Google’s Changes and How They Affect You

It’s possible you may have noticed some websites looking a little differently in recent months. Maybe you’ve encountered some unexpected “not secure” messages. Google released some new changes that impact a large number of websites across the World Wide Web.

Google has been working to enforce security on sites, particularly those with any kind of input or form field. This security is achieved through a secure sockets layer (SSL) certificate. Sites utilizing an SSL certificate are fairly easy to spot. The website address begins with “https://” or you will see a closed lock icon when you look at the browser address bar.

Example of a secured site

“Not Secure” Messages

To enforce this change, Chrome browsers are beginning to show a “Not Secure” message by the website address when visiting any site without an SSL. Other browsers may give similar messages, particularly when any code for the site, which you probably won’t see, utilizes out-of-date web addresses. For example, if you use a third-party system or site to collect emails or customer info, you will want to verify your collection form is still working correctly. If the third-party site was not utilizing https before, they likely are now, and their change may require an update on your site.

A notification from Google to a registered webmaster about the upcoming changes to display messages on unsecured sites.

How a site’s security, or lack thereof, is displayed is dependent on the browser and its version. Though, we can expect to see these messages become more prevalent and prominent.

Example of an unsecured site

Search Engine Results

If you do not have an SSL certificate installed on your website, the security concern for visitors to your site is not the only downfall. It also negatively impacts your search engine optimization (SEO) through Google. SEO determines where you show up in search results. If your site has not been secured, you will be knocked down the list below secured sites. This change is not limited to Chrome browsers, and given the vast majority of the population uses Google for their searches, this impact could be huge.

Getting an SSL

There are several options for SSL certificates, and they certainly can be confusing. Some web hosting companies will try to upsell you on services you may not need to install an SSL. Your options may also be limited by your web hosting company.

Geekflare.com has outlined a variety of options to secure your site that are either free or free for a trial period. You can read about them at https://geekflare.com/free-ssl-tls-certificate/ For smaller and some medium-sized businesses, many of these options may be sufficient, so take a look. Try not to be overwhelmed by terms you don’t know. The writer outlines acronyms at the beginning to help.

As mentioned before, your web hosting company may not support some of these options. A quick search with your hosting company name and the method of security should yield an answer. You can also contact your host directly.

For companies utilizing subdomains, you may need something called a wildcard SSL to secure your subdomains. This is when you have a word or name and period before your regular domain. For instance, a regular domain may look like domain.com, but a subdomain may look like shop.domain.com or blog.domain.com.

The vast majority of businesses use shared hosting for their websites. This used to cause an issue for those trying to install SSL certificates. In the past, SSL certificates required dedicated IP addresses, which was an additional expense. There are benefits to having a dedicated IP for very large businesses with a lot of traffic and vital email correspondence handled through their web host. However, most small and mid-sized businesses should not need one. If your hosting company requires a dedicated IP – especially at a steep price – it may be time to shop around. Be aware that the cheapest option is not always the best. Look for a hosting company that offers the security you need as well as the bandwidth you need. Websites hosted on overcrowded shared servers are at greater risk for downtime, which could cost you sales.

Simple SEO Tips

Depending on who you ask, there are a lot of different theories as how to improve the SEO for your website. To start, a well-structured site with quality content will do a lot to boost your ranking. After all, we all want to be found on the first page of search results. Here are a few other simple tips to help you on your way.

  1. Security

    As previously discussed, get an SSL certificate to secure your site. Google, the largest search engine in America, enforces security by penalizing those without it.

  2. Mobile Friendly

    Make sure your site is mobile friendly. It doesn’t count if your site just shrinks down to the smaller screen size. Content needs to adjust so it is easy to use and read. No one should have to zoom into a webpage on their phone just to click a link or read the text. This is another factor Google emphasizes.

  3. Meta Data

    Use keywords and meta descriptions, otherwise known as meta data. If using a content management system or some kind of website builder – think WordPress, Wix or similar – they often include fields for these or have plugins available to add these.

    Keywords can actually be short phrases, more than just one word, as long as they are relevant. For example, instead of maintenance or cars, you could say preventative vehicle maintenance, if that is what the page is about.

    Meta descriptions show up under the link in search results, so they need to describe what each page is about in a way that entices people to click your link. Keep it relevant to the content of the page.