iMarket Solutions Blog : Posts Tagged ‘https’

Frequently Asked SSL Questions

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

We’ve written before about the rise of secure protocols, and their increasing prevalence across the internet. This is largely due to the actions of Google, which has a vested interest in ensuring that the sites they index are as trustworthy as possible. Still, this is a deep topic, and our previous writings may have left some remaining doubt as to the benefits of migrating your website to HTTPS. If that’s the case, have a look at the following reasons why it is in your best interest to make sure that your site is using an HTTPS configuration.

How Does HTTPS Differ from HTTP?

HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. It is the method that the website uses to organize and display data between itself and any computers that may be connected to it. While this is a fast and easy method for retrieving and displaying data for those visiting your site, it does little to secure the site itself against malicious attacks.

Man-in-the-middle attacks are common on HTTP sites, as they allow someone to intercept the data from your site and display something of the attacker’s choosing to your customers. Usually, it’s an exact copy of the unsecured site with all information entered collected by the attacker. You can imagine what kind of havoc this could cause with sites that handle confidential information like medical records and finances.

HTTPS is Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, which adds an extra layer of security encryption to help ensure that your customers are looking at the correct website. When someone navigates to an HTTPS address, the browser retrieves a special SSL (Secure Socket Layer) security certificate. Think of this as a kind of additional key needed to display the information. This certificate identifies the site to both Google and the browser as a trusted site. When a user is on an HTTPS site, they can be sure that:

  1. They are seeing the authentic site (E.G. their actual banking site instead of an imposter)
  2. Any information entered on that site will be encrypted for an added layer of security.

Does HTTPS Slow Down My Website?

It has been a longstanding myth that making use of HTTPS instead of HTTP is inconvenient because it slows down the website. Many webmasters are afraid to migrate to an HTTPS, for fear that the added page loading time will put off potential customers. Rest assured, though, this is not the case when the migration is done correctly.

In our in-house testing of roughly 150 SSL migrations, using Pingdom and GMetrix, websites experienced an average of 0.14 seconds faster load time after implementing HTTPS than they did before. So, instead of slowing down those sites, migrating to HTTPS actually made them load faster. Now, 0.14 seconds is so short a time as to be unnoticeable to humans. Google will most certainly notice, though, and that will reflect positively on your site.

Is it Really Worth the Effort to Migrate to HTTPS?

Making the switch to HTTPS can be an involved process, one that is also typically confusing to those who have never done it before. Even with all of the above benefits, some people just don’t want to go to the trouble of getting an SSL certificate to make their site more secure if it means jumping through that many hoops.

Here’s the thing, though: From an SEO standpoint, HTTPS helps you in more ways than one.

Remember: Google wants sites to start using HTTPS. For the past few years, it has even said that it uses SSL certification as a ranking factor for its websites. So, if you use HTTPS for your site, you are both more secure and more likely to rank better in Google’s search results than your competitors who don’t use it. With that in mind, if you haven’t yet migrated your site to HTTPS, we highly recommend that you consult with a trusted professional who can do that for you.

With all of this said, it’s easy to see why every single client who signs up with iMarket Solutions is given an SSL Certificate!  Contact us today to learn more. 

Continue Reading

Google to Prioritize Security for Local B2C Websites

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Have you ever wondered why some websites start with HTTP, while others start with HTTPS? Or perhaps you’ve seen an indication in your browser that the website you’re viewing is “Secure” while others are not?

In their infancy, security protocols were often used on sites that collected data sensitive to user privacy. Think along the lines of credit card information, social security numbers and even mailing addresses.

In years since, security protocols have grown in popularity and are now used in many different verticals including HVAC, plumbing and electrical industries. One player you can thank for the bulk of this change is Google.

Along with changing the way that your website looks within a browser, having a secure website also changes the way that search engines look at your website. You may have heard that search engines prefer sites that are secure. This is correct.

Starting in 2014, Google began prioritizing security in efforts to serve their audience with a better user experience. In 2017 the Google Chrome browser began labeling sites without security protocols as “Not Secure” within the URL display. More and more, sites that offer a secure browsing experience are seeing increases in their rankings and more competitive advantages in organic search. With strong indications that security is a top priority in the search industry, it’s imperative that local businesses keep this in mind as they build out their digital strategies moving into 2018.

 

What are the Benefits of Having a Secure Website?

The long and the short of it is: having a secure website better protects your users from malicious attacks and keeps the layers of communication between your website and its users safe.

Outside of this benefit, it’s also a factor that search engines look at when comparing the hundreds and thousands of options available for any given search query. User security is a benefit that search engines look for when pitting one website against another. With the end goal of providing end users with the best experience possible, search engines have embraced security protocols and their ability to serve a better user experience.

While there are hundreds of different factors that play into search engine ranking algorithms, having a secure website could provide you with a competitive advantage. With heavy hitters doing all they can to rank in a competitive landscape, adding security to your website is one piece of the puzzle that you don’t want to miss.

 

What is HTTPS?

Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) defines the way that computer systems are able to standardize and communicate with data found on the World Wide Web. Without getting into the nitty-gritty details, Hypertext Transfer Protocol functions as the base layer that website browsers use to add human context to the numbers and code behind the curtain.

Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) encrypts data during the communication process so that it cannot be modified, corrupted or tracked without detection. This added layer of protection authenticates the identity of the website, ensuring that the user is being communicated the right data, protecting against man-in-the-middle attacks which prompt users to share information with the wrong party.

 

Should I Have Transferred to a Secure Website Already?

It depends. As mentioned in the beginning of this post, website security was born out of a necessity to safely access and share sensitive information on the World Wide Web. For verticals that did not require the transfer of sensitive information, the migration to a secure protocol could prove to be costly, time-consuming, and could even lead to drops in organic visibility if done incorrectly. For most businesses, the juice was not worth the squeeze.

In this time, many websites had to bear the burden of shaky keyword fluctuations as search engines tested and perfected the way that website security fit into their ranking algorithms. With a change made to the application layer of a website, search engines were not as readily capable of identifying the history of a site or its pages and struggled to assign authority that had built up over time. If you were to migrate your site to HTTPS during this time, it was as if you had launched a brand new domain! For webmasters around the world who had taken the time to develop longstanding authority in their niche, this was a very difficult hurdle.

At this point, however, search engines have fine-tuned their algorithms, and can now recognize past authority and assign it to the newly launched protocol. Website security has withheld the test of time and is a smart addition to building the trust value of your site.

If you haven’t previously considered migrating to a secure application protocol, now is the time.

 

What Can I Expect When I Transfer to a Secure Website?

The process for adding a layer of protection to your website security has evolved, and it’s now easier than ever to apply a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) into your website application. When migrating to HTTPS, there are many different factors that must be looked after in order to ensure that the transition is smooth and will derive the greatest benefit for search engine optimization and end users alike.

For all intents and purposes, one of the most important considerations is that a user can quickly and easily access your site, even if they use the old URL. When transferring to HTTPS, it’s imperative that you set up redirects so that search engines and users will be directed to the correct page.

Along with this step, there are also many different checkpoints that need to be addressed to provide the highest level of user experience, and to avoid any of the technical pitfalls that may hurt organic performance. Your digital provider must consider the best SSL certificate for your domain’s needs, how the hosting of your domain impacts the migration, where images are stored, whether website tracking is appropriately updated and even how external links to the old domain will be handled for streamlined performance.

When choosing a partner to help migrate your website to a secure protocol, make sure that they have set an action plan for retaining and tracking organic performance. Without the appropriate quality checkpoints in place, you may not catch a small error – making a switch for SEO benefit moot. But when done correctly, migrating your website to a secure protocol can prove to have strong benefits in user experience and organic search. To learn more, reach out to iMarket Solutions today!

Have questions about the organic performance of your HVAC, plumbing or electrical website? Reach out to iMarket Solutions today to learn more!

Continue Reading

The Google Algorithm Frenzy:
Pigeon, HTTPS, Authorship and MUCH More

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

On July 3, 2014, Matt Cutts declared to the search community that he was going on leave for 4 months, all the way through October. Upon hearing the news, I had a big sigh of relief. For you see, I thought to myself, “There is absolutely no way Google is going to launch any algorithms or make any significant updates to their existing algorithms while the face of their search quality department was on leave of absence.” I mean, who are SEO’s going to yell at and blame for all of their woes while he is away, right? John Mueller, a Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, tends to navigate Google’s help forums and host Google Hangouts, giving advice on how to build a website that’s both user and search engine friendly, would be my first guess – but is he adequately prepared to fend off the masses of SEO questions ahead?

Screenshot of Matt Cutts stating he is going on leave in 2014

A screenshot of Matt Cutts stating he is going on leave in 2014.

 

Google Algorithms Launched and Updated in 2014

Well, it turns out that Google had no plans for holding back during Matt’s absence. In fact, it seems they’ve decided to turn up the heat a bit. They’ve made quite a splash with announcing two new algorithms, and there have even been a couple periods of unconfirmed algorithm changes hitting the streets, causing significant SERP (search engine ranking placement) changes. But before we get into the more recent algorithms, let’s first have a quick look at the algorithms that Google has acknowledged have launched or been updated, prior to Matt skipping town.

Page Layout Algorithm #3

Release Date: February 6, 2014

The Page Layout algorithm (originally referred to as, “Ads above the Fold” algorithm) was first launched on January 19, 2012, and then updated in October 9, 2012. Google believes having too much ad-space / advertisements above the page fold of a website provides for a bad user experience, so the algorithm aims to hinder the rankings of websites that are dominantly ad heavy. In trying to find what impact the Page Layout algorithm had on our 130+ HVAC, plumbing and electrical clients, I found that this algorithm negatively impacted any thin content pages. And I also suspected that it treated having too many images above the page fold the same as having too many advertisements. Moral of the story is to try and have as much unique and valuable content above the page fold as possible instead of having too many images or ad’s.

Unnamed Update

Release Date: March 24, 2014

Although it was never publicly confirmed by Google, there was a major shake-up in the SERPs around March 24 – 25. According to Moz.com’s documented Google Algorithm Change History, SEO’s speculated this was the softer Panda update Matt Cutts confirmed at SMX West 2014 would be rolling out relatively soon.

Payday Loan 2.0

Release Date: May 16, 2014

The Payday Loan algorithm was first introduced by Matt Cutts via Twitter on June 11, 2013. In his tweet, he suggested webmasters watch a video he posted previously in which he discussed some upcoming changes to Google’s search. In the video, he hints that the algorithm is geared towards cleaning up search results that tend to be more aggressively spammed than others, such as payday loan, Viagra, gambling, pornographic and other like keywords.

Panda 4.0

Release Date: May 19, 2014

In what’s now becoming a more common thing, Google is releasing significant algorithm updates within short periods of one another, in what I believe is a tactic to help make it more difficult for SEO’s (such as myself) from reverse engineering the exact metrics their algorithms target. Apparently Matt Cutts stated the algorithm started rolling out on May 20, but the SERP data Moz.com collects indicated it may have started a day earlier.

Payday Loan 3.0

Release Date: June 12, 2014

Not even a month after the 2nd confirmed update for the Payday Loan algorithm, we received word from Google that they launched yet another update. According to Barry Schwartz’s Search Engine Roundtable article, Matt Cutts stated that the 2.0 update not only helped to better prevent negative SEO (the black hat art of pointing spammy, irrelevant and/or low quality backlinks to competitor sites), but it also specifically targeted spammy websites. Whereas this 3rd update more so targeted spammy search queries, which is consistent with what the initial algorithm did.

Authorship Photo Dropped

Release Date: June 28, 2014

This is more so a SERP display change rather than an algorithm update, but it is significant enough of a change to have earned a spot on this list. John Mueller announced on June 25, 2014 that Google would no longer be showing authorship photos within their search results. Many webmasters, including myself, noticed in the days and weeks prior to the official announcement that there were some rare instances of authorship photos disappearing, but I don’t believe any of us would have believed Google would have removed the authorship photos entirely. Nevertheless, Google has opted to leave the authorship name, which links directly to the Google+ profile for the respective authors, as well as the date of when the blog article was published. You can see an example of this in the screenshot below showing my authorship info for my blog post on keyword cannibalization.

Screenshot of the authorship search result for my post on keyword cannibalization

A screenshot of the authorship search result for my post on keyword cannibalization.

 

Above I discussed new, updated and unconfirmed algorithm tweaks that occurred prior to Matt Cutts going on leave.

Below are the algorithm’s which launched after Matt Cutts going on leave.

Pigeon Algorithm

Release Date: July 24, 2014

This update was actually never officially named internally at Google. So in an attempt to make it easier for SEO’s to reference it later, Search Engine Land (SEL) was, as usual, quick to dub this algorithm – they decided on “Pigeon.” Keeping with the theme of P-named algorithm updates (i.e. Panda, Penguin, Payday Loan, Page Layout), SEL felt this name was appropriate because this algorithm specifically targeted local search results, and “Pigeons tend to fly back home.”

Now getting to the good stuff – what we do know about this algorithm is that it is said to be the 2nd largest algorithm to be released since the Venice update. Barry Schwartz also claims Google told him that the new local-focused algorithm particularly made local SERP ranking signals similar to that of organic SERP ranking signals, and that it improved their ability to better interpret and factor in both distance and location for improved local ranking. To me, this suggests that websites will have a harder time ranking locally for cities in which they are no physically located within.

MozCast’s Google SERP Feature Graph, a tool that shows changes in Google SERP results, indicated a local SERP drop from 19.3% to a low of 9.2% within the days following the algorithm’s launch and a slight increase of knowledge graph results, from 26.7% to 28%.

Screenshot of the MozCast Google SERPs Feature Graph tool showing the impact of the Pigeon algorithm update

A screenshot of the MozCast Google SERPs Feature Graph tool showing the impact of the Pigeon algorithm update.

 

The commonality spotted by many SEO’s in the industry is that there are many keyword phrases which used to show a local map pack, but no longer do (Mike Blumenthal, a well-known local SEO expert, noticed that real estate type keywords in particular seemed to be the ones that were most significantly impacted, which he indicates in his comment here). Moz’s graph is showing that local search results seem to have regulated back to normal around July 29, 2014 – Barry Schwartz reached out to Google to confirm if we were already seeing a fresh of the Pigeon algorithm, but they would not confirm nor deny.

HTTPS / SSL Algorithm

Release Date: August 6, 2014

During my trip to SMX West this year, Matt Cutts stated that he would love to see websites that utilize SSL certificates (i.e. https://www.wellsfargo.com; note the HTTPS vs. HTTP, which means this website is secured) receive a ranking boost for providing a secured website to their websites visitors. Well, it seems he knew more than he was letting on – five months later and Google officially announced that they now provide a minor ranking boost to websites that have SSL certificates installed. They also suggested that they might increase the weight of this ranking signal in the future.

If this post has been informative for you, feel free to share it with your friends.

[socialize service=’twitter’]     [socialize service=’facebook’]     [socialize service=’googleplus’]     [socialize service=’linkedin’]

[clear-line]

 

The Google Algorithms Keep Coming, and Coming, and Coming ….

As you can see, we SEO’s have our hands full. There are only a handful of algorithms (out of the hundreds of updates Google makes per year) that are significant enough for Google to publicly announce, but it truly is a never ending battle. One day you might have 1st page rankings for “Denver Plumber”, the next week you could fall off to the 5th page or even farther, and then you could find yourself ranking higher in the weeks following.

My seven plus years of SEO experience has taught me that Google’s SERPs are in a never-ending state of flux, but if you build and optimize your website to the highest standard, you tend to not have to worry about any sort of negative impact from these frequent updates. And this holds true with the majority of client’s here at iMarket Solutions. We only utilize white hat methodologies, and we stay up to date on Google’s quality guidelines and the algorithms they do publicly announce, so we know exactly what Google prefers in a website.

We and our methodologies aren’t perfect; we have had some clients’ who have seen negative results from algorithmic changes, but I’ve learned to accept that as collateral damage, if you will. It’s simply impossible to build a perfect website and marketing campaign, especially with so many great minds and websites competing with our own, and to not expect some sort of backwards movement at one time or another. The important thing to do in those situations though, which is pretty much a favorite past-time of ours, is to review ranking, Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools data to try and determine which pages or strategies an algorithm has targeted on a site, and to use that knowledge to better your methodologies as a whole. This is what iMarket Solutions does on a weekly basis for our clients’, and a large reason as to why we are capable of building such successful SEO campaigns.

 

If you are in the HVAC, electrical, plumbing or home remodeling industry and want a website that dominates organic search results, feel free to give us a call – (800) 825-7935!

 And if you have any questions or comments regarding this blog post, I’d love to hear about them below.

Continue Reading