that the connection isn’t as secure.

When you direct the mouse pointer onto the padlock, you can click on the site information. It would show whether the certificate is valid or not, the number of cookies the site uses,e and the site settings.

Why Do You Need an SSL Certificate

An SSL certificate provides another layer of security through encrypted links. Here are the reasons why an SSL certificate is necessary.


You are assuring your customers of security. Perhaps you are a small-scale business owner or an online start-up company. An SSL certificate gives you more trustworthiness than the average because the information they share with you is safe. The public-private key pairing strengthens encryption. This also prevents data from being transferred to other sites.

Website Owner Verification

With the SSL/TLS implementation in place, people know your website is legitimate and understand who they are dealing with. The verification takes several levels just to ensure that your website is legit.


Passwords and other sensitive information can’t be maliciously stolen. These can’t be lost in the communication between the client and server either.

It’s a Ranking Factor

Having an SSL certificate has its benefits, SEO-wise. Choose to have one because search engines consider it as a ranking factor. When you have this certification, your site will rank higher than those without SSL. Also, you improve your user experience scores with SSL. Without it, your website might be tagged as unsecured.

Conversion Rates

People tend to do business with websites they trust. That padlock signifies that your website is more secure and safer for visitors. When users feel that your website can be trusted, chances are, they are going to convert and become loyal customers.

What Are the Different SSL Certificate Types?

There are three different kinds of SSL/TLS implementation certificates based on the number of websites that are going to use it or the level of security the sites need.

Based on the number of websites

SSL certificates depend on whether you should only use them on one or several domains, or if it includes the subdomains.

  •  Single

The single-domain SSL certificate means you are only allowed to one website domain.

  • Wildcard

The wildcard also encompasses a single domain, and it also includes its sub-domains.

  • Multidomain

As its name connotes, multi-domain SSL certificates can carry several domains which are unrelated to each other. This can cover up to 100 domains.

Based on the Levels of Validation

Verification is one of the facets of SSL. There are three levels of validation. Here are they:

  1. Domain Validation Certificates

Considered as the certificate with the lowest security level, Domain Validation certificates identify you as the website owner. There is not much focus on the organization. Rather, this verifies that the SSL certificate holder is the same as the website domain owner.

Most hosting plans provide this level of SSL certification; it’s also the easiest to procure. This kind of validation is more suited for small and simple websites. If you have a blog, this is the most suitable. If your website deals with more sensitive information, better get a much higher kind of SSL certification. This type of SSL certification is often used by hackers to hide their identities.

  1. Organization Validation Certificates

When you have this kind of certificate, you are not only trying to prove that you own the website domain but also your company is responsible for that said website. Your company should also be registered as a business entity. This certificate is better suited for business websites.

  1. Extended Validation Certificates

This is the highest of SSL validation. You must have your domain and business name registered and verified aside from other steps you need to complete. While it may take longer to get approved- and the most expensive-, this certificate also holds the strongest. This proves to your user that you’ve taken extra measures to ensure their privacy is kept private. This is best for websites that handle web payments.

What Is Included in an SSL Certificate?

  • The name of the domains
  • The owner of the certificate
  • The digital signature of the certificate authority
  • Associated subdomains
  • Issue date
  • When the certificate expires
  • Public key

Who May Need an SSL Certificate

  • When you’re selling products and services online
  • When your website has a membership program
  • When the website is collecting data from users

How to Get an SSL Certificate

  1. Look for the Certificate Signing Request or CSR to create the private and public keys on your server.
  2. Send the CSR data that contains the public key to the SSL Certificate Authority or CA.
  3. Wait for the approval.
  4. Install the certificate on your server.

How Does an SSL Certificate Work?

There are many ways cybercriminals can get information from you and your customers. One way they do it is by sidetracking your traffic to theirs, and, in the process, getting your customers’ information.

There should be an SSL certificate installed on the server. A CA commonly issues this certificate to the domain owner. If a web browser wants to connect with your site, the browser will look for the said SSL certificate.

Once it has validated that certificate, an SSL/TLS handshake happens. After that, the server’s information is shared with the respective browser, including the SSL certificate and the certificate version. This is part of the public-key cryptography.

There are two keys involved in this process:

  1. The private key

This should be kept private and kept by the owner of the certificate. This is the key to untangle the message enciphered by the public key.

  1. The public key

As its name connotes, this key is shared with anyone who needs to safely interact with the server. The public key holds the data that only the private key can decipher.

This technology includes authentication of the server by proving its identity to the client using the public keys. After the validation, a message authentication code or MAC is added to the data. The client verifies that the data is tamper-free.

Considerations When Getting an SSL/TLS Certificate?

Whether it’s the cheapest SSL certificate or the most expensive one, the process remains the same. Here are the tips:

  • Know the type of SSL/TLS certificate for your website. Is it for a multiplatform? Or for a single blog site? Is the website handling sensitive information?
  • Have you considered your SSL certificate budget? The amount differs depending on SSL certificate types. There are free SSL certificates available online, but these expire after a given time length.
  • Check the certificate’s validity. By default, SSL certificates provide 2-year validation, but advanced certificates have longer terms.

Common Misconceptions about SSL/TLS Certificates

Here are some common reasons why some website owners are adamant about migrating to HTTPS.

“It costs too much.”

If you’re wondering if purchasing an SSL certificate is going to dent your pockets or not, the truth is, price is the least of your concerns. Many SSL certificate vendors offer price plans that would suit your budget.

“My website doesn’t need it. It doesn’t handle vital information, after all.”

Some website owners think that if there is no sensitive information to tamper with, it’s unnecessary to have an HTTPS protocol. This is an overly simplistic perception of things. HTTP-based websites are prone to having a bad user experience because of inappropriate advertising. Search engines are wary of unsecured websites, so it just makes sense to migrate your site to an HTTPS protocol.

“It might affect my rank as I am migrating from HTTP to HTTPS.”

Improper transfer indeed can lead to a loss in rankings. But it doesn’t need to be when you are following the best migration practices. Make sure that you’re doing the 301 redirects for proper search engine indexing. Canonical tags should be properly placed to alert search engines that the new content is more secure and should be deemed canonical.

“SSL certificates would just slow my website down.”

New technologies have been developed to address the lag times your website may experience. TLS false start reduces the latency time. Another improvement is the TLS session resumption, where there is no need for another handshake if the connection is longer than the usual.

Common Questions about SSL Certificates

I encountered an SSL connection error. What is this?

This error happens when the site is undergoing security issues, such as the certificate has expired or outdated codes. While browsing through this website is still possible, it may not be as safe as when the SSL connection is. If you’re the domain owner, you should resolve this issue immediately.

Does SSL work with emails?

Generally speaking, email providers have SSL certificates already installed.

Is the SSL certificate compatible with all devices?

Whether you’re using a tablet, mobile phone, or desktop, the SSL certificate works just fine. Please take note, however, when the operating system has not been updated, it may not support the latest version of the SSL certificate.

Do browsers accept the SSL certificate?

If you are using the big-name ones such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and the likes, you can be sure that SSL certificates are accepted. This would not be held the same when you are using a not-so-popular web browser.

How to know if my SSL certificate is up and running?

If you’re unsure how to get the SSL certificate up and running, the most convenient way to check is to open your website on your web browser. You can also use this SSL Certificate Checker to see if your SSL certificate is working. You check if the certificate is properly installed or issues that might hinder it from functioning properly.

What is a Self-Signed SSL Certificate?

You can create your public-private handshake using your website’s key instead of having one from a CA. This is called the self-signed SSL certificate. The problem with this kind of SSL certificate is there is no third-party that verifies it. Many browsers don’t acknowledge self-signed SSL certificates because they view it as unsecured.

Does TLS slow down my website performance?

There is minimal impact on the web performance even if communication between the server and the client takes back and forth several times. Some technologies handle these lags, so web performance isn’t affected much.

Popular SSL Certificate Providers

To End

SSL certificates are necessary for every website and domain owner. These can help you show your authority, authenticity, and trustworthiness. Is there anything amiss about this article? Tell us in the comments below!