How to get a free SSL Certificate

As we’ve previously mentioned, Google is encouraging website owners to make their websites secure by giving HTTPS sites a slight ranking boost in search results.

The problem for many website owners is the cost associated with obtaining an https certificate. For example, the NZ domain registrar FreeParking charges between $99 to $599 a year, depending on configuration requirements. GoDaddy, the world’s largest domain registrar has similar pricing.

The good news is that you can now obtain a free SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt which is an open certificate authority run by the Californian not-for-profit Internet Security Research Group (ISRG).  As you can see from below this is backed by some significant players in the Internet space including Facebook, Mozilla and Cisco.


ISRG’s goal is to improve Internet security and privacy by encouraging HTTPS to become the default configuration for all websites. Let’s Encrypt was developed to make getting and managing SSL certificates both free and easy. A limited Beta program has been running and issued over 26,000 SSL certificates that are trusted by all the major web browsers.

Last week Let’s Encrypt announced it was going into Public Beta which now means invitations are no longer needed and anyone can now apply to get free certificates.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that, whilst the price is right (that is, free), for most people this is far from easy – despite Let’s Encrypt assurances that it is. Maybe if someone is a System Administrator, but certainly not for the average Joe by any stretch. It requires downloading an installer from Github and then UNIX line commands to request and install a certificate.


Why should you care?

Switching your website to SSL is something most businesses should be considering for many good reasons beyond a possible boost in Google rankings. Free SSL certificates from Let’s Encrypt is a step in the right direction, but unless you’re an Ubergeek, installing one of their certificates is not likely something most will do in a hurry.

As mentioned at the start, SSL certificates start at around $100 a year from the bigger domain registrars. However there are cheaper options if you shop around – for example, SSL Certificate.com sells SSL certificates from a range of certificate authorities  like Comodo, GeoTrust, Thawte and Symantec with prices starting from USD$10 a year.

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About the Author Mark Sceats

Mark is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire which he founded back in 2002. Prior to establishing SureFire he worked for KPMG Consulting. Today Mark heads up SEO, embracing the challenges that can come with complex website implementations. Outside of work, his interests beyond his family are running, snowsports, diving and fishing (badly).

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