As security online becomes a greater concern and issue in this day and age, SSL connections are becoming more the norm. This stands for secure sockets layer and is basically a secure tunnel which information can be exchanged between a user of a website and the website itself.
Any website can become SSL certified at a cost. There are companies like Comodo which administer SSL certification to websites which means that website has that added layer of security. Third parties such as web hosts and domain registrars sell these "products" for an annual cost to issue the certificate, and the website owner is responsible for working with the certificate issuer and their host to verify ownership of both the certificate and their domain.
This isn't as much of an issue for many websites which aren't set up to receive any information/content from its users, but this technology is a must have for ecommerce websites. That is any website which sells products through the website, thus accepting payments from its users/customers. The connection and therefore the payment information which the customer supplies to the vendor is encrypted and therefore cannot be easily intercepted by a third party.
If that information is ever intercepted and the SSL fails in that regard, the issuer basically can be liable to pay out insurance to the owner of the certificate to make up for the damages.
So being SSL certified is a requisite for any ecommerce website owner, but it's also a wise choice for any webmaster concerned with search engine optimization. Google has come out and explicitly said that SSL is now among the thousands of other factors which they weigh and consider when ranking websites. In other words and with everything else being equal, a website which has SSL will outrank its peer which doesn't.
This stands to reason because Google obviously wants to serve up the best content to its users. This means giving safer websites higher visibility in its search engine results pages than those without this feature.
So does your website need to be SSL certified?
To make a long winded answer short, yes, depending on what kind of website you own. If you receive ANY kind of information from your website's visitors whether its as important as credit card information or as seemingly innocuous as their email address, you need to be SSL certified. This encompasses nearly all business websites.
Even personal websites can enjoy the SEO benefits of SSL.
Ultimately the answer is that if you have any kind of website which you care about the rankings for, then you should be certified. One exception would be a website which doesn't take any information and ranks well because of its unique branding keywords, but even then it doesn't hurt to be certified.
SEO aside, you want to assuage the concerns of your visitors, and being SSL certified means a more approachable website. Most web browsers which people use to visit websites today reflect SSL confirmation status with a green padlock icon or other secure symbol. As this becomes more the norm, the websites which are not certified will tend to stick out and could cause people to bounce from your site as quickly as they arrive, which DOES have an effect on your SEO negatively.
Trust Maryland SEO Services to get your website SSL certified today to put your customers' minds at ease and enjoy the SEO benefits of SSL certification.