Google may mark your site insecure!

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the upcoming changes announced by Google, that sites that are not seen as secure (that is, they are accessed with "HTTP" instead of "HTTPS") will be labeled as insecure. In addition, Google has indicated that security is a ranking factor. That post provided step-by-step instructions for installing SSL (HTTPS) for your site using Cloudflare. Today Cloudflare's blog (Cloudflare is the site I used in my instructions in that post) points out that the time for Google's "insecure" labels is now only 25 days away. They also provide a quick, free, testing tool to see if your site will be seen as secure or insecure. Simply put your domain (without either http or https) in the search box, press Enter, and get the answer. Another helpful item in the post tells you not only that you can get a certificate from Cloudflare (they have free and paid plans), but they also point out another free alternative, Let's Encrypt. I haven't used Let's Encrypt, as I have been using Cloudflare. According to the site, Let's Encrypt is sponsored by many of the major players on the internet, such as Mozilla (who provides, among other things, the Firefox browser), Chrome (from Google), Facebook, and more. So with two free ways to set up a secure site, why isn't your site ready?

A Free HTTPS Website in 15 minutes!

Not surprisingly, Google made a lot of headlines with its announcements in 2017 and in February of this year that, as of next month (July, 2018) their Chrome web browser would start marking sites "Not Secure" if they used HTTP instead of HTTPS. There are some good reasons for this, but that isn't the purpose of this post. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to get a free HTTPS website? Keep reading! Indeed, going back to 2014, Google has stated that it uses HTTPS as a ranking signal. In other words, all other things being equal, HTTPS sites may rank higher than HTTP sites. Next month Google ups the ante, actually marking HTTP sites as "Not Secure." What's an innkeeper (or other small business) to do? Fundamentally there are two options for obtaining a site that uses HTTPS. First, you (or your web designer, web hosting company, or a consultant) can purchase a secure certificate and install it on your server. Typically this requires an annual expense to keep the certificate up-to-date. Second, there is an option for a free HTTPS website. There is more than one way to accomplish this, but I want to point out one that is not only free, but provides additional benefits for your site, as well. That is to use the Cloudflare platform. Cloudflare has an interesting background, worth a read. For us, it is enough to understand that it acts as sort of a buffer for your site. When a visitor comes to a site using Cloudflare, they see parts of the site served up by Cloudflare (to speed things up) and part from your site (things that might change). Cloudflare also intercepts attacks on your site, and blocks many of them. You can see all of this in your Cloudflare Dashboard.…

10 Action Items for Better Site Content

Today on the Moz.com blog (one of my favorite sources of great information), there is an excellent post entitled, 8 Common Website Mistakes Revealed Via Content Audits. Not only is this an excellent article in its own right, it also provides great takeaways for action. Here's the TL;DR (and yes, I have broken out a couple of points so I have 10 rather than 8 points): 1. Be sure you think about the purpose of your page/blog post/whatever and relate it to a call to action 2. A call to action can be as big as a "Buy Now" or as small as a "Other Posts you may find useful" button. 3. Don't forget about content for returning customers, comparison shoppers, awareness (what's this all about?), as well as how to purchase your product/service. 4. Testimonials have value both in marketing and in search relevance. 5. If you market to a locality, make sure your content reflects that locality. 6. People want to know how much this costs. 7. Potential customers don't necessarily understand your jargon - either don't use it, or explain it clearly! 8. Make sure you don't create duplicate content when moving from http to https. 9. Organize your site well so both customers and search engines can make sense of it. 10. Make it easy for people to find and to buy. Don't put up barriers! And, of course, measure the results! Using Google Analytics with ecommerce tracking you can get great information not only about where your bookings/sales come from, but also about which pages are helping to close the deal. To focus more clearly on just the important things, take a look at X-Ray Analytics, which can make that job much simpler!

X-Ray Analytics

It's here! It certainly was longer in coming than I had originally expected. What is it? X-Ray Analytics. Yeah, but what's X-Ray Analytics? TL;DR: X-Ray Analytics is a password-protected web page with specific information extracted from your Google Analytics, tightly focused on providing just the most valuable information for hospitality properties an other small businesses. Available in two versions, depending on the level of detail desired. Full Description: Google Analytics is not only a huge application, but it can be confusing and intimidating for people to use, and the learning curve can be steep. That takes time away from your real job - running your business. Often people just give up. That's where X-Ray Analytics comes in. When my wife and I owned our bed and breakfast, I quickly realized that, while I was comfortable with Google Analytics, I was only using a small portion of its vast capabilities, because that was the part that provided me with useful, actionable, information. After selling the inn, and helping other small business owners, once again I found they were interested in only the same small set of information. Wouldn't it be great if you could get just those key pieces of information, when you needed them? Working with that premise, we created two versions of X-Ray Analytics. X-Ray Analytics The X-Ray Analytics version is a single, password-protected, web page. It contains a linked, 3 to 4 page dataset (depending on the information in your Analytics), which allows you to change date ranges, export data into spreadsheets, and more. Because it is outside of Google Analytics, yet uses the information from it, X-Ray Analytics can calculate things like Return on Investment (ROI) for your paid advertising. Of course, the information is organized into categories, including Traffic, Ecommerce, and Social. And it is just the…

News and Updates

An update is long overdue around About The Inn! Fortunately, there is some news to report, as well as the promise of more to come! Presenting in Norfolk, 2018 At the upcoming AIHP 2018 Summit I am slated to present a workshop entitled, "X-Ray Analytics." This will be on AIHP's "Heads in Beds" track, and "An Advanced  Skills Building Session". The description of the session is: Analytics is an enormous tool, but what do you really need to get from it? This session dives into only the most important and relevant areas of it: how to determine the value of paid listings and advertising, prioritize visitor interests, and most of all, do it without wading through all that information that may be interesting, but is not useful for you. We'll be looking at the specific parts of Analytics that gets to the most useful information, as well as looking at some tools that really help you cut to the chase! If you'll be there, please come by and say 'hello'! Updated site If you're reading this, you may have noticed a facelift on the website. One of the joys of a good content management system (CMS) like Wordpress is that it is relatively easy to make a big change. Hope you like it (it isn't actually finished yet, but it is getting there!). More to come I've been working on a project that promises better, simpler, clearer, and more valuable, information from Analytics that every innkeeper can use to inform business decisions, evaluate marketing, and measure performance. Watch for an announcement in the next few weeks!

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