Have you added SSL to your website yet? If not, you should make this a priority. Web browsers are now giving “insecure” messages for sites that do not display as HTTPS. These messages are alarming to visitors and can result in lost traffic. Search engines are showing a preference for sites that display as HTTPS, which is achieved through an SSL certificate.

What does your SSL certificate do and why do browsers and search engines care about it?  HTTPS indicates that your site has an SSL certificate.  SSL is a security protocol that protects data as it is transferred from your customers’ computers to the server your website resides on and back again. So, if you are asking for people’s personal information (such as birth date or email address) or especially credit card information, you will want to make sure that that data is secure as it transfers to your server. (Please note that SSL will not protect the data once it is on your server.  You need to take other security precautions to ensure this. Most small businesses should not be trying to store credit card information, and instead should rely upon services such as Paypal to manage this for them.) Click here to learn more about SSL.

So, how do you make this happen? If you search for “How to enable SSL on my website”, you will find fairly simple instructions:

  • Make sure you have a dedicated IP address
  • Purchase an SSL certificate
  • Activate the SSL certificate
  • Install the SSL certificate
  • Change your site to https

If this sounds like Greek to you, rest assured, we are ready to help you get SSL installed on your site.

If you are comfortable with the above instructions, this will seem straightforward to you, however, you may find after you execute the final step that the results were not what you expected. First, after switching to HTTPS, your site may not display correctly. Second, you may still get insecure notifications from your browser.

What causes these problems in setting up SSL on your site and how can you avoid them? The problems happen because there are links somewhere in the code for the site that have “HTTP” hard coded. If the site is not displaying properly, there are probably references to the site’s CSS files that need to be changed to HTTPS (or changed to virtual links, with no reference to HTTP or HTTPS). If there are error messages, it is likely that images are the issue.

It is fairly easy to fix these problems, but it can sometimes take some investigative work to find all the references and get them corrected.

There can be a third problem: if you have embedded code from an external source (such as affiliate links), there may be http references in the code. Unfortunately, you have little control over this code. You can try contacting the code provider to see if they have updated to https and can provide you with new code. If they have not, you may have no choice but to quit using that code.

About the author

susanatthebox - Susan has a background in computer programming, systems analysis, and technology consulting. She became a freelance web developer in 2008 and owner of The Box Web Design in 2013. She is available to help with all your website and online marketing needs as well as speaking engagements related to small business marketing.

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