Why Your Site Needs an SSL Certificate Now!

By John Eberhard

An SSL Certificate (stands for Secure Socket Layer) is the security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and your browser. This link ensures that all data that is passed between the web server and browsers remains private.

This is vital in protecting any information that people send to you via your site, such as when they fill out a form on your site, or when they buy something from your site if it is set up as an e-commerce site.

An SSL certificate changes the beginning of your website address from http: to https:.

It has been Google’s intention for the last couple years, that all sites move from http: to https:, so that any information flowing across the web is more secure.

Google Chrome and Firefox now display a little white circle with an exclamation point in it, to the left of the web address in the top address bar, for any site with an http: prefix. If you click on that white circle on Firefox, a dropdown window appears saying “Connection is Not Secure” in red. On Chrome it says “Your connection to this site is not secure” in black. Internet Explorer does not have any indication that the site is not secure.

So that’s not TOO intrusive yet, right? You have to click on the little white circle to see the message about the site being unsecure.

If sites have an SSL certificate, on the latest Chrome version, it shows a green lock icon next to the web address bar, and has the word “Secure” in green. On Firefox, it shows a green lock icon.

Discussion online indicates that Google is going to increase the intrusiveness of their “Not Secure” messages, until everyone gets an SSL certificate for their website.

Serverguy.com says that soon Chrome will start showing a “Not Secure” message, in red, right in the address bar.

I have not been able to confirm this exactly, but it is clear Google will continue pushing with more direct and intrusive warnings for sites that are not secure.

Here’s what Serverguy.com says about why your site needs an SSL cert now:

“1. Encrypts Sensitive Information

“The information you send on the Internet is passed from computer to computer to get to the destination server. Any computer in between you and the server can see your credit card numbers, usernames and passwords, and other sensitive information if it is not encrypted. When an SSL certificate is used, the information becomes unreadable to everyone except for the server you are sending the information to.

“2. Protects You From Cybercriminals

“They are clever!

“According to Cybersecurity Ventures, cybersecurity damages will cost the world over $6 trillion annually by 2021.

“It is impossible to escape the rising tide of cybercrime if your website doesn’t have an SSL certificate. They will identify weakness(es) in your network…mostly, when information is transmitted. Recently, the black eye masked people have been refining malicious strains that are specifically designed to capture data while moving between destinations. (Told you, these people are clever!)”

Just Do It

That tells us that if you have any text information being relayed to you via forms on your website, such as credit card info, user names and passwords, or any other information, it is vital that you get an SSL certificate now. ESPECIALLY for e-commerce sites, this is something you have to do now. If you don’t, pretty soon you will start to see online sales decline because people will be reluctant to give you their information if they are being told by Google Chrome or other browsers that your site is unsecure.

So what’s involved? Well you have to buy an SSL cert from your hosting company (cost between $40 and $100). It’s best not to buy it from some other company other than your hosting company because that grossly complicates the process.

Then once that cert goes live, there are several technical issues that have to be taken care of, such as links to pictures, and redirects from your old pages to the new ones (because your pages now have a NEW web address). The redirect issue is particularly important if you have done search engine optimization and have a lot of links to your site and are getting a lot of organic traffic. If you don’t do redirects you could lose all your links and all the SEO value you have built up. It is not just a matter of throwing a switch.

Critiquing Your Own Website

By John Eberhard

I’ve written two articles recently on how to make a response-driven website, i.e. a website that gets people to respond to you. So this article could be considered the third in that series, as I am going to show you how to critique your own website based on how well it gets people to respond.

  1. Is the site mobile friendly? This is one of the first things to check. You can check that here:
    https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly?utm_source=mft&utm_medium=redirect&utm_campaign=mft-redirect
    Over half of all web visitors today are visiting your site on a mobile phone, and if the site isn’t mobile friendly, then it will be displayed tiny on a mobile and the visitor won’t be able to read it. That would mean that half the visitors to your site can’t use it.
  2. Does the site have a prominent phone number? The best place to put this is in the upper right on every page.
  3. Does the site have forms for visitors to respond? If not you are missing out on possible responses. Some people would rather fill out a form than pick up the phone, particularly if they are browsing late at night.
  4. Does the site have a good call to action? You have to tell people what to do. But some calls to action are better than others. “Contact us” is weak. Better to say “Get a free inspection,” or “Get a free consultation.”
  5. Does your home page scroll down forever, with 6 or more items on it? Consider simplifying the home page. It’s kind of considered chic today to have a ton of things on the home page and the visitor has to scroll forever. Try focusing the content on the home page on getting someone to respond to your offer.
  6. Is the site mainly all text with few pictures? Pictures can add reality on what you are talking about and can break up big long blocks of text (which are hard for the reader to confront). And today you need to make those pictures BIG for more impact. No tiny pictures.
  7. Is the text all about you? Try focusing the text on your reader – his problems, his needs. There is an old maxim in marketing that you focus on benefits rather than features. In other words, make it about the prospect, what he’ll get out of buying your product or service, not just on the product’s features, and not just all about you.
  8. Does the main headline on your home page speak to the visitor, his problems or needs, does it tell what you do, and does it contain any keywords? Headlines of “Welcome” or “We’re the Best” are weak.

If you need help critiquing your site or help fixing up things you found, give us a call.

A Conversion-Focused Website, Part 2

By John Eberhard

In my last article I introduced the concept of a conversion-focused website, with a conversion being defined as someone who responds to you, either by filling out a form or calling you. You could also call this a response-focused website. The overall idea is that you want to get a decent percentage of people visiting the site to respond.

So how do you do that? How do you get more people to respond on a website, rather than just wander around the site and then leave?

There are typically two types of conversions/responses that we are going for:

  1. One is a response that will lead fairly quickly to a sales process, or to an actual online sale.
  2. The other is a response where the person is giving you his email address, in exchange for some type of content that is available only when the person gives you his email.

Lead Response: The first type of response is a lead or an online sale. With companies that are doing lead generation, there are a couple of different forms this can take. For example, with a healthcare practice like a plastic surgeon or dentist, you are often going for a consultation, whether free or paid. With a contractor, you are often offering an inspection of their home, or a free estimate or something like that.

Notice that with these types of leads, the person knows he will be interacting with a live person in a meeting either on the phone or in person.

List Building: In this case we are building the email list, usually by offering some kind of content (sometimes called a “lead magnet”) where the person has to give you his email before he gets it. This is very important because an in-house email mailing list of people who have responded to you is a very valuable item in your marketing tool chest.

The key here is to come up with some type of offering that will be valuable enough to your target public, in order for them to give you their email address. This is not as easy as it used to be because most people have signed up for various things, then got inundated with email, then had to go through a big unsubscribe process with a bunch of companies. So they are more reluctant to sign up for things than they used to be.

You have to come up with something that is very appealing to your target public, usually that speaks directly to their “pain points,” i.e. their pains or problems, that buying your product or service would solve. This means you have to have a good idea of exactly who your target public is for your product or service, and what their pains or problems are. A helpful step here can be to sit down and work out a customer “avatar” for your target public – who they are, what they are like, where they hang out, what problems they have, etc. It is a common error in business to assume that your target public is “everyone,” and thus never work out how to target the right people who will buy your product or service.

Some possible types of lead magnets you could create to build your email list could include:

  1. A “white paper” or special report about the target public’s pain points and how these can be solved. These are usually 1,500-2,000 words long, are mocked up as a 2-4 page piece, and downloadable as a PDF.
  2. A webinar about the target public’s pain points and how these can be solved
  3. A video or series of videos that the person can only view if he gives you his email
  4. A quiz that the person takes and has to give you his email address to get the results
  5. A library of templates of use to the target public
  6. A demo version of software (if software is the final product being sold)
  7. A cheat sheet that shows solutions to something they are interested in
  8. A toolkit or resource list
  9. An assessment, test, or “grader”

A Response-Focused Site

Many sites today are not set up to be response-focused. And so they do not get many responses. Many business owners with this type of website may begin to feel that the site is worthless to them or that it is impossible to get responses from a website.

This is not true. It is totally possible to get a website to produce volume responses, both leads and names added to the email list. But to do this you have to have multiple offerings on the site for both lead generation and building the email list. And you have to have a good idea of who your target public is, and you have to craft offerings that will appeal to that target public.

A Conversion Focused Website

By John Eberhard

At Real Web Marketing Inc., one of our primary services we have delivered since the beginning has been web design. And we feel we are very good at it.

Our approach or our philosophy on creating websites, is creating conversion-focused websites.

So what is a conversion-focused website? Well a conversion in this case is defined as someone who visits your website and then contacts you in some way, either by filling out a form on the website or by calling you.

So a conversion-focused website is one that is set up in order to maximize the number of visitors coming to that website, and getting the most number possible to become a conversion.

How About Your Website?

So is your website a conversion-focused website? Chances are that unless you have worked with a marketing consultant who has this approach, that it is not. But really the main question you need to ask yourself, is whether or not your website produces leads for your business on a regular basis.

If the website does not produce leads on a regular basis, you may have started to consider the site to be just a cost (hosting, re-design every few years) instead of being a marketing asset.

But a website CAN be made into something that can produce regular conversions for your company.

How Do You Do It?

This article is a short answer to that question of course, but the basics for creating a conversion-focused website include:

  1. The site has all the basic functionality in. In other words, it works, has adequate security so it doesn’t get hacked, it has decent loading time, and is error-free.
  2. The site looks modern, doesn’t look 10 years old. Good design.
  3. The site has Google Analytics on it so you know how many visitors are coming to it every week, and what pages they are going to.
  4. The site is set up to be mobile friendly, so it displays correctly to over half of the people who are visiting your site, who are doing it on a mobile phone.
  5. You have clearly identified your target public for this product or service, and the site is set up to appeal to that public.
  6. The site has quality content.
  7. The site has a phone number prominently displayed and has a contact form.
  8. The site has one or more items on it that are referred to as “lead magnets.” These are items such as a free download where the visitor has to give his name and email to get it. This builds your email list. If you have more than one product or service, you may need more than one lead magnet.
  9. Once a person fills out one of the forms on your site such as on the contact page or for one of the lead magnets you have, they receive a series of pre-prepared emails that give them more info on and sell your product or service. They also go onto your list to receive your email newsletter.

Lead magnet download items are typically a report of some kind, that speaks specifically to the “pain points” that your target public has, i.e. problems he experiences that are solved by your product or service. The lead magnet can also speak to the benefits he would receive from getting your product or service, but should not just be a list of features.

Lead magnets, by their topic, will attract people who are the right public for your product or service. Then, you have their email and so can communicate with them repeatedly until they are actually ready to buy your product or service.

Summary

So the moral of the story is that your site CAN be set up to get conversions, get leads and make money for your business. But it has to be set up as a conversion-focused site.

My SEO Journey, Part 5

By John Eberhard

I recently started doing heavy research on SEO (search engine optimization) again. The SEO landscape seems to change significantly once every 1-2 years, or even more often than that. A couple weeks ago I wrote Part 4, and that continued the saga of this story which began with Parts 1-3 in January 2016.

Parts 1-3 | Part 4

Links and Link Diversity

Every source that I have seen across the web that lists out the various factors that improve your search engine ranking for any given keyword, includes near the top of the list, the number of links to your site coming from other sites. And in the last 2-3 years, the focus has grown to also include the quality of those links.

Google doesn’t want you to do anything proactively to create links to your website. They have been preaching that same sermon for 4-5 years now, that you should just put up good quality content, and people will naturally link to it.

I have written numerous times before about how this Google sermon is flawed. They tell you this because it is better for them. If you proactively create links to your website, it makes the job harder for them. But if you believe them and just put up quality content, but don’t do anything else to promote that content or create links to it, for most small to medium sized businesses, exactly nothing will happen. No one will link to it and it won’t improve your rankings.

There is also the fact that for most topics, there is a saturation point that is happening now, because there is so much content on the web, it is getting harder and harder to be noticed.

And we have the fact that for certain types of businesses, what are they going to write about that will get people to link to them? Let’s say a plumber writes articles about plumbing? Who is going to care and who is going to link to them?

Anyway, despite the controversy on link building, most SEO consultants would agree that you have to do something to build up links.

One factor that I have discovered to be extremely important in link building is a concept called “link diversity.” What this means is that Google or other search engines, when someone does a search for a specific business, likes to display a variety of different types of listings related to that business.

What do I mean by different types of listings? This is a very important question. It means that there are different types of things Google or other search engines can display, and they don’t want to give you several pages where all the listings are the same type of thing. Let’s look at some of the types of listings Google could display:

  1. The business’s primary website.
  2. Microsites. These are sites that a business will put up, that are related to one aspect of their business, or perhaps one of their locations if they have multiple locations. Microsites are usually done for SEO purposes.
  3. Press releases. There are numerous online press release sites and if you post releases on these sites, your release should have a link back to your primary website.
  4. Business listings sites, such as Google My Business, MerchantCircle.com, Manta.com, Yelp.com, Hotfrog.com, InsiderPages.com, etc.
  5. Social media sites. This is where you have listings for your business on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.
  6. Newspaper and magazine sites. This is different from press release sites, which will usually post your release in full without much or any editing. An actual newspaper or magazine will have reporters that could write an article about your company. If they do these will rank very well and the listing will usually stay around forever.
  7. Listings on professional membership organization sites.
  8. Review sites, where customer/clients can write reviews on their experience with a company.
  9. Interview sites. This is a relatively new category of site where the whole purpose is to interview company owners and executives.
  10. Employee review sites. These are sites where employees or past employees can write reviews on their employment experience. Unfortunately these sites mostly contain reviews where past employees complain.
  11. Videos from YouTube or other video sharing sites.

So link diversity means that if a business has 55 press releases that have been posted online, Google will not display all 55 in the first two pages of results. They will display perhaps 2 or 3 in the top two pages of results. They will show perhaps 4-5 of your primary social media listings on the first two pages, but not more than that. And if you have 25 microsites, they will not all appear in the first two pages of results. They will show 2-3.

Now bear in mind that if you have 55 press releases that have been posted online, and 10 social media accounts, and 25 microsites, those will count as links to your site.

But with link diversity, we are talking about what Google will show near the top of the listings, say in the top two pages. And their algorithm somehow categorizes the different types of listings, and dictates that they display a variety of different types of listings, not all or mostly one type.

So this concept becomes very important in a reputation management situation, where a company is trying to move one or several negative listings about them, down in the rankings, or at least off of page one. It tells you that you need a multi-pronged program of creating links to your site. You can’t just do one thing because that won’t add enough positive stuff on page one to bump those negative listings off. You might see a lot of those links down on pages 4-8, but that won’t help you with page one. So a multi-pronged approach is the answer to link diversity.

My SEO Journey, Part 4

By John Eberhard

In January 2016 I published a 3-part article series on SEO and what I had discovered doing an extensive amount of research on what is effective in search engine optimization (SEO).

I have just completed another major research project on SEO in order to update my service offering to clients, i.e. what I do for clients on SEO.

The point in this series and in this new article is that SEO is constantly changing, largely because Google keeps making significant changes to their search algorithm, that greatly affect SEO.

Competitor Research

I started doing an analysis of the SEO of the competitors of one of my top clients. This started by entering our top keywords and see which competitor sites came up high in the search results. I then looked at their links, the number of links they had, and what sites were linking to them.

If these competitors were coming up high in the search results for important keywords, I concluded that that meant that the links they had were important. So I could work to get my client to be linked to from those same sites, thus gaining high quality links in the process.

By researching this further, I found that one SEO expert recommended doing this. He called it “stealing links,” but of course it is not really stealing anything. It is just observing what your competition is doing and copying what works. This expert also advised to make a list of competitor links, evaluating them according to high Page Authority and high Domain Authority. There is a tool available from Moz, a browser plugin that adds a strip at the top that shows Page Authority and Domain Authority for any page you pull up (it works only in Chrome).

So the idea is:

  • Take links that your competition has, which have high Page Authority and Domain Authority
  • Go to those sites and figure out how the competitor got a link on that site
  • Do what is necessary to get that site to link to your site (This may require simply listing your site there if it is a business listing site, posting a press release there if it is a press release site, etc. Basically you have to figure out what to do to get a link, based on the type of link your competitor has.)

This whole action is based on the idea that the quality of links is more important than the quantity of links. So with this type of action we are zeroing in on high quality links that our competition has, and getting our site linked to from those sites as well.

HTTPS

When a site has an https:// at the beginning of its web address, rather than http://, that means that the site is encrypted with something called an SSL certificate. That means that hackers can’t intercept your data. This is something you buy from your hosting company and it typically costs between $60 and $150 per year.

According to an ebook by Hubspot entitled “18 SEO Myths You Should Leave Behind in 2017”:

“In August of 2014, Google announced that it had started using HTTPS as a signal in their ranking algorithms. This means that if your website still relies on standard HTTP, your rankings could suffer as a result.

“This time last year, HTTPS remained a “lightweight” signal, affecting fewer than 1% of global queries (according to Google). It wasn’t time to freak out just yet. But in September 2016, Google announced that Chrome will flag HTTP pages as potentially unsafe starting in January 2017. This is part of a long-term plan to mark all HTTP sites as non-secure. So if you haven’t thought about encrypting your site, now’s the time to get moving.”

So this is now an important thing to consider for your website, especially for e-commerce websites that handle credit card info or other sensitive information.

Part 5 coming soon.