SSL stands for “Secure Sockets Layer”.
In layman terms it simply means that all communications between your browser e.g. Google Chrome and the website that you are visiting are secure.
If you were on a website and were about to enter some card details into a payment form for instance, then you would be wise to check that a site has an SSL certificate.
How do you tell if a site has one?
This one’s easy. If a site has a certificate you will see a padlock preceding the address.
If it doesn’t have one, then it will look like this.
Trust, trust, trust
I mention a lot about how your website should build trust with your visitors.
If your visitors don’t trust you, then they are highly unlikely to become customers.
If you’re going to invest in a professional looking website to build trust, populate it with testimonials to build trust, show images of your work to build trust etc then it would be silly to discount having an SSL certificate.
Google forces your hand
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) should always be a consideration for your website.
You want as much organic traffic flowing to your site as possible.
Given the fact that Google rankings do take into account whether or not a site has an SSL certificate forces your hand.
Do you have to have one?
I would always recommend that your site uses an SSL certificate but no you do not have to have one.
It doesn’t mean that a site is bad per se if it doesn’t have one but it’s so commonplace that it looks lazy not to have one now.
Because trust and SEO are important, it’s a no brainer to include an SSL certificate on your website.
We don’t want to give any visitor to our site a reason to leave when we’ve worked so hard to get them there.