Understanding SSL for WordPress Websites
If you’re operating a WordPress website, you may have heard the term SSL or Secure Sockets Layer thrown around. SSL is a security technology designed to encrypt data transmitted between a user’s web browser and a server. This ensures that sensitive information, such as credit card details, login credentials, and other private data, remains secure and protected against hackers.
Why SSL is Paramount for WordPress Websites
As previously mentioned, SSL is a security protocol that encrypts data transmitted between a user’s browser and a server. However, SSL also presents other advantages for WordPress site owners, including:
1. SEO Benefits
Google has been encouraging website owners to shift to HTTPS for several years. In fact, Google’s Chrome browser now presents a “not secure” warning for all HTTP sites. This can damage your website’s search rankings and lose you credibility with users. On the other hand, HTTPS utilization can boost your website’s search engine rankings, traffic, and user trust and confidence.
2. Enhanced Security
When you install SSL on your website, you safeguard any sensitive data transmitted between your server and a user’s browser from interception. This protects your website’s visitors from data theft and cyber attacks.
3. PCI Compliance
If your website accepts credit card payments, you’ll need to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). One of the requirements of PCI DSS is SSL/TLS encryption to secure sensitive cardholder information. Not complying can lead to costly fines and loss of business.
How to Set Up SSL for WordPress Websites
If you understand why SSL is essential for your WordPress website, then follow the steps below to set it up:
Step 1: Choose an SSL Certificate
Before you can set up SSL on your website, you’ll need to pick an SSL certificate. Depending on your website’s needs and the level of protection you require, you can select one of three sorts of SSL certificates:
- Domain Validated (DV) SSL Certificate – the basic SSL certificate that confirms domain ownership. Suitable for personal blogs, startups, or sites that don’t handle sensitive information.
- Organization Validated (OV) SSL Certificate – verifies both domain ownership and your business organization. Suitable for e-commerce sites, businesses, or organizations that handle sensitive data.
- Extended Validation (EV) SSL Certificate – the most high-level SSL certificate that offers the strongest encryption and validation. Suitable for large corporations, financial institutions, or government agencies.
You can purchase SSL certificates from a wide range of providers such as GoDaddy, Comodo, DigiCert, and others.
Step 2: Install SSL Certificate on Your Hosting Server
Once you’ve chosen an SSL certificate, you’ll need to install it on your hosting server. The process differs depending on your hosting provider. Most hosting providers offer SSL integration in their control panel, making the installation process simple for users.
If your hosting provider doesn’t provide SSL integration, you can install the SSL certificate manually by following the instructions provided by your SSL certificate provider.
Step 3: Update WordPress Site Settings
After installing SSL on your hosting server, you need to update your WordPress site settings to use HTTPS. To accomplish this, sign in to your WordPress dashboard and navigate to Settings → General.
In the WordPress address (URL) and Site address (URL) fields, replace the URL from HTTP to HTTPS. Then click the “Save Changes” button.
Step 4: Ensure All Resources Are Loaded over HTTPS
When you switch to HTTPS, you’ll need to make sure that all resources on your website, such as images, scripts, and stylesheets, load over HTTPS as well. This can cause mixed content errors, which can break your SSL encryption and cause browser warnings to appear.
You can check for mixed content errors using the “Developer Tools” in your browser. Look for any resources that are being loaded over HTTP and update their URLs to HTTPS to resolve the issue.
Step 5: Update Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools
If you’re using Google Analytics or Google Webmaster Tools, you’ll need to update your settings to use HTTPS. This ensures that your data is accurate and your site is correctly indexed by Google.
In Google Analytics, navigate to the “Property Settings” section and update the default URL with the HTTPS version of your site.
In Google Webmaster Tools, navigate to “Site Settings” and update the “Preferred Domain” to use HTTPS.
Step 6: Update Your Social Media Profiles
When you switch to HTTPS, it’s crucial to update your social media profiles and ensure that all links to your website use HTTPS. This lets users access your site securely and improves your online reputation.
Step 7: Install a Plugin to Force SSL Usage
To ensure that all pages on your website load over HTTPS, you can install a plugin to force SSL usage. There are many plugins available in the WordPress repository that can help you do this, such as Really Simple SSL or SSL Insecure Content Fixer.
These plugins automatically update resource URLs to HTTPS, ensuring your website is entirely secure.
SSL is crucial to protect your website visitors’ security and privacy. It encrypts data transmitted between a user’s browser and server, preventing sensitive information from falling into the hands of cyber criminals and hackers. Setting up SSL on your WordPress website is simple and straightforward. By following the above steps, you can improve your website’s SEO, enhance user trust and confidence, and protect your sensitive data from unauthorized access. Remember to renew your SSL certificate before it expires to ensure your website remains secure and protected at all times.