Technology keeps on moving forward at a rapid pace both in hardware and software. You either stay with it or you try and struggle by with the technology of yesteryear. That's not a good way to do business......and eventually you won't have a business! So this month our old Dedicated Server in London (circa 2014) was finally retired and replaced with a powerhouse system to keep us at the forefront of the industry.
So what's changed?
Our new server is an Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E5-2450 0 @ 2.10GHz with 32 CPUs and 20 MB SmartCache. Among it's capabilities are Intel® Turbo Boost Technology, Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology, and Intel® Virtualization Technology (VT-x).
As per our previous server, we have 32GB RAM.....but of a much later generation for faster speeds.
This is the biggest game-changer of the lot because our old 1TB SATA drive has been replaced by 6 x 480GB Solid State Drives (SSD).
SSD Drives use flash memory to deliver vastly superior performance and durability over traditional SATA hard drives. Because without moving parts to slow your computer down, SSD's offer instant-load performance, and faster application loading times. Plus, they're more durable! With traditional hard drives, the continuous motion generated by small moving parts creates heat, which is a leading factor in hard drive failure. SSD is what you actually have in your mobile phone, and you know how much quicker that is compared to your nomal desktop PC.
The reason you don't have SSD drives in your home computer is price. They are very expensive.....and we've got SIX of them.
RAID 6 Array
The 6 SSD drives are set up in a RAID 6 configuration. This means that the system can continue to run after two disks fail, and lost data can be automatically reconstructed by the IOA after a disk failure. Also, two failed disk units can be replaced without stopping the system. I certainly don't want to test this aspect, but it's nice to have the peace of mind that goes with it.
To summarise, we want to offer the best hosting experience possible. This massive technology upgrade ensures that we can continue to provide high spec servers populated with a very low number of clients, delivering maximum CPU and memory allocation. This is the critical factor NOT diskspace! So don't be misled by ridiculous marketing ploys about unlimited webhosting which doesn't actually exist.
Don't think for one minute that you will get the same experience on some hosting reseller offering resources that they don't actually have, while simultaneously quoting prices that are financially unsustainable. Not all web hosting is the same.
Please note that these hosting services are only available to our web design clients on sites that we have built. We do not accept outside hosting clients as we will not introduce any risky, outdated, or vulnerable software onto our servers. Yes......we turn hosting clients away on a weekly basis! Crazy business logic so I've been told......but we're not compromising our standards.
Our goal is to give our clients the best experience possible, and we try our very best to achieve that. Hence the major upgrade of our hosting infrastructure to reflect the ongoing advancements in technology. In this industry, if you're not moving forward, then you're actually going backwards.....and we've always chosen to lead from the front!
I'm not keen on using the phrase "SEO" as it's been so abused over the years that it's meaning and interpretation has become lost. Personally I'd say that the majority of the points in this article relate to building a website properly in the first place, and then actually populating it with content that users want to read.
But here's a list of essential components that make up what would be interpreted as a professional website by Google and other search engines.
1. Website Security (HTTPS): This is a ranking factor now, and Google recommends switching to HTTPS to also help with demonstrating professionalism, increasing conversion rates, and building trust with users. It's no accident that 65% of sites that hold the top three positions have implemented HTTPS.
2. Content Length: Content length for sites in the top three positions are on average 45 percent longer than content on sites in 20th position. But beware of writing masses of "padded" content to increase page density......the key is to write content of a necessary length to be relevant and match user intent.
3. Keywords: These are obviously still relevant today......but the era of jamming them everywhere on the site is long gone. If you do this you'll end up in the Sin Bin! So you need to use long tail search strings incorporating keywords contextually (within sentences) when required. Use them sparingly.....do not go overboard on this.
4. Website Traffic: Interestingly, traffic from search engines does not appear have any major impact on rankings. It's direct traffic that matters......so share your content across Social Media. If Google tracks a lot of traffic coming from other sources it will potentially revise your positioning because your site appears to be popular.
5. Bounce Rate: This relates to the time users spend on your site. If you get a visit from a user and they leave immediately....that's a negative. But if they stay on the site and visit numerous pages....that's a positive. How do you retain users? Just write good content as I've always said.
6. Pages per Session: This is closely linked with Bounce Rate! Because the higher number of pages a user visits per session demonstrates to Google that you have content on your site that is of value and relevant to the search query they entered.
6. Backlinks: But unlike years ago it's not quantity.....it's quality! Do not have links on bad sites or Google will assess you at the level of the bad site that you've "buddied up" to. Essentially you've shown them that you're keeping bad company. And whatever you do, do not make reciprocal links with other sites because you'll both get canned.
7. Page Speed: Users like fast pages so don't bog your page down with auto-running videos, multiple large images, or resources that load from other sources like Social Media streams. Yes.....you need to make it look attractive and professional.....but there is such a thing as overkill.
8. On-site Optimisation: Factors such as meta descriptions, meta titles, H1 and H2 tags etc are still relevant and should be used accordingly. But be aware these are not a "Band Aid" for low quality content. If your content is assessed as poor then no amount of on-site optimisation will help you.
9. Mobile Compatibility: If you don't have this in place by now then you're probably not even in business any more. Around 55 - 60% of searches come from mobile devices.....so without it, most of your target market has gone.
Now review those points, and look for the pattern! As always, that pattern is quality content! It's never been any different......in fact Bill Gates predicted this back in 1996:
"Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet" and "If people are to be expected to put up with turning on a computer to read a screen, they must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information that they can explore at will".
Admittedly there were ways that unscrupulous individuals could cheat their way to high rankings years ago, but since 2012 those practices will end up making you invisible on search engines! My advice is to beware of web agencies promising you instant high rankings - because you'll end up disappearing without a trace on all searches for a very long time. It will be the Kiss of Death!
So just play by the rules (I always have) and generate quality content that addresses your visitors' questions and specific areas of interest......and then distribute it across Social Media to expand your target audience.
Peace of Mind......how much is that worth to you? Is it even possible to even put a price on it? Because when prospective clients initially contact us, they invariably want a quotation based on their requirements. That's quite understandable......we know they'll be contacting other designers with the same request in order to compare prices.
However, a price comparison is only valid when you're comparing "like for like". And in our case that's going to be difficult, because the depth of service and support that we provide on an ongoing basis far exceeds most other web designers. That, alone, is what makes us different, because we bring peace of mind!
Now I'm aware that there are many good web designers out there......but there are also a large number of "putter-uppers".
Basically a "putter-upper" can be defined as someone who puts a site up, takes the money.....and is gone! If you've got problems you're on your own! Not sure how to do something or need advice? Then be prepared to cross their palm with even more silver first.
A "putter-upper" sees the transaction as a one night stand, whereas a professional web designer is looking to build a longterm relationship. Who would you prefer to entrust the future of your business with?
To illustrate this point, I'm going to recount a real life example that we experienced recently when a potential client made the wrong choice! It's by no means a one-off scenario......it tends to happen on a regular basis as people prioritise "cheap" as the overriding factor in their purchasing decision. This course of action rarely ends well! We all want value for money......but some things you just don't cut corners on, because not all web designers are created equal!
The story goes like this: We were contacted in June by someone wanting a quotation for a business site. After speaking to them and analysing their requirements we gave them a price.....and never heard any more. Until last week!
Back they came, but with a request for us to repair a site because it had been hacked and destroyed within a month. Apparently their "web designer" didn't want to know and blamed the Hosting company. The Hosting company (who are bottom of the barrel as well) blamed the web designer. The Hosts did manage to restore the site from a backup taken a month ago (so they lost a month's data)......but they were then back to where they were prior to hacking. Just a matter of time before it's blitzed again!
We always make it clear that we don't work on other peoples' sites....only our own. After all.....if you're not a WebSpain client you can't expect to receive the premium level of support that our clients enjoy. As it was, the site was done in Wordpress, and we're solely Joomla developers.....so we couldn't have helped anyway. But I did give them details of a couple of developers who may be able to sort it out......but their services won't come cheap.
What a mess......and with a site that was only a month old! That trainwreck happened because they prioritised "cheap" over everything else. They did not compare "like for like" or even consider the necessity of ongoing support or assistance. Ultimately, the cheap price from the "putter-upper" is going to turn out to be a lot more costly in the long run, without even factoring in the stress, frustration, and helplessness when faced with a situation that they didn't understand.
Obviously, there's absolutely nothing wrong with looking for a competitive price when you're buying something. But don't confuse "cheap" with "value for money", because these are two different things. Compare prospective designers on a "like for like" basis!
As far as what we bring to the table, it's 40 years business experience, 30 years of which is in IT, with the last 20 years solely in Web Design and Hosting. Remember what I said.....you must compare "like for like".
So if you're looking for a total web package incorporating both design and hosting.....do your research. The professionals may be slightly more expensive, but as people find out, it can ultimately end up costing you a whole lot more when you deal with an amateur! Practise due diligence, look for a verifiable track record at a professional level, read Client Testimonials and take up references!
Are you popular on Google? Irrespective of your current status on the search engines, do you actually know what needs to be put in place to get a good ranking? The problem is there's so much conjecture, speculation, misinformation, and in some cases outright lies, that it's difficult to know who or what to believe!
Let me clarify our position! Unlike many others we do not offer additional SEO services. We just build websites properly, rather than put something together than sell a range of payable add-on services to maximise profit and generate perpetual income. We have no vested financial interest in advising you in this area.....so we just give you the truth!
That being established, you'll see by the wealth of information on this site that I've advised people on best web practices for many years. But the problem is that the game keeps changing all the time. Additionally, Google are never really specific on what trigger factors are the most important at any given point......because the more people know, the more likely it is that unscrupulous self-appointed "SEO Experts" will try to cheat the system as they were doing 10 years ago.
So it's been a much debated topic for many years....but now the researchers at SEM Rush have published what I would consider to be the most conclusive data that I've seen in recent years. What they did was analyse data from 600,000 global keywords via a machine-learning algorithm called Random Forest. This process checked the pages’ positions in search results against a list of ranking factors. The objective was to conclusively determine the factors that influence positions in SERPs.
12 factors that influence page position were analysed in order of importance: from the most influential to the least. Then they limited the scope of the analysed data to the first 100 positions for each keyword.
The end result is a 40+ page PDF document which requires a lot of analysis to get to the real determining factors involved in search engine placement. But don't worry, I've been right through it in some depth to summarise the results. It covers all the bases, and the results are irrefutable.
Out of the 12 factors Google analysed, direct traffic seems to be the most important one! In other words, the more visits your website gets, the higher it is likely to rank. But it appears that search engine traffic is not the predominant factor in improving your ranking, it is organic traffic from other sources that seems to have the biggest effect.
What is organic traffic? This would refer to social traffic, referrals, and direct traffic. So what they're saying is if you create great content that people want to read, then you have to get it in front of your audience via social media, mailshots, and placement on other sites that are considered to be of high value. That will then drive organic traffic to your site that Google will track.
The next element is the users' time spent on your site. If they visit your site and navigate through multiple pages reading numerous articles then that's a positive. If they get there and immediately leave (because your content is poor quality or the user experience is lacking) your bounce rate goes up and that is considered to be a negative. Simply because this sends a clear signal to Google that your site is not meeting users' expectations. Google want to deliver the best quality results, so if your content is sparse and lacking in any value they're just not going to recommend you. Simple as that!
Referring domains! The pages that rank higher have more backlinks from quality domains. Just a warning here! Do not under any circumstances share links or buy links.....you need to earn them from influential sites! How do you do that? Produce quality content that people will link to.....as I'm doing with SEM Rush.
Content length! Short articles which just gloss over and generalise on subjects are not going to cut it. Research suggests that content should be at least 1000 words in length (this article is 1150 words) and go into subjects in depth. But be aware that content length is only important for your page’s success as long as it is valuable, well-written, and optimised. Also, in your articles you must link to recognised sources to validate your points as I'm doing in this article. If you don't do this then the content could be evaluated as your opinion rather than documented fact.
The next factor is HTTPS/SSL! I've been saying this for 3 years now......get an SSL in place! If you look at the chart you'll see that the more popular the keywords are, the more probable it is that the top positions will be occupied by HTTPS domains. So if you have high quality content, then having an HTTPS version of your site is extremely important.
Keywords! As you can see from the chart, having keywords in meta descriptions, titles, and content is still relevant. But it appears to be that on-page SEO now has less importance than it has in the past! It seems that all the catchy meta descriptions, H1 and H2 tags in the world are going to be of little help if the quality of the content that it references is of very little value.
As I've always said, even back in the days when people could cheat their way to the top, content should be the core of your online business.
Don't waste your time with self indugent trivialities and stupid gimmicks on your website because nobody's interested....least of all Google.
Of course, website optimisation is still important in order to deliver the content in the right way. But if the actual content you're presenting is garbage or plagarised from other sources, then the search engines (and users) will evaluate you accordingly.
I exploded the myth years ago that there is no SEO Magic Bullet and this research (which is probably one of the most extensive ever released) proves that to be in the game from now on you have to generate quality content and market it. Capture big audiences across all the Social Media platforms and build your brand. That's the world we live in now!
To summarise, you need to generate great content, market it wherever you can, and drive traffic to the site. That all starts with Content Creation and then moves on to Content Marketing! And it's an ongoing job......not a one off!
So as paradoxical as it sounds....in order to gain popularity, you have to be popular!
Imagine this scenario! You've got a new website on a new domain. It looks great, it works well, and you've generated some quality content. So you sit back and wait for it to show up in the search listings......and it doesn't appear.
Weeks go by, you check every day, and still no sign of it appearing so you start getting worried. You ask yourself what's wrong with the site?.....why is Google ignoring it? At this point people usually start panicking and think that all their dreams of success are over before they even started!
Well the good news is there's no need to panic! The bad news is that you're going to have to wait a lot longer! Maybe up to 6 months! Because you're in the Google Sandbox!
What is Google Sandbox?
Quite simply it's a filter imposed on new sites. It’s purpose is to restrict ranking, especially for high-competition keywords, until the site is more established and can display a proven quality and trust factor. Look at it this way.....would you recommend a tradesman to a friend unless you're absolutely convinced of their professionalism, reliability, and integrity? And this is exactly the same thing!
It's interesting to note that Google actually deny there's a Sandbox. But they have a history of being deliberately vague in divulging information about their algorithms and evaluation processes.....so their statement has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Therefore, you just have to accept that with a new site and new domain you will have to wait to reap the full benefit of the work you've done.
What can you do to speed up the process?
Basically it comes down to demonstrating quality and trust. Make sure your site has regular quality content added, have SSL Security in place, and generate more activity across Social Media Channels.
With Social Media you can still be getting in front of people without Google's help.....so put your efforts there. A little and often is the best method. But don't start a Spamfest or you'll find yourself restricted on there as well!
Whatever you do, do not employ one of these self-professed "SEO Experts" who relentlessly bombard you with unwanted mail. That will cost you money and it won't end well. You could find yourself on Google's blacklist very easily and it could take you years to get off it. There is no quick fix in this situation....other than pay for Google Adwords. But that can end up being quite expensive so only go there as a last resort.
My message to those people with new sites and new domains is you have to be patient. Follow best practices in the way the site is built, keep generating quality content, and take advantage of the outreach that Social Media can give you. It will pay off in the end!
We've always tried to stay ahead of the game on all the potential changes and advancements within the web industry. Our goal is to inform our clients of anything that they need to know, in order to ensure that they are secure, and in a better position than their competitors. The protection of clients' interests is always at the core of what we do.
But that can only happen if these news articles are actually read, and appropriate action is taken. They are of benefit to everybody.....and after all, do you really want competing businesses leaving you behind?
Are they worth reading? Well let's look at a few things that actually came to pass!
Mobile Compatible Websites: If you go back to 2012 we were the first Brit web designers in Spain to have a mobile compatible site, and the first to provide mobile compatible sites to our clients as standard at no extra charge. Now everybody does.
We said at that time that mobile compatibility would eventually be Google's priority! And sure enough in April 2015 Mobilegeddon occurred.....where any non-mobile sites were dropped in the listings. We then speculated that Google were likely to adopt a policy of Mobile First where they would be looking for a mobile site first and foremost. And sure enough, that happened in January 2017.
HTTPS/SSL Websites: In August 2014 we published the article SSL for SEO where we discussed Google's new emphasis on HTTPS/SSL encryption on all sites to protect visitors from identity theft and phishing attacks! And that Google were likely to prioritise these sites in listings due to them providing a safe and secure environment for users.
At that time around 15% of sites in the top ten had this in place. By this time last year the figure had risen to 30%. Currently, latest studies from MOZ show that this has now passed 50%. Projections are that this is going to continue to rise to around 65% by the end of this year. Does your site have the green padlock in the address bar to reassure users and Google that you are actually a professional?
Security: Over the years we've continually emphasised that security is the most important aspect of what we do. We will not run obsolete software on the servers, and we will not permit outdated website applications, or sites from other designers, to be put on our servers. We've strongly recommended that every client's site is always up to date and that they put a commercial security firewall in place....because I can guarantee that every day somebody is trying to break into it.
And now Google has come out and said exactly the same thing: "It’s best to take a preventative approach and secure your site rather than dealing with the aftermath". Do you have a security firewall on your site?
SEO: Look back on here over many years and you'll find numerous articles telling people the REAL truth! We've always built websites properly following all Google recommendations and guidelines......and emphasised to clients that they must generate quality content to get good results.
Unfortunately, others just spewed out a torrent of disinformation to assist their "hard sell" business plans......and many people got their sites blacklisted by Google as a result of these "initiatives". Not to mention how much they paid for these services in the first place.
I'm sure people actually thought I knew nothing about the subject (despite the fact that this site has dominated Google for 10 years).......but then Google came to my rescue! Because they finally published their Search Quality Guidelines which validated EVERYTHING that I'd been saying for years. So when somebody tries to sell you an SEO Magic Bullet.......just refer to that article. Because it blows that myth out of the water.
So that makes FOUR major web developments affecting you and your business within the last five years where we were ahead of the game. And we kept you ahead of the game too! Get informed! Don't let your competitors get ahead of you in areas like this.......because if they're better informed than you, then they're more likely to do better business than you. There is no substitute for Knowledge! It's not about Web Design.......it's all about Business!
When clients come to us for a website they generally have a list of expectations or requirements. Of course, that helps us to identify exactly what needs to be implemented in order to meet their requirements......but one important thing is always missing in their estimation at that point! And that factor is User expectations!
People tend to focus solely on what they want or what they like, with no regard to what potential users actually expect when they visit a website. That's where we come in.....because we make it absolutely clear what aspects need to be prioritised! However, some people don't want to listen and will take no advice whatsoever. All that matters to them is what they want, to the point of total exclusion of their potential users' requirements.
If you take this course of action then your website is unlikely to succeed......irrespective of how attractive it looks. Because if people can't figure out how to use it, or can't find anything on it, they'll leave and never return. Simply because you prioritised what you wanted over what they wanted.....thereby making it difficult, irritating, and time consuming for visitors!
So what is it that users expect?
1. Site Speed! Don't overload pages with giant images or introduce additional elements where data is retrieved from outside sources. Things like Live Chat boxes, Facebook and Twitter streams, Weather forecasts etc are an example of this!
Be aware that if you insist on bogging it down with resource intensive elements, slow page loads are going to be the end result. You'll then get a high bounce rate (which Google tracks) so your site rankings will drop as a result! Keep it as lean as possible, and avoid irrelevant, superfluous, and self indulgent elements that deliver no value to the user whatsoever.
2. Intuitive Navigation! Ensure that you have clearly visible and intuitive menu and sub-menu structures, along with categorisation of the elements contained within. Basically, don't throw everything into one place and then expect users to be able to hunt for what they want. Make life easy for them.......then they're more likely to bookmark the site and return in the future.
3. An Organised Site! No enormous paragraphs of text that go on forever! Short, sharp, straight to the point, introduce benefits, and accompany it with a great quality image to get their intial attention.
4. Aesthetics! When a visitor gets to your site you've got less than 10 seconds to make a positive impression. If your site looks a hideous and cluttered mess while resplendent in a myriad of migraine-inducing dayglo colours then you probably haven't got off to a good start! Your site must attract visitors straight away......first impressions count! But be aware that this is the point where you now need to actually validate yourself professionally, which brings us to the next point.....Value!
5. Value! In this context I'm referring to delivering on what you initially promised when you presented them with an attractive looking site!
On the intial front page intro you should be clearly defining what you deliver! But it's no good just saying it.....you need to actually deliver it in terms of quality written content that informs, educates, and advises.
Examples of poor value would be spurious unsubstantiated claims, ludicrous cliches, and sales pitches....all accompanied by a couple of generic paragraphs and a blurry image that you copied from Wikipedia! If you go down this route then site visitors (and Google) won't take you seriously.
6. Mobile Compatibility! Over half of the searches on Google now come from mobile devices.....so if you don't have a mobile site by now then you're not even in the game! Every site we've built since 2012 has been mobile compatible as standard and at no additional cost. Mobile must be at the core of everything you do!
7. Safety and Security! Visitors want to know that their identity, information, and even their computer is not at risk from malware, browser hijacks, viruses, trojans, hacking, or phishing attempts. Google is very interested in this factor as well........and everytime they visit they're running checks on your site to ensure that it's safe for visitors.
They're very clear on this.......all sites should now have SSL encryption in place to protect visitors. If you don't, then realistically it'll only be a matter of time until you drop off the radar on the search results. After all, do you think Google are going to send it's users to websites that they consider to be unsafe? And without SSL in place to provide an encrypted connection for visitors then your site status with Google is unsafe!
As you've seen, all those points were categorised as User expectations! Are User expectations important to you?
Maybe not.....but what if I changed the title to Google expectations? Would that now get your attention?
Because the fact is that what Users expect and what Google expects in terms of front end viewing is exactly the same thing!
So stop thinking about what You want.......and think about what Users want! Because your Users, and Google, will take you a lot more seriously if you do!
Google have now released a State of Website Security in 2016 review......based on it's statistics from last year. And it's an eye-opener! Because in 2016 the number of hacked sites has increased by 32% compared to 2015, and that percentage is likely to keep on rising!
61% of those hacked were not notified of it because they never registered their sites in Google Search Console. The only way they'd know is when their site was destroyed or defaced, or when their web host closes their account due to them sending out spam, or being used as a phishing site to perpetrate criminal activities.
Google have pinpointed the reasons that so many websites were hacked:
1. Outdated software and missing security updates!
Really, this one goes without saying! If you run software that is outdated then you're playing Russian Roulette......and one day you will get the loaded chamber. It's just a matter of time!
2. Compromised Passwords!
Use strong and difficult passwords......and change them often! And this applies to all online accounts that you have, including Social Media!
3. Phishing and Social Engineering!
Google have been emphasising for over 2 years that every site should be accessed by a secure connection using HTTPS/SSL encryption. And it's now reached the stage where they're putting warnings in browsers to all site visitors if this system is not in place.
So if your site gets hacked.....what can you expect? Well Google have listed the most widely used defacement processes so you know what's coming your way.
1. Gibberish Hack!
This will create pages of nonsense that will ultimately divert to a porn site! You'd better prepare your story for when users contact you demanding to know why you sent them to something like that....and infected their computer with a virus or trojan at the same time.
2.Japanese Keywords Hack!
Your site will get blitzed with Japanese words directing viewers to sites that are selling fake merchandise. If you ever wanted to feature in search engines for terms like "Rolex Watches" then this is your chance!
3. Cloaked Keywords Hack!
With this attack, hackers usually use cloaking techniques to hide the malicious content. They can make the injected page appear as if it's a part of the original site.....including a fake 404 error page. They'll then sell the links on your site to a third party who will use them for whatever purposes they want. But be aware that these purposes are not going to be legal or family friendly.
All this info comes directly from Google's analysis of internet activity in 2016. It's not speculation or assumption.....it's the facts!
So what action can you take to protect your website and your business?
Strong passwords, use current software both on the site and server (and keep updating it), only use professional web designers and web hosts, implement HTTPS/SSL encryption, and ensure that your site is protected by it's own firewall built into the application.
How many of those can you answer "Yes" to?
The way things are headed now, these are not options, they're essentials! If you're not prepared to ensure these are in place then you may as well shut your site down and just use a FaceBook business page. Because if you leave it too long, a third party with bad intentions is going to make that decision for you.
I'll leave you with this thought! Those of us of a certain age can remember hearing news reports of bank robberies, post office robberies.....and even mail train robberies. Ever wondered why it's gone pretty quiet on that front in recent years?
It's simply because the gelignite, firearms, masks, and getaway cars have now been replaced by computers!
Not convinced? Did you know that the UK Chancellor has announced a new five-year £1.9 billion scheme to counteract cyber-crime in the UK? Would he do that if there wasn't a serious problem that affects everybody?
The reality is that official government statistics have shown that there were 3.8 million instances of cyber-crime in the 12 months up to June 2016 in the UK alone! And it's rising!
Ignoring the recommendations above means you're actually contributing to the problem! And looking at it another way, it's the equivalent of hearing there's a spate of burglaries in your area and then leaving all your doors unlocked! Ask yourself.....would you really do that?
Google has now started sending out warnings to users that are running outdated and vulnerable software installations. Which is what we have been doing for years in order to ensure our clients are not at risk.
This action from them has probably been initiated due to the continual problems caused by webmasters who just don't take security seriously. There was recently a mass defacement involving hundreds of thousands of websites using the Wordpress content management system (which we don't use) called the REST API Vulnerability. And no doubt this has now driven Google to take this action.
The message users are receiving (depending on what software they're using) is this:
"Google has detected that your site is currently running Joomla 2.5, an older version of Joomla. Outdated or unpatched software can be vulnerable to hacking and malware exploits that harm potential visitors to your site. Therefore, we suggest you update the software on your site as soon as possible".
So let's just recap on the warnings Google are now issuing:
1. Sites should be mobile compatible.
2. Sites should have HTTPS/SSL security.
3. Sites should be running up to date and secure software.
I'd also add that every site should have it's own security firewall installed......which could well be the next step Google will take.
Let me emphasise that Google are not saying that you have to have a site of the technical complexity of Kyero or eBay etc.....they're just making it clear that it should reach a basic level of professionalism and responsibility.
Saying that......I've actually had people who are knowingly in the position above actually ask me how they can improve their Google positioning. Just let that sink in! They fail all of the basic criteria that Google requires, they've received multiple warnings to that effect.....yet they want to be recommended by them.
Bottom line is if you can't demonstrate professionalism in your online presence then Google (and users) will just not take you seriously. Think of it this way: Most of you at one time or another will have experienced the damage caused by viruses, trojans, ransomware etc when your computer gets infected by malware. Where do they come from? From infected websites on the internet!
Google want to get this under control, and they will now penalise sites who refuse to accept their responsibilities regarding security. They're certainly not going to be recommending sites they class as dangerous to their users.
I'd go so far as to say that they will eventually take the view that if you're not part of the solution then you're part of the problem......and you'll end up becoming invisible. Others are following too.....because I've had warnings flash up from Facebook that I may be leaving there to visit a site that is classed as dangerous. So all the big players are getting behind these security initiatives.....it's not something you can ignore.
If you're a client, then we've already notified you of your status in each of the criteria. If you're not a client, then your current web developer should have kept you up to date on all these developments to ensure you were protected. If they haven't, then get in touch and we can run some checks for you.
Many site owners are going to be getting an e-mail warning from Google very soon! Simply because they have not put HTTPS/SSL security in place on their sites.
From this month on "Chrome will show a Not Secure warning for all pages served over HTTP, regardless of whether or not the page contains sensitive input fields".
We've been advising our clients that this has been coming for some considerable time.....most recently two months ago in HTTPS Websites so many are now prepared. Are you?
The background to this is that we register every site that we build with Google in their Search Console. This tells them exactly where your site is located, and we also give them an XML sitemap along with multiple page URL's so they can index you more efficiently. So they know all about you!
This has benefits besides quicker indexing because it also flags up warnings if there are technical irregularities on the site. We then analyse these and rectify them immediately before it causes any issues. But with this situation regarding HTTPS they're taking it a stage further because they're sending me an e-mail to be passed on to the owner of the site.
The correspondence is quite clear....."The new warning is the first stage of a long-term plan to mark all pages served over the non-encrypted HTTP protocol as Not Secure".
If you look in the browser address bar of this site you'll see the green padlock and the word "Secure". If you don't have an SSL in place you'll bee seeing a warning icon with the words "Not Secure" which doesn't exactly inspire confidence in visitors. After all, if you had the choice of vising a Secure or Non-Secure site where would you go?
It's not clear yet whether these warnings will show up in the Google search listings.....but if they do then your traffic is likely to drop considerably. We already know that Google are prioritising Secure sites in the listings, now it's a question of if, or when, they plan to start dropping the Non-Secure sites. Whatever happens, it's not good news if you don't have SSL security in place.
I know that some of you won't like this latest update. But you have to understand that Google wants to make the web a safer place.....and directing users to sites where they could be put at risk of phishing or identity theft doesn't help their cause. And it certainly doesn't help the users much either.
If you have a website, think of it as a shop in real life. Then ask yourself whether you would want to enter any premises that had been deemed unfit or dangerous? We all have a collective responsibility here, so I would strongly suggest you get HTTPS/SSL encryption in place immediately. With Business comes Responsibility!
As I pointed out a few months ago in Is Your Business Worth a Coffee the cost is not going to break the bank! But running without it is guaranteed to have a detrimental effect on your bank balance through lost business.