HTTPS And Your Small Business Website. What You Need To Know

Are you aware that your site might be blocked by Google if you don’t have encryption?

Chances are you’ve clicked on a website and gotten a warning sign “this site is not secure”. You might have also heard about website SSL certificates and HTTPS requirements but are not aware of how it will affect you. In a nutshell,  Google has started telling your website visitors that your site is NOT SECURE if you don’t have an SSL certificate.

According to Google  “Beginning in October 2017, Chrome will show the ‘Not secure’ warning in two additional situations: when users enter data on an HTTP page, and on all HTTP pages visited in Incognito mode.”

install an ssl certificate

Google first announced the encryption requirement back in 2014,  providing an adjustment period which is coming to an end by mid-2018, when Google releases the next version of Chrome.

What is HTTPS?

HTTPS stands for Secure HyperText Transfer Protocol. In plain English, it creates a secure link between a website and a visitor’s browser.

HTTPS helps protect user privacy. It works together with another protocol, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), to communicate information safely in three ways: to encrypt data for security, prevent data alteration during transmission, and user authentication.

Having an SSL certificate installed on your site not only ensures user data is secure, but it also has other security and privacy benefits, such as authentication of websites and server communication, and avoiding damage by third parties.

What are your options?

Not all SSL Certificates are created equal. There are different kinds that offer different levels of security. If you accept credit cards on your site or have forms that collect information, you will require a higher level of security than if you don’t.

Keep in mind, as internet security is becoming very important, consumers are constantly being educated so they learn to recognize when to trust a site. With that being said, they will be checking to make sure every site they use is safe, including yours.

For example, Action’s URL shows the green lock, assuring our visitors it is secure:

It gives visitors the green light to go ahead. The “green lock” level of security required if you’re taking payments on your site. 

What Are The SEO Benefits?

Google has confirmed security as a ranking factor in its search engine algorithm. However, there are over 200 factors that affect search results rankings and HTTPS in only one of them.  Implementing it on your site won’t make much of a difference if you don’t have a continuous SEO strategic plan that addresses the top critical factors such as relevant content and backlinks. Here is a full list of the top ranking factors in 2018 by Moz.

It is important to know that the main reason you’ll be implementing encryption is for security reasons and to enhance your users’ experience, not for SEO reasons.

Better Analytics

One of the advantages of HTTPS is that it preserves the domain of referral sources. This provides more accurate reports on where your visitors are coming from. It is especially beneficial when analyzing the effectiveness of social media and ad campaigns.

Will The Switch Affect Current Rankings?

Typically, with a new URL,  you essentially have to start from scratch to build domain authority. Fortunately, Google will merge the HTTP and the HTTPS signals together, as long as it’s implemented correctly.

In our experience, we see a slight drop in rankings followed by a quick recovery.

Cost

Things to consider when evaluating providers include the data encryption level, web browser compatibility, and price. It is always advisable to go with a reputable provider, which will cost a bit more. Some include it in their hosting plans and advertise it as free, but we find that their hosting price is higher than those who offer it as a separate product. There are some inexpensive options and even free, but they just don’t meet the criteria when there are payment or data collection forms on your website.

Free

The free option will show the “https://” in grey. It’s sufficient for personal sites or businesses that don’t collect any personal information from the users. However, you must be aware that when savvy visitors click on the “i” inside the circle, a window will pop up with the following message:

Paid

The cost of the SSL Certificates depends upon the level of security you require and the number of domains/subdomains you need to cover. The average cost for the lowest tier is under $100 per year, although some offer packages for multiple domains.

You need one SSL certificate for each domain and subdomain

If you have several websites you will need one for each domain. For example, if you have your website on one platform and a separate blog site,  each will need it’s own SSL certificate. Since it’s tied to the domain and hosting, you need to get in touch with your domain/hosting company as ideally get it from them. They each offer different packages so you want to evaluate what they offer carefully.

Higher price tiers will include subdomains or multiple sites. The top level is the Extended Validation SSL, which offers the highest level of encryption and should be used whenever there is highly sensitive data being exchanged, such as the case for banks and software companies, as well some large eCommerce sites.  This type of certificate shows not only the lock but the entire name of the company in green:

If your business is your livelihood, you want to make sure you have what’s necessary to provide the best possible experience for your clients and prospects. Making the right decision is important so you don’t have to spend money correcting things later, nor you spend more than is necessary.

Installation

As far as installation, this is something you might be able to do yourself, or if you want nothing to do with tech stuff, your webmaster or our team at ACTION. The fees are affordable and well worth your peace of mind.

Correct Implementation

Even though is a fairly simple process, incorrect implementation of HTTPS can have a negative impact in the following ways:

  • Irrelevant redirect links, which can confuse users and result in them leaving your site.
  • Duplicate content: Both HTTP and HTTPS versions of your pages could be indexed and appear in search results. Duplicate versions of your site being indexed in the SERP can also have a negative impact on rankings.
  • Speed: Since HTTPS requires more touches between your servers and the user, website loading time may increase. This can have a negative impact on rankings, especially with mobile.

We recommend you take a look at Google’s own recommendations and ensure that your team has the capacity to implement HTTPS the right way.

The Takeaway

You really can’t snooze on this one. Google will literally block your site from your visitors, negatively impacting your business credibility.

…Like this below (Ouch!!):

You must evaluate your options, decide which way is the best for you based on where you are going with your business. Avoid quick fix type of solutions that can end up holding up future plans and being very costly in the future.

You Need to Act Now

If you are not sure how to go about it we are here to help. We will help you decide your best option and implement your certificate for you. Our fees start at $350, depending on the type and size of your site. We will perform a link audit to make sure there are no bad links lingering and affecting your SEO negatively, and everything runs the way it’s supposed to. If you have any questions reach out to us, we are here to help.

By: CJ Larsen

Easy Ways to Improve Your Site SEO

As a busy business owner I know first hand that we have a whole lot to deal with in our day-to-day activities,  just to ensure delivery of products and services, and with little time left for anything else,  is not unusual that many are still missing out on what Google has to offer to help them with their site’s SEO. If you are one of them, that’s something you’ll want to address ASAP! The fact is, Google kind of rules the search world so what better place to find out how your site is performing than Google itself, it’s like having inside information from the source that matters most. There are 2 major set of tools offered by Google, and did I say they are free of charge?

Google Analytics

This tool provides you with a bird’s eye view of how your visitors are coming from and how they are interacting with your site pages. The many components of this magnificent tool allows you to more effectively fine-tune your marketing initiatives, advertising campaigns and search engine success.

There is probably more data here than you will ever use, but some of the more important pieces of information you should know are the following five:

Traffic Sources

Knowing where your traffic is coming from is key to understanding and implementing your marketing campaigns. It will show you how much traffic is coming from organic search, from paid search, each of the social media platforms, etc.

Traffic by Device

As more and more people are searching using their phones, the need for a mobile friendly website is becoming the norm. White every industry is experiencing an increase in traffic coming form mobile, some are more than others, so making sure all the information is properly accessible and there is a good flow on a small screen is very important.

Demographics

Knowing the demographic characteristics of your visitors helps you have a better understanding of who they are and whether or not you are on point as far as attracting and communicating to the right audience, if you have taken the time to create your ideal client’s profiles.

Landing Pages

This data shows you which pages a re performing the best, how many visits each page gets, and helps you understand how people are viewing your site in general.

Bounce Rate

This indicates the percentage of visitors who leave the site as soon as they came in. A high bounce rate shows that we are failing to attract the right audience, or failing to effectively communicate the value we can provide. A high bounce rate tells Google that your page is not relevant enough. The more time people spend on your pages, the better it will do in the search results.

Google Webmaster Tools

These are a quite extensive suite of tools to evaluate your website SEO, that  provide comprehensive reports that help you find out different types of issues that affect your site’s rankings, and what improvements you need to make. Let’s take a look at four areas that will give you a lot of bang for your buck.

HTML Improvements

The HTML Improvements report can show you things you need to be aware of, like how well your Meta data is optimized, title and descriptions deficiencies, along with duplicate content issues. Well worth a look.

Search Queries

Probably the most useful report by far, Search Queries returns loads of data including impressions, clicks, click-thru-rate, keyword terms searched, image and video SEO and more. The keyword section only goes back for 30 days, but it does give you some data you can use with other tools.

Crawl Errors

This report will show you exactly which pages are returning a “not found” 404 error code. These you’ll need to address as soon as possible, as you are losing traffic, and your search engine results may be skewed as well.

Links to Your Site

This one returns a list of sites that are linking to your pages, and will reveal what pages are drawing the most interest. This can be, and often is, very surprising, as pages or content you may not have thought was significant could be drawing loads of traffic to your site.

The Point

While there is a certain learning curve in properly setting up both Google Webmaster and Analytics, it is well worth the investment since tracking your data it’s the vital difference between going blindfolded vs being fully aware of what’s working and what needs attention.

If you would like to get started setting up these valuable tools get in touch, we can help!

How To Show Your Holiday Hours on Google’s Search Results

Will your business be working extended hours during the holiday season? If so you want to show it everywhere possible, and now you can also let those who find you on Google searches know about your extended hours, by taking advantage of Google’s recently introduced Holiday Hours feature for businesses to easily show their temporary schedules in their local business listings and maps.

We strongly recommend you take advantage of this feature, not only so your patrons are informed, but also to avoid Google’s own warning message showing next to your listing,  as published by Google: “If you search for a business and the holiday hours aren’t listed, you’ll see a warning message alerting you that the actual hours may be different because of the holiday.” Besides, it’s always good to keep your Google My Business page updated because, as we’ve mentioned many times, it helps get higher rankings by keeping your listing fresh.

One truly useful thing about this feature is that you can add as many special hours into the future as you want because they will show on your listing as the holiday comes closer, and will stop showing after it’s over. So you can enter all your holiday hours for the entire year, and your listing will always be up to date with the correct information.

We have listed how to set this up step by step, to make it as easy for you as possible to take advantage of this feature and show your holiday hours when potential customers come across your business listing in their searches.

How to List Your Holiday Hours on Your Google My Business Page

1. Log into your Google My Business dashboard and select the location to which you wish to add special holiday hours, click edit.

Step 1

2. On the “Location Details” page that displays next, scroll down to the “hours” and click click the little pencil to edit.


 

Step 2


 

3. On the on the pop-up screen click on “add another set of hours” as shown below.


 

Step 3

 

 


 

4. In this screen you’ll be able to set your special hours and the dates they are in effect. Enter the opening and closing times for each day,   indicate that the location is closed all day by clicking the box next to “Closed”, and if you are open 24 hours, enter 12:00am–12:00am. Make sure you save your changes before closing this screen.


 

Step 4


 

That’s it!

We hope this was helpful and if you need help with your Google My Business page or have questions about how to set it up or optimize it, or if you really need to worry about it, schedule a call with one of our consultants. We want to hear from you and are here to help!

 

10 Quick LinkedIn Tips You Want to Know

LinkedIn has become the top social network for business professionals which makes it a great place for finding qualified leads and eventually new business.  Just like any other marketing activity, especially social media related, it takes time, work and most importantly, a planned approach.  Although there are a ton of useful features with the free level, LinkedIn’s paid level offers even more valuable features when it comes to being able to reach it’s database and communicate with prospects you are interested in.

The best way to mine LinkedIn for leads and sales is to get active in there. In order to help you get going with that, we found these 10 great LinkedIn tips.

10 LinkedIn Tips to Get More Visibility and Leads

Customize your URL – Maker sure you change your LinkedIn URL to coincide with your company’s name or online handle. Stay consistent with other social properties if at all possible.

Create a Profile Badge – Add a LinkedIn badge on your site or blog. It will help add to your connections and site authority. There are a couple of different designs to choose from.

Optimize Your Company Page – Complete and take advantage of all the features available when it comes to your company page. You definitely want to make a brand statement.

Get Skill Endorsements – List your skills when you complete your profile, as many of your connections will not hesitate to make the one + click needed to give you an endorsement.

Join and Participate in LinkedIn Groups – Contributing to LinkedIn groups provides you with a couple of great advantages: the ability to send direct messages to members of the group who you are not connected with, as well as the ability to view group members profiles.

Create Company Showcase Pages – Since LinkedIn got rid of the Products & Services tab, and replaced them with Showcase Pages, where you can promote products and services.

Directly Mail Your Group – A cool little feature called LinkedIn Announcements enables you to directly mail the members of your LinkedIn groups once weekly.

Get LinkedIn to Send You Free Leads – When you enter a criteria to search for leads, you can save your searches on LinkedIn and they will send you new leads according to the search parameters you entered.

Ask Your Connections for Introductions – Mine your current connections and ask them to introduce you someone they are connected to that you would like to be. You’ll be surprised at how many will say yes.

Reorder Your LinkedIn Skills – You now have the ability to edit your skills and within that you can reorder your skills to emphasize what you’d like to. It can also lessen the number of no-picture endorsers present there.

Branding: Standing Out The Wrong Way

Building a brand is necessary and foundational to stand out in today’s noisy advertising landscape, and it’s especially challenging in some industries such as real estate,  with a very crowded marketplace where everyone uses the exact same marketing tactics, and their advertisements  look pretty much the same, to the point that you could just swap head shots and contact information and everything else is so generic that applies to all.  As we tell our realtor clients, they need to find ways to differentiate and be memorable, and stay top of mind. But when I first came across this ad I thought, well, this guy certainly accomplished to be memorable and differentiate…but in a very wrong way!

Having a rather unusual name he decided to craft a message around it…with a masturbation spin… So he came up with this ad that’s so outrageous that it was featured in Adweek at the time, in their “Adfreak” section.  It turns out he was fired from the realty company shortly after because of the ad, not surprisingly.

It is an old story but it makes such a great example of branding creativity gone wrong, that I could not resist sharing it, especially dedicated to my realtor friends!

realtor marketing

So remember, if you are looking for ways  to stand out in this crowded marketplace, talk to a professional!

You can find the original story here.

What do you think?