In today’s online world, people use the internet for all sorts of things. Keeping up to date with current events, searching for recipes, researching products…the list is endless. And through all this online activity, we are constantly sharing our personal data. This is why SSL certificates are so important. But did you know that different types of SSL certificates have different uses? 🔐
Below, we’ll explore this topic more as we discuss the varieties of SSL certificates, their benefits, and their uses. By the time you’ve finished reading, 🧐 you’ll know what type of SSL certificate your website, blog, or online business needs.
📚 Table of contents:
- What is an SSL certificate?
- What are the benefits of having an SSL certificate?
- Different types of SSL certificates
- FAQ on the different types of SSL certificates
What is an SSL certificate?
Before we can discuss the different types of SSL certificates, we first need to understand what this term means.
Let’s start with “SSL.”
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer (it’s sometimes called TLS – Transport Layer Security) and is an important component of domain protection and security. It was first introduced back in 1994 by Netscape , a computer services company, because the internet was growing rapidly and there was a serious need for online data transfer security.
In a nutshell, SSL is a protocol that helps to provide secure communication over a network. This protocol ensures that when a user shares their information with a website (name, email, account login details, credit card information, etc.), this information is encrypted and remains confidential.
How do you know whether or not a website has a valid SSL certificate?
👉 There are two easy ways to check:
- First, the website’s URL should start with an “https://.”
- Second (still in the address bar), you can click on the padlock icon > Connection is secure, to confirm and learn more about the website’s connection.
As you can imagine, SSL certificates are important for ecommerce websites, login portals, online banking, and any other website that handles sensitive information.
⚠️ Editorial note: While we use the term “SSL certificate” throughout this article for clarity and due to its widespread colloquial usage, it’s important to note that the certificates we are actually referring to are TLS certificates. This editorial choice aligns with common usage, but we acknowledge the technical distinction between SSL and TLS, which we will explore further in the following section before proceeding with the remainder of the article.
Understanding the differences between SSL vs TLS
Building on what we’ve discussed, it’s important to highlight the specific differences between SSL and TLS, as these terms are often used interchangeably.
As mentioned earlier, SSL was the initial protocol developed for secure internet communications. However, it was later succeeded by TLS, which addressed various security vulnerabilities inherent in SSL. While TLS is the more advanced and secure protocol, the term SSL continues to be widely used due to its historical significance.
The main difference between SSL and TLS lies in their security features. TLS, being the more modern protocol, offers enhanced encryption and a stronger defense against cyber threats. Today, TLS is the standard used by modern browsers and servers, providing a higher level of security for online interactions.
Therefore, to reiterate, it’s essential to remember that when we refer to SSL certificates in this guide, we are effectively discussing the contemporary TLS certificates. This usage is in line with common industry vernacular, despite the technical shift to TLS.
With this clarification in mind, let’s explore the types of SSL (TLS) certificates available and how they can benefit your website(s).
What are the benefits of having an SSL certificate in 2024?
There are many advantages to having an SSL certificate. Some of the biggest are:
1. It protects your users’ data ☂️
Let’s say you own an ecommerce website that has an SSL certificate. When customers purchase your products or services, their payment information will get encrypted so that no other third parties can access it.
As website owners, protecting our users as best as we can is important. This will help to ensure that they can freely purchase from our websites without putting their data into the wrong hands.
2. It can build trust 🤝
This is a continuation of the previous point and highlights how a user may feel when on a secure website.
The padlock icon can help to assure your users that their data is handled with care and it tells them that your website takes data seriously. As a result, they are more likely to trust you and complete their purchase because they know their information will be protected.
3. It helps with SEO 📈
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. HubSpot highlights that:
“The goal of SEO is to expand a company’s visibility in organic search results. As a result, these efforts drive more visitors to the company’s website, increasing their chances for more conversations which leads to more customers and more revenue.” 
In other words, the better your SEO, the more likely your website’s pages will rank well for target keywords.
Since SEO is so important, we need to do everything we can to ensure that we don’t jeopardize it unnecessarily.
Getting an SSL certificate is a step in the right direction because Google has favored HTTPS-enabled websites since at least 2014 , and in 2018, even began punishing sites that were still using only HTTP by marking them as “not secure.” 
Long story short: having an SSL certificate can positively impact your site’s SEO and increase its visibility.
Different types of SSL certificates
There are six different types of SSL certificates and we can break them down into two main categories:
- SSL certificates that are based on validation
- SSL certificates that are based on the number of domains you have
SSL certificates based on validation
1. Domain Validation (DV) SSL certificate
A DV SSL certificate is the simplest form of SSL certificate. To get it, all you need to do is to prove that you are the true owner of the domain that you’re requesting an SSL certificate for.
👉 The validation may involve:
- Email verification. You’ll need to have access to your domain’s email address (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org) or any other email address listed in WHOIS for your domain.
- HTTP/HTTPS file verification. You’ll need to be able to access your server or hosting panel.
- DNS verification. This requires you to create a CNAME record or TXT record from your DNS manager.
DV SSL certificates are ideal for personal websites, blogs, or small business sites where the main concern is encrypting data transmission without the need for extensive identity verification. They provide the basic level of security necessary for data protection.
2. Organization Validation (OV) SSL certificate
An OV SSL certificate is a step up from the DV in terms of validation level. OV certificates not only verify domain ownership but also conduct a more thorough vetting process to confirm the legitimacy of the organization behind the website.
These certificates may be suitable for businesses or online brands that want to establish a higher level of trust with their website visitors. So, think ecommerce platforms, corporate websites, and any website that handles sensitive customer data.
3. Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificate
This certificate provides the highest level of assurance to website visitors by undergoing an extensive validation process that includes domain ownership verification and a thorough examination of the requesting organization’s legal and operational legitimacy.
Financial institutions, ecommerce giants, and other well-established entities that handle sensitive customer information are examples of the types of websites that use EV SSL certificates.
SSL certificates based on the number of domains
1. Single Domain SSL certificate
As the name suggests, a single domain SSL certificate is designed to secure only one domain and nothing more. These certificates can’t even be used for the subdomain of the domain that the SSL certificate was created for.
Single domain SSL certificates are ideal for businesses or individuals managing one website or a specific subdomain. They are commonly used for basic web security needs, such as protecting login credentials, personal information, and online transactions on a specific domain.
2. Multi-Domain SSL certificate
A multi-domain SSL certificate allows you to secure multiple domain names (or subdomains) with a single certificate.
If you’re managing several websites under different domains, this may be the perfect choice for you.
3. Wildcard SSL certificate
A Wildcard SSL certificate is a specialized type of SSL certificate designed to secure a primary domain and all of its subdomains.
For example, if you have a website with various services, applications, or regional subdomains, a Wildcard SSL certificate is a convenient way to provide encrypted connections for all of these subdomains.
FAQ on the different types of SSL certificates
Which SSL certificate do I need?
With so many different types of SSL certificates, it can be challenging to know which one is the right one for you and your needs.
The best way to decide is to look at a few important factors. You’ll need to consider:
- Your website’s needs. How many domains do you need to secure? If it’s just one, then a single domain SSL certificate may be the right choice. However, if you run a multinational company with multiple sub-domains, then consider a multi-domain or Wildcard SSL certificate.
- Your future plans. While you may have only one domain now, do you anticipate having more in the future? If this is the case, multi-domain or Wildcard SSL certificates can accommodate this
- The type of website you run. As highlighted earlier, if you run a personal blog or website, then a DV certificate may be the perfect choice. On the other hand, financial institutions, ecommerce websites, and other high-profile websites may do better with an OV or EV SSL certificate.
- Your budget. Generally speaking, DV SSL certificates tend to be more affordable while EV certificates tend to be more expensive because of the validation process and added trust indicators.
By considering these factors, you can tailor your choice of SSL certificate to match the specific needs and characteristics of your website.
Can I choose not to have an SSL certificate?
Technically, yes. You can choose not to have an SSL certificate. However, we encourage you to have one.
Remember the benefits we spoke about earlier? Providing a secure data transmission platform for your website visitors should be a top priority and an SSL certificate helps you achieve this.
When your customers see that “https” in the URL, they may be more comfortable with sharing their personal data with you.
In addition, ranking well for target keywords can take lots of time and effort and you don’t want to jeopardize your SEO rankings by not having an SSL certificate for your domain.
How do I get an SSL certificate?
To get an SSL certificate, you can choose a certificate authority (CA) In a nutshell, you’ll need to generate a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) on your server, submit it to the CA, and complete any verification required. Once approved, download and install the SSL certificate on your server.
You can also get an SSL certificate through your hosting provider. For example, Bluehost offers SSL certification with most of its hosting plans. Your site will automatically get a DV SSL certificate this way – but you might need to reach out to the host for help setting up more advanced types of SSL certificates.
How do I renew my SSL certificate?
Some types of SSL certificates can last up to 398 days while others expire after 90 days. No matter which certificate you have, renewing it is often a straightforward process.
In a nutshell, renewing your certificate involves:
- Generating a new CSR. This helps to validate your server’s identity and you can do it from your web host.
- Activating your SSL certificate. You can activate your certificate from your web host.
- Validating your SSL certificate. This process may involve email, HTTP, or DNS validation.
- Installing your new SSL certificate. Once your certificate has been validated, you can proceed to install it onto your website.
Of course, different web hosts may have different renewal processes. However, this is a general overview of what you can expect to go through as you renew your certificate.
Understanding the different types of SSL certificates?
By now, we hope you understand the importance of installing SSL certificates for your domains. In 2024, it’s not an option, but a need.
👉 To sum things up, above, we learned that there are different types of SSL certificates and we can say they fall into two main categories:
- SSL certificates that are based on the validation. These include domain validation, organization validation, and extended validation certificates.
- SSL certificates that are based on the number of domains you have. These are single single domain, multi-domain, and wildcard domain SSL certificates.
Therefore, regardless of if you’re running a personal blog, an ecommerce platform, or a corporate website, choosing the right SSL certificate is essential.
To choose the right one, you’ll need to consider important factors like the number of domains you want to secure, your budget, and the level of validation you need.
To learn more about how to run a successful website, you can read our guide on website management.