We write for ourselves but it is also nice when others can discover the content we put out there. Adding an SSL/TLS certificate increases your ranking for search results, so I did that today. Thankfully there are free SSL/TLS certificate services like letsencrypt which make things super easy. Some poking around required.


  • Digital Ocean droplet (my referral link)
  • Ubuntu 16.04.1 LTS xenial (lsb_release -a)
  • Nginx 1.10.0 (nginx -v) reverse proxy running Ghost blog


1. Install letsencrypt

sudo apt-get install letsencrypt

2. Enable authorization checking

We will be using the certonly --webroot option per the recommended certbot instructions. This installation method requires specifying where certificate credentials will be placed as well as your domains.

First we need to make sure your top-level domain directory exists; skip this step if you already have one:

sudo mkdir /var/www/yourdomain

Then we need to allow nginx to recognize your directory. Add to your nginx configuration, using something like sudo vim /etc/nginx/sites-available/yourdomain, the following code:

location /.well-known {
    alias /var/www/yourdomain/.well-known;

Then restart your nginx server:

sudo service nginx restart

If you need help with your nginx configuration, see my previous tutorial on setting up a Ghost blog.

3. Request certificate

Now we can request a certificate from letsencrypt and certbot.

sudo letsencrypt certonly --webroot -w /var/www/yourdomain -d yourdomain

If everything worked, you will get a message like


- Congratulations! Your certificate and chain have been saved at /etc/letsencrypt/live/tonyy.in/fullchain.pem. Your cert will expire on 2017-02-25. To obtain a new version of the certificate in the future, simply run Let's Encrypt again.

Note: People have raised concerns about granting root privilege to letsencrypt. You can read more at the official FAQs.

4. Add HTTPS routing

We now enable HTTPS routing on our nginx server. Open your nginx configuration again with sudo vim /etc/nginx/sites-available/yourdomain and replace your listen 80 block. The full configuration will look something like this:

server {
    listen 443 ssl http2;
    server_name yourdomain;

    ssl_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/yourdomain/fullchain.pem;
    ssl_certificate_key /etc/letsencrypt/live/yourdomain/privkey.pem;
    ssl_stapling on;
    ssl_stapling_verify on;

    location /.well-known {
        alias /var/www/yourdomain/.well-known;

    location / {
        proxy_set_header    Host $host;
        proxy_set_header    X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
        proxy_set_header    X-Forwarded-Proto $scheme;
        proxy_set_header    X-Real-IP $remote_addr;

Restart your nginx server again with sudo service nginx restart and hit your new secure HTTPS domain to see if it works. You should now have a verified TLS certificate on https://yourdomain!

Per StackExchange tutorial you can redirect your unencrypted traffic to your encrypted domain by adding another server block:

server {
    listen 80;
    server_name yourdomain;
    rewrite ^ https://$host$request_uri? permanent;

Restart your nginx server and try hitting the unencrypted endpoint again to see the redirect.

And that's it! Remember to renew your certificate every 90 days, or set auto-renew. I left auto-renew off because 90 days seems like a good point to re-check security measures.

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