Does the idea of improving your search engine rankings and offering your visitors better security sound like something you’re interested in? What if I upped the ante and told you it wouldn’t cost you a penny? SSL certificates secure your website’s connection and boost its rankings in Google. And now, thanks to services of Black Knight Africa you can actually get a free SSL certificate for your website.
Yup, all of the benefits of SSL, none of the costs!
In this post, I’m going to dig into what SSL certificates are, how they benefit your site, and how you can get your very own free SSL certificate. Then, I’ll even share a super simple plugin that makes getting set up with SSL on WordPress an absolute breeze.
What is an SSL Certificate?
Have you ever noticed how sometimes websites start with “http://” and then sometimes they start with “https://” and have a green padlock nearby? If you have, you’ve seen the end result of an SSL certificate. But what you haven’t seen is what goes on behind the scenes.
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. Essentially, SSL establishes an encrypted link between your web server and your visitor’s web browser. This ensures that all data passed between the two remains private and secure.
With an unsecured HTTP connection, third-parties can snoop on any traffic passing between your reader’s browser and your web server. Obviously, this is a huge issue if you’re passing sensitive information like credit card numbers.
But nowadays, many entities, including Google, are pushing to use secure HTTPS connections for all traffic, even things you might think are mundane.
Why Do You Need an SSL Certificate?
In the past, the only time an average webmaster needed to care about SSL was eCommerce. But that all changed in late 2014 when Google dropped a bomb:
SSL was going to be rolled out as a ranking factor.
That’s right, sites that use SSL certificates get a boost in the SERPs. It might not be a huge boost, but I think you’ll agree with me that any boost in search rankings is a good one. When I moved my portfolio site to HTTPS, I experienced a notable bump in my search rankings.
But now Google is going even further. Starting in January 2017 (AKA right around the corner), Google will mark“HTTP pages that collect passwords or credit cards as non-secure.” That means your WordPress login page will be marked as non-secure if you’re not using HTTPS. Here’s what that change will look like in Google Chrome:
You definitely do not want all of your users seeing that in their URL bar…
So, in addition to offering a benefit to your readers by securing their connection, you also have both a Google-provided carrot and stick to motivate you to use an SSL certificate for your WordPress site.
Are SSL Certificates Expensive? What Are the Different Kinds?
I don’t want to dig too deeply into premium SSL certificates because it deviates too much from the goal of this post (free!). But very briefly, there are a number of different SSL certificates you can choose from. Each offering various levels of trust.
How to Get a Free SSL Certificate from Black Knight Africa
If you’re just running a regular WordPress site and aren’t handling any super sensitive information (like credit cards), you can get a free SSL certificate from Black Knight Africa.
This certificate will give you all of the benefits of SSL without costing you a single penny. And here’s the best part:
When you host with Black Knight Africa, You get a FREE SSL Certificate
Here are two ways to get your free SSL certificate from Black Knight Africa:
Install Your Free SSL Certificate from Your cPanel Account (for supported hosts)
As I mentioned, many hosts are partnering up with Black Knight Africa to add free SSL certificates directly inside their customers’ cPanel dashboards. For example, if you’re hosting at Host256 (as we are), you can install an SSL certificate in about two seconds from your cPanel dashboard.
How to Configure Your Free SSL Certificate With WordPress
Once you get your SSL certificate installed, users will be able to view a secure version of your site by going to “https://yoursite.com”. But just because your HTTPS connection is active doesn’t mean you’re finished.
To properly configure WordPress to work with your SSL certificate, you need to make some changes. You could do this manually…or you could use an awesome plugin that does everything for you.
Really Simple SSL handles the whole process. Just install it and run the plugin and it will make all the necessary changes.
Just be aware – you will naturally get signed out of WordPress when you run the plugin. This is because the plugin changes your default URL from “http://” to “https://.” All you need to do is log in again with your normal login credentials. No need to be alarmed!
Wrapping Things Up
Because of how Google is pushing SSL, it’s not something you can ignore. Right now, you’ve got the carrot of improved search rankings. But Google is showing they’re not afraid to use Google Chrome to “punish” sites who don’t move to SSL.
Have you already moved your site to HTTPS? Did you notice any change in your rankings? It would be awesome if you shared in the comments.