Websites that accept online payments are required to have an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate, but even if you’re not selling online, you should get one. The reason is that it creates a secure connection, protecting the transfer of sensitive information (such as credit card numbers), but it also helps build trust and can even help your search ranking. The good news is there are several easy ways to get a free SSL certificate.
There are plenty of ways to get an SSL certificate, but most users want to secure one easily and affordably. That’s why we chose three reliable options. The first is through a web hosting plan, such as with Bluehost, which includes a free SSL in hosting plans. The second is directly through a WordPress plugin, such as Really Simple SSL. The third is through an all-in-one site builder plan, such as with Squarespace, which includes a free SSL.
3 Ways to Get an SSL Certificate
You are building a WordPress site and need an SSL plus a domain name and web hosting
You have an existing WordPress site and need to get an SSL certificate
You need an easy way to build a website with an SSL built in
Money-saving tip: Those who are building a website that will utilize multiple subdomains traditionally needed to use a certain type of SSL, called a Wildcard SSL (approximately $70 to $1,000 per year), which protects the domain and its subdomains. However, skip the Wildcard SSL and get free SSL certificates through Let’s Encrypt for your domain and subdomains.
Get a Free SSL Certificate Through Web Hosting
Best for: Those planning to build a WordPress site and will, therefore, need web hosting
If you’re planning to build a website using the world’s leading content management system (CMS), WordPress, you’ll need a web hosting plan and a domain name in order for your site to be live on the web. The good news is that many of the top web hosting providers include extras like a free SSL certificate. What’s more, if you choose a web hosting plan that includes an SSL, you can usually connect it to your site automatically, making the process of installing an SSL very easy.
Many of the top web hosting providers include a free SSL certificate with hosting plans. Some web hosts even include many other extras, such as a free domain and business email on top of a free SSL, such as Bluehost and DreamHost.
We’ll use Bluehost as our example as it’s one of the best providers that offers feature-rich plans at a low cost. In short, simply sign up for a Bluehost web hosting plan, then click “Install SSL certificate” from the “Addons” tabs in the cPanel (control panel).
1. Sign Up for Hosting
Go to Bluehost.com and from the homepage, click the green “Get Started Now” button in the center of the page. On the next screen, you will be given three different plans to choose from. As you will see, each plan comes with a free SSL certificate.
After you have selected the right plan for your business, you will be prompted to start the sign-up process. First, either claim your free domain name by typing it in under “new domain” (included in all hosting plans) or connect a domain you already own by entering it under “I have a domain name.”
Tip: If you’re struggling to find a suitable domain name, check out our tips for choosing a domain name.
From there, follow the prompts to “Create your account” by entering your information, and then submitting your payment information.
2. Login to Your Account & Go to the Addons Page
Log in to your new Bluehost account. If you used your G Suite account during the registration process, click “Sign in with Google.” Otherwise, use the login information created during the purchase process (this should also be emailed to you). After logging in, you will be brought to the admin page, called the Bluehost control panel.
Once you’re in the Bluehost control panel, click the “addons” menu. You will find this at the top of the screen in the blue horizontal menu bar between “domains” and “account.”
3. Install New SSL Certificate
On the “addons” page, locate SSL Certificates, and click “Learn More.” Next, click the “Get Started” button that is located under WordPress Free SSL, then click the “Install” button. Please note that once you install the certificate, it can take a few hours before it will be activated.
To check that your new certificate is functioning properly, go to your website. With an active certificate, your URL will automatically appear with “https” instead of the standard “http” before the domain. Most browsers will also display a lock icon in front of the domain, denoting the added security. If you have followed the steps and, after giving it time to activate, you still aren’t seeing “https” at the start of your website address, contact the Bluehost Support Team.
Tip: In the beginning stages of creating your WordPress website? Learn more about how to make a WordPress website.
Get a Free SSL Certificate Through an SSL Provider
Best for: Businesses that have an existing WordPress site and need to get an SSL certificate
If your website is built in WordPress and you already have a web hosting plan that doesn’t include a free SSL, then your best bet is to get one using an SSL certificate plugin. These are basic SSL certificates that verify and secure your site for free. The catch is that unlike SSL certificates that you purchase, they’re not always permanent. However, many of these providers offer premium versions for added security features and permanent SSLs.
The top free SSL certificate plugins include:
Those who have an existing WordPress site can install an SSL certificate using third-party SSL certificate providers and plugins. We’ll show you how to get a free SSL using Really Simple SSL, as it’s a free and open-source plugin available to all WordPress site owners. To install it, simply login to WordPress, go to Plugins, install Really Simple SSL, and activate the plugin.
1. Login to WordPress & Go to Plugins
Start by logging in to your WordPress site via www.yoursite.com/wp-admin. From the user dashboard, find and click “Plugins” from the left-hand menu.
2. Install & Activate Really Simple SSL
In the search bar at the top of the web page, search for “Really Simple SSL.” This will give you a list of options. Find and click the “Really Simple SSL” option to open the plugin page. Click “Install.”
After the download is complete, you will be brought to a screen that gives you the option to activate the plugin. You must do this before the plugin can be used. To activate Really Simple SSL, click “Activate Plugin.”
3. Re-login to Your Site
You will now be required to re-login to your site. This allows the site to implement SSL security and change the “http” in the address to “https.” You should also see the image of a lock next to your URL in some browsers, denoting the added security.
Tip: Looking for extra ways to improve your website so that it more effectively serves as a marketing tool for your business? Learn more about how to design a website.
Get a Free SSL Certificate Through All-in-One Site Builders
Best for: Those who want an ultra-easy way of building a professional website
If you are in the beginning stages of building a website and want an easy way of building your site with no web design experience, you’ll find all-in-one site builders to be a good option. Not only do site builders make it quick and easy for anyone to build a professional website, but most also come with an SSL built in, eliminating the need to acquire and install a third-party SSL.
The top all-in-one site builders that come with a free SSL certificate include:
Tip: Interested in using a site builder to create your website? Learn more about building a small business website, find out which site builder is best for you, and get the step-by-step instructions on how to build a professional website with that site builder.
Those who are interested in building their own site without any web design experience will find all-in-one site builders to be a great choice. Not only do these make it easy for anyone to build a site, but many of the top providers include extras such as a free SSL certificate and a free domain name with plans. Since Squarespace is a top-rated site builder that includes these features, we’ll show you how you can easily get a free SSL certificate with it.
1. Create an Account
To start, navigate to Squarespace and click the “Get Started” button. From there, follow the prompts to create your account for free.
2. Choose & Customize Your Theme
Next, select a theme that best suits how you want your site to look and function. Then, customize your site by adding pages, customizing pages, updating your header and footer, customizing your navigation, and adding calls to action (CTAs). While I won’t cover all of the steps in-depth here, be sure to check out the guide I created to building a website with Squarespace.
3. Select Plan & Launch Your Site With a Built-in SSL Certificate
Once you’ve completed building out your site, it’s time to launch it. To do this, click the “Subscribe” button at the bottom of the site editor and select a plan. All plans come with a free SSL certificate, which will automatically be installed on your site. You can also get a free domain with annual plans for those who do not already have one.
What Is an SSL Certificate?
An SSL, or a secure sockets layer, certificate is a form of security that creates a safe and secure connection between a website’s server and a browser. This keeps personal information, such as order details, shipping information, and payment information, safe during online transactions. It’s one of the many website basics that all business websites should include.
The security during these transactions includes two primary elements. First, the certificate provider serves as a confirmation to users that the online business is real, active, and authentic. Second, it encodes—or encrypts—data sent between the website and the users’ browsers, making it almost impossible for hackers to collect and read while it is being transferred.
Reasons to Get an SSL Certificate
SSL certificates are required for sites that deal with sensitive data, such as online retail stores or ecommerce sites that accept payments. However, it’s not only for ecommerce; every business should get one because it protects sites from hacking. It can also improve search rankings; within the last few years, Google has begun favoring sites with SSL security.
- Ensure site security: SSL security ensures customer data is kept safe from hackers who try to steal credit card numbers and identity information, like Social Security numbers.
- It’s required to accept online payments: If you sell products online, you must have an SSL certificate. The reasoning is clear; without it, data is liable to be stolen.
- Enhance search engine optimization (SEO): Businesses that want their site to be found on search engines such as Google should get an SSL certificate; Google favors sites that have SSL security and down-ranks those that do not.
- Gain more trust: Incoming site visitors from Google are warned that a site may not be secure if it does not have an SSL certificate. So, by having an SSL certificate installed, there won’t be a notification to site visitors that your site is unsecure and you won’t lose the trust of your visitors.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What types of SSL certificates are there?
There are currently three types of SSL certificates: DV (domain validated), OV (organization validated), and EV (extended validation). Each provides a different level of security, though ultimately they all do the same thing: encrypt information to secure your site’s data. The standard form is the DV, or domain validated, and for most businesses, this is sufficient.
Do I need a wildcard SSL certificate?
The majority of sites do not need a wildcard SSL certificate, though if you have multiple subdomains that accept online payments, then you’ll likely need a wildcard certificate. Alternatively, if you have multiple subdomains, but do not accept payment on them, you can get multiple SSL certificates for free through SSL providers and plugins such as Let’s Encrypt.
How much does an SSL certificate cost?
You can purchase an SSL certificate through sites such as GoDaddy and Namecheap for $20 to $75. However, there are ways of getting a free one. The best ways are by using a web host that includes a free SSL certificate with their hosting plans. They are not only free, but are also easier to install.
What is required to get an SSL certificate?
In order to get and install an SSL certificate, you must have your own web domain, evidence that your business is legal, and a dedicated IP address. It is much easier, however, to get a free SSL certificate through your web hosting provider, such as Bluehost, as it automatically installs the plugin when you follow the one-click WordPress installation.
An SSL certificate protects your website and its visitors from data theft. You can get an SSL certificate by purchasing one online, using a WordPress plugin, or by signing up for a site builder plan or a web hosting plan that includes a free SSL certificate with all web hosting plans. Every business with a website should get an SSL certificate to help secure their site’s visitor information and improve their Google search ranking.
If you’re just in the beginning phases of building a WordPress website, it will save you both money and time by choosing a web hosting plan that includes extras such as a free SSL certificate, a domain name, and business email. Providers such as Bluehost include these extras with low-cost hosting plans.