Three things you should know before buying an SSL certificate

You likely know you need an SSL to round out your site security, but have you been able to decide which one? If not, that’s understandable. To the uninitiated, SSLs can be confusing. How do you pick the right one? Should SSL certificate cost factor in? What about SSL type? This blog will answer those questions and shed some light on how to pick the perfect SSL.

1. Price doesn’t matter

First things first, let’s address price disparities between different SSL vendors. Is an SSL something you should pay more for? The answer to that is probably not. No matter where you buy it, all current SSL certificates on the market currently offer the same 256-bit protection. No matter what their price point. So keep that in mind next time you see a store waxing about their “most powerful encryption.”

2. Research the CA

One thing that doesn’t get mentioned enough is your Certificate Authority (CA) choice. CAs are the bodies in charge of managing SSL certificates across the web, from issuing, revoking, to distribution. When someone visits your site, their web browser will check that its SSL issuer is trusted. If your CA is not trustworthy, your site is unlikely to work.  So before you choose an SSL, research the CA and make sure they’re trusted by major web browsers and software.

3. Know your SSL type

For many, this is the most confusing part of buying an SSL. How do you know what kind is right for your particular domain (or domains?) To find out, you just have to think about two things:

  • How many domains and/or subdomains do you have?
  • What action do you want people to perform on your site?

This is because SSL certificates have two key features: the number of domains and/or subdomains it needs to protect and the validation level. Validation level refers to the number of background checks a CA performs before giving you your SSL. A good rule of thumb is, the more you ask a person to do on your site (for example, do you have sign-up pages? Do you want them to make purchases?), the higher the validation level you should get. This is because a higher validation level will display more information about you or your company in the SSL itself, potentially giving a new user more peace of mind. 

Without further ado, here are the SSL types by the number of domain:

  • Single domain SSL: secures one domain
  • Multi-domain SSL: secures multiple domains
  • Wildcard SSL: secures a single domain and unlimited subdomains linked to it

The validation levels are:

  • Domain validation (DV): The lowest validation level. Ideal for websites with minimal interaction.
  • Organization validation (OV): Medium validation. Great for e-commerce stores.
  • Extended validation (EV): The highest validation. Ideal for big enterprises.

So if you had a single blog site you wanted to secure, you might go for a single-domain DV SSL certificate.


Hopefully, this has helped make SSLs a little less confusing, and you now know exactly what to look for when picking an SSL. Remember to ignore the price and focus on the issuing CA and what you need from an SSL for your particular situation.

Article by Born Realist