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!

Ready for Google’s Big Search Update? Why Should You Care And How To Test Your Website

Unless you have been living under a rock, you’ve probably already heard about Google’s recent announcement regarding mobile SEO, and in case you haven’t paid much attention, these are the facts straight from google:

“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.”

What that means is that when someone does a search on their phone Google will start giving priority  in search rankings to sites that are mobile-friendly. In other words,  if your site is not mobile-friendly your rankings will plummet, and if your site is already mobile-friendly, this will only help your mobile SEO.

Although this will affect any and all businesses, it is especially critical for local businesses who’s customers typically come from nearby areas,  and if you think this doesn’t apply to you, here is a reality check:

• 50% of all local searches are performed on mobile devices.

• 61% of mobile searches result in phone call
• 59% of mobile searches result in visit
• Only 26% of local businesses have a mobile-friendly website!
 
(Source Web.com, TechCrunch, Google)

The fact is people search for your business services for different reasons, such as looking for the nearest business of your kind, look up business hours, find a map and directions, or just call for information, and you want them to find your business and not your competitors.

How to do a quick check to see if your site is mobile-friendly

A simple way to check if yours passes the test is to type the name of your business on your phone’s browser (not your website url since this will take you to the web page) and when you see it listed on the results, see if it says “mobile friendly” next to it:

mobile SEO

For this example I typed “remodelers fort lauderdale” and the only mobile friendly result  is not even a business but a directory. In fact, I had to do some scrolling to actually find one so I could do the screenshot for this post.  I did similar searches for other local businesses, such as restaurants, plumbers, hair salons, cleaners, vets, among others, and hardly found any with that notation.

One more thing, when you see the results for your page listed, make sure you look at the one for your website, since there will be other results such as your Facebook page, Yelp listing and other Social and Directories results, which will indicate “mobile-friendly” referring to their own sites and not yours.

 

How to make sure your site passes the Google test

The best  way to test if your site passes the test ( in the eyes of Google) is by using Google’s new mobile-friendly testing tool, that tells you plain and simple, whether your site passes or fails the mobile test, it basically tells you that either you are mobile friendly or you are not mobile friendly.

In trying some random URLs found on business cards I had laying on my desk, these were the messages generated:

• Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly.
• Not mobile-friendly

Google is also making it very easy to evaluate optimization issues with your mobile site. For example, for this site, I got an “Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly,” but in digging a bit deeper I found a very useful list of issues it detected, not all of them critical, but certainly something I’ll have my team looking into to optimize our mobile SEO.  However, for now I just want to bring to your attention how important it is that your site is mobile-friendly by April 21st.

 

Two options to make your site mobile-friendly

You could either redesign your website with a new mobile-friendly, responsive WordPress theme or just have a mobile-friendly version of your current site created.

New responsive design website – If you’ve been thinking that your website needs a facelift or just doesn’t work well, this is your best bet. This will take longer to complete, but in the end you will benefit from improved SEO, added functionality, and better experience for your website users.  If your site is on the WordPress.org platform but isn’t responsive, rebuilding it on a new responsive WordPress theme is relatively simple and quick, depending on how many pages and changes you want to make.

Build a mobile version of your website – This is a quick way to add a mobile-friendly version of your website without touching it, that runs side by side to your existing site.  It is also cost efficient (you can get one for $297 at Action). Keep in mind that although this is a quick fix that will get you compliant with Google’s new standards, you may still need to evaluate if is time for a new responsive design website in the near future.

Our team can do either one of these for you. To build a basic mobile responsive site our fee is $297, and if you want to get started or need a quote for a new one please fill out our contact form and indicate the URL of your website, we will get back to you promptly.

If your website was built by our team in the last 3 years you don’t have anything to worry about. But if it’s an older site or build elsewhere, take a few minutes to test it, and do something if it fails the test, before you lose all the SEO you’ve built over the years.

Go to Google’s Mobile Test Tool page clicking below:

Google Mobile Test Tool

 

7 Reasons To Optimize Your Google+ Page

Business owners most use their resources wisely.  When it comes to marketing,  with the growing number of options out there, plus all the over- hyped, fly-by-night marketing gimmicks that arise constantly, it makes sense to stick to the basics. On that note, not implementing – and maximizing – those free resources available to us is leaving money on the table, especially if they are provided by the one who calls the shots in the search engine world.

The fact is 97% of consumers search for local businesses online, and 66% of these local searches are done using Google, which is still the undisputed king of web search. In addition, 71% claim reviews from family members or friends influence their purchase decisions

 

Here are 7 reasons to optimize your Google+ business profile page
1. High value of local listings
It is clear that Google places a lot of value on local listings in their search results. What’s more, as Google pushes into mobile, it has begun featuring local listings through their mobile apps for Android (currently available) and iPhone (in the works at the time of the publishing of this post), helping nearby customers discover your business. And we don’t expect this to change in the foresee- able future

2. It’s free
It won’t cost you a penny to list your business on Google. That said, it will take you some time to set up your page properly.

3. Increased website/store traffic
Getting found on Google is probably the most compelling benefit. In the digital age, Google is virtually everyone’s first stop when looking for any kind of information – including local vendors. By increasing your visibility in search, you open your business to an *enormous* and constantly growing audience of people who need and want what YOU sell.

4. Get found on mobile searches
Most local businesses struggle to maintain a web presence at all, let alone a “responsive” web presence that is fully optimized for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. The fact is, the web is becoming increasingly mobile. Morgan Stanley predicts that mobile web browsing will outpace desktop browsing within just a few years.
By optimizing your Google+ Local page, your business can effectively outsource its mobile marketing to Google, which offers consumers several mobile apps that facilitate local business discovery. These mobile apps help buyers find you!

5. Stand out amongst the competition
According to a recent count, only 20 percent of eligible small businesses have claimed their listing on Google+ Local! By claiming your listing you greatly increase your ability to stand out in your industry or niche. Why leave this low- hanging fruit for your competitors to snatch up?

6. Learn more about your customers
Google, a company founded and run by coders, is all about analytics. And thus, their business tools, Google+ Local included, come with excellent tools for mining data and gathering market intelligence you can use to improve your offering, keep customers happy, and collect bigger profits.

7. Garner customer reviews
Asking customers to leave reviews on Google+ ensures that those reviews are an integral part of your brand assets, and it also boosts rankings, as Google will push to the top businesses that have reviews on Google+

The Point
The bottom line is, Google + Local is a free resource that helps you get found online, drive more traffic to your website, and stand out in a crowded market- place. It can also help you acquire insight into your audience profile, engage with your customers, garner reviews and promote special offers. All these combined will help increase sales, and  boost your overall profitability.

If you are not sure of how to optimize your Google+ business page, or just don’t have the time,  get in touch with us and we’ll give you a hand.