Are you looking for the best way to get a free SSL certificate on your domain?
An SSL certificate will make sure your website is secure but it can be expensive. If you’re just starting out or running a small business, then you’d want to use a free SSL certificate that will help you meet security standards.
In this article, we will show you different ways to get a free SSL certificate for your website.
Before we begin with the tutorial, you should be clear on what SSL actually is and why you need it. This will help you decide what kind of certificate you need to get for your website.
What is SSL Certificate?
An SSL certificate secures any data that is sent from and to your website so hackers cannot misuse it.
To explain how this works, you need to know that when a user wants to visit your website or carry out a transaction, their browser sends information to your website’s server.
This could be login information, credit card details, email IDs, shipping address, and so on.
Normally, every website uses a protocol called HTTP which sends/receives data in plain text. You can think of it as a transparent train that allows thieves to see exactly what’s inside.
This is where SSL comes in. When you install SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) on your site, your website will run on HTTPS. All data that is sent through this line of communication is encrypted.
It basically turns your data into a puzzle and sends the key only to the intended recipient. So even if an unauthorized person sees what’s inside, they’ll get a bunch of gibberish code that they can’t use.
Only the browser and web server will be able to decrypt the messages.
When you install SSL on your site, a padlock will appear like this in the address bar and your URL will have “https://” in front of it.
This indicates that your site is secured with SSL. You can read more about this in our guide: What’s an SSL Certificate (and Why Do You Need One)?
Does Your Website NEED an SSL Certificate?
Yes, every website needs SSL.
Earlier, it wasn’t mandatory for every site to use HTTPs. But now, search engines like Google display a warning that your site is “Not Secure” if you don’t have a valid SSL certificate installed.
Users may also see this warning that your “Connection is not private”:
This is enough to discourage visitors from coming to your site. It pretty much tells them that they are at risk as their data is not protected.
Next, most online payment services require your website to use SSL/HTTPs before you can receive payments. This means if you want to run an eCommerce site or collect payments online, you must use SSL encryption to protect your customer’s data.
Apart from security reasons, if your website is secure, it makes users trust your brand and creates a positive impression.
Overall, an SSL certificate has too many positive effects on users’ trust, SEO, brand image, and compliance, that it’s worth installing one on your site.
Up next, we’ll explore the difference between paid and free SSL certificates so you can be sure if a free SSL certificate is good enough for your site.
Paid vs. Free SSL Certificates
While there are plenty of free SSL options, paid SSL can range from $5 to even $1,000 per year. Let’s check out the difference between the two.
There are 3 main types of SSL certificates that you should know about:
- Domain Validated SSL certificate only authenticates the domain it’s issued for. This is best for personal blogs or small websites that don’t deal with any sensitive information from the users such as payment details. All free SSL certificates are domain validated.
- Organization Validated SSL authenticates the business and not just the website. This is good for websites that deal with sensitive data like contact, shipping, and payment details.
- Extended Validated SSL certificates is the highest class of SSL certificate. These certificates should be installed on any shopping portal or any website that allows financial transactions online. For instance, a banking website that constantly handles online payments, fund transfers, and other sensitive information like credit card details.
Organization Validated SSL and Extended Validated SSL are both paid SSL certificates and are only available from commercial Certificate Authorities (CA).
These certificates are issued only after the CA authenticates the business. So this is a higher level of validation where users can see details verifying the domain and about the company or organization behind it.
2. Level of Security
Every SSL certificate provides the same level of protection. This is because the process essentially remains the same. This means your users will get the same protection whether you install a $500 SSL certificate or a free one.
3. Installation and Management
Free SSL usually requires you to install and manage it on your own. It can be quite a technical process. You also need to frequently renew your certificate which could take up quite a bit of time.
With paid SSL, the CA will usually handle everything for you, including certificate management, and make sure your site’s SSL is always valid.
You can get a paid SSL certificate issued for as long as two years.
Most free SSL certificates are valid for three months. That means these 90-day certificates need to be manually renewed every time.
5. Customer Support
With free certificates, you will have to resolve issues on your own. But with a paid certificate, you can be sure that your SSL provider will give you access to a support team.
Whether you pick a free or paid SSL certificate largely depends on the type of online business or website you’re running, and how much time you’re willing to dedicate to installing SSL and managing the technical aspects involved.
How Can I Get a Free SSL Certificate?
Just a few years ago, SSL was an elaborate and expensive process. But not anymore since the rise of projects like Let’s Encrypt. They made it possible for every website to get SSL for free.
A number of hosting services also offer free SSL through Let’s Encrypt or Cloudflare. To make it easier to follow, we’ve categorized the free SSL options into SSL platforms and web hosting providers. Let’s take a look.
Top 4 Free SSL Platforms
Let’s Encrypt: A non-profit project that offers an SSL/TLS certificate for free.
Cloudflare: Cloudflare is known for its CDN and website security services. They also issue free SSL certificates to their users.
Comodo: This is a branded Certificate Authority that offers a free 90-day SSL certificate.
ZeroSSl: Enables you to install a free SSL certificate in under 5 minutes with ACME integrations.
Top 5 Web Hosts That Offer Free SSL
Here are the top 5 WordPress hosting companies that offer free SSL certificates with their hosting plans.
For more options, see our list: 8 Best Websites to Buy SSL Certificates in 2022
Once you download a free SSL certificate, you’ll need to install it on your domain. We’ll show you how to do that next.
How to Install a Free SSL Certificate
Installing SSL on your own involves a few technical steps. But you can make it easier by using a plugin. And sometimes, your web host makes it as easy as clicking a button.
We’ll cover 3 ways to install your free SSL certificate starting with the easiest one first.
Install a Free SSL Certificate with Bluehost
If you’re using Bluehost, you can navigate to My Sites » Manage Site page in your dashboard.
In the Security tab, you’ll find the free SSL option.
All you have to do is turn on the free SSL certificate for your website. It’s really that easy.
Now not all web hosts offer 1-click SSL installs. So we’ll show you how to install an SSL certificate on your own using cPanel.
Install a Free SSL Certificate Using Web Host cPanel
The traditional way to install a free SSL certificate is to use cPanel inside your web hosting account. This method is more technical but it’s usually what web hosts offer.
Inside cPanel, you’ll need to find the ‘Security’ section and open the SSL/TLS option.
Click on Generate, view, upload, or delete SSL certificates. This will take you to a new page where you can upload the certificate.
You’ll see an option to “Choose file”. When you click on this, you can select the SSL certificate that’s stored on your computer.
Now head back to the SSL/TLS page and open the Manage SSL Sites option.
Here, click on Browse Certificates and you’ll see all the installed certificates here.
Select the one you just uploaded and hit the ‘Use Certificate’ button. This will autofill the given fields with the information from the certificate. At the bottom of this page, click the Install Certificate button and you’re done.
You’ll see a message that your certificate has been successfully installed.
With free SSL, you’ll need to reinstall a new certificate every 3 months. We suggest bookmarking this article so you can find the instructions easily.
Next, we’ll show you how to install SSL using a plugin. We recommend using this plugin even if you just installed the SSL certificate on your own. This plugin will help detect and fix any issues or errors caused by the switch from HTTP to HTTPs.
How to Install an SSL Certificate Using a Plugin
Installing a free SSL certificate is easy with the Really Simple SSL plugin.
It’s available for free in the WordPress repository so you can quickly install it on your WordPress website.
Upon activation, the plugin will check to see if your SSL certificate is enabled. If it’s not, you’ll see an option to activate it.
When you do this, the plugin will install a free SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt.
After that, it will turn on HTTP to HTTPS redirect and change your website settings to start using SSL/HTTPs.
To make your website completely secure, you need to make sure that URLs of your website are loading using the HTTPS protocol. Really Simple SSL plugin does that automatically by fixing the URLs when the page loads.
For more on this, see this tutorial: Fixing Mixed Content Issues in WordPress.
And there you have it, you’ve learned the best places to get a free SSL certificate and how to install it on your site.
FAQs – SSL Certificates
1. How do you check if my website has SSL?
When you open your website in Google Chrome, you should see a padlock and “https://” in the address bar. If not, your website does not have SSL.
You can also use a free tool like SSL Checker where you can enter the URL of your website and click on the Check button.
2. Do SSL certificates expire?
Yes, SSL certificates have a validity period after which you need to renew them.
Paid SSL certificates have a validity of 1 or 2 years. Free SSL usually comes with 90-day validity.
3. Why SSL is important?
SSL makes sure sensitive information of users and your business is secure with encryption. Only the intended recipient can see this information so it’s safe from hackers and unauthorized parties.
4. What is HTTP and HTTPS?
HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. It is used to send and receive data between browsers and servers.
HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol over Secure Socket Layer. It works as a sub-layer under the HTTP application. It encrypts the regular HTTP message before sending and decrypts a message during its arrival.
5. What are Wildcard SSL Certificates
Wildcard SSL certificates allow you to secure an unlimited number of first-level sub-domain. Example: blog.example.com, members.example.com, and dev.example.com.
Wildcard SSL saves time and money as it allows websites to encrypt all of their sub-domains with a single certificate.
6. What is SSL TLS certificate?
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a digital certificate that proves the identity of a website. All data sent to an SSL-secured website will stay encrypted and protected from hackers.
TLS (Transport Layer Security) is basically an improved version of SSL.
7. Is there any trial period for paid SSL certificates?
Yes, some certificate authorities offer a trial for the first 30 days. They are Trustico, Quality SSL, and GeoTrust. Entrust offers a 60-Day free trial.
8. Do I need SSL on subdomains as well?
Yes, you do. Follow our guide: How to Get SSL Certificate Working on Subdomains (2 Methods).
We hope this article helped you learn how to get a free SSL certificate for your WordPress site.
Up next, you’ll be interested in these posts:
- Domain Name Privacy: Why You Need It and Where to Buy
- 8 WordPress Plugins to Step up Your SEO Game
- 9 Best SMTP Service Providers for Reliable Email Delivery
The first post will enable you to better secure your own personal information. The last two in the list will help you improve your site’s SEO and email delivery rates so that your site’s performance is top notch.