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 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!

AMP Up – Speedier mobile pages (and maybe do better in search)

If you have been tuned in to the search (Google) world, you'll know that, for the past several months there has been a lot of talk about AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) for your web site. If you're like me, you will have realized that AMP was something you'll need to do, but, like most technology, it may need to "settle" a bit before you want to implement it. However, it is important to not let it get away (especially if your busy season is - or is about to be - ramping up for good weather), as it promises not only a faster (hence better, to Google) mobile user experience, but also there are indications that Google will give AMP sites priority in mobile search results. That would do it for me! The next section is a brief explanation of AMP. If you just want to know what to do about it, the TL;DR steps are in the section below it. What is AMP all about? For once, the basic concept is extremely simple. If your website is properly tagged (AMP has special html tags), the mobile version of your site is stored on an AMP server, which will serve it directly, at high speed, to the visitor. That takes traffic off your web server, but also provides an extremely fast loading of the site for the user. Note that, at present, AMP pages appear when the visitor clicks on your links in search results from a mobile device. Then, POW! the page appears instantly. Add to that the possibility (or probability) that this will benefit your placement in mobile search results, and the only question is whether it is difficult to set up. Fortunately, the answer is "no". In fact, if you have a WordPress site, it is extremely…

Please Don’t Look At My Website

"Please don't look at my website," said no B&B owner, ever. But if you take a stroll through the garden of delights found by searching on B&B's, you wouldn't think that was the case. Some look like they were built by the neighbor's child back in the 1990's, while others have been updated, but have only made it to the 2005 era. But looking around you will find that there appears to be a correlation between the most successful properties and the professionalism and quality of their websites. Hmmm. Could it be a trend? What makes a website effective? And why is an effective website important (do you really have to ask?)? What should you consider when deciding on hosting and building a new website? To some extent this discussion is prompted by the announcement from BBOnline, discussed in detail in the recent blog post from our friends at Acorn Internet Services, that BBOnline will stop supporting hosted websites May 1. Apparently the sites will remain active, but they can no longer be updated(!). Clearly some people will need to find a new home for their websites! How High Quality Should Your Website Be? Before embarking on a discussion of the considerations when choosing a new host and design for a website, let's briefly consider quality (and yes, that usually means expense). Think about this: how many of your guests tell you they found you online? At least 90%, right? OK, now of those 90+% of your guests, how many say something like, "Nope, I never saw your website."? None, right? Of course - they all saw your website. I know, and all the guests said how great it was, so why should you get a new site design? After all, this one was just re-designed, oh, two or three…