Requirements for SSL Certificates Vary By Search Engine
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SSL Certificate Requirements Vary by Search Engine

Don’t be intimidated by email saying your site won’t work without an SSL.  While there is a grain of truth to this, there’s no reason to panic, and there’s certainly no reason to pay more than necessary for an SSL for your site.

Your Current Internet Host can Provide Security Cert – You don’t Need to Hire another Outside Service.

If you’re a small business owner, and the admin email attached to your site is your own, you’re probably getting an abundance of emails telling you your site needs a security certificate.  There’s alot of phishing going on, and it will be very easy for small business owners to pay too much for this, but hopefully this information will help you understand WHY you need an SSL on your site now, and WHY you don’t have to be intimidated by aggressive emails stating your site will no longer show in a SERP.

In recent years there has been a growing debate on just how important SSL certificates are, and whether or not they are needed for every website. Google itself have recently stated that they are beginning to prioritise secure websites (https) over non-secure websites (http) in their search algorithms. This is all part of Google’s wider campaign to encourage safe transmission of all information across the web. While they claim such preference is only minimal, a number of companies are now paying more attention to the importance of SSL security, with several other big name corporations such as WC3 and Facebook encouraging every website to use SSL encryption.

What is an SSL Certificate?

An SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate is a digital certificate that both authenticates the identity of a website, and encrypts sensitive information so that any passwords, addresses or credit card numbers can not be intercepted or read by anyone other than the intended recipient.

How they work

In the same way that we use keys to lock and unlock doors, SSL certificates use keys to validate and protect sensitive information. A certificate signing request or CSR must also be created on the server. This creates a pair of public and private keys. The public key is used to encrypt (lock) the sensitive information, whilst the private key is used to decrypt (unlock) the information provided and restore it to its original format so that it can be read.

Requirements for SSL Certificates Vary By Search Engine

Requirements for SSL Certificates Vary By Search Engine

Why are SSL Certificates Important?

When you use a website http messages are flying around over the network.  When you fill in a contact form or simply click a link a small packet of information in text format gets sent over the network by your computer.  If you put your email address into a contact form and hit submit the packet of information (very similar to a plain text file) will contain your email address within it.  This packet will then get sent to every machine on the network. If you happen to be using wireless then this information will be sent over the air.  This means that anyone can sniff the air or plug into the network and read these unencrypted packets of information. If this information is simply a request to go to another webpage it’s probably not a problem, but if it happens to contain your credit card information then we could have a serious problem.

Unfortunately the internet and more specifically the http protocol is not secure by default, https however is secure because each of these packets gets encrypted before it is sent, meaning only the intended recipient can decrypt and read the message.

There are a number of reasons why SSL security is important:

  • Online payments: – A secure connection is required for websites that take any form of online payments, be it through credit card payments or third-party payment processors such as Worldpay or PayPal. In recent months, however, the web has also seen an increasing number of non-ecommerce websites using ssl encryption on their websites, with big players such as the BBC, Facebook and Google also endorsing the change, even though they do not directly sell through their websites.
  • Data security: It’s not just credit card details that are vulnerable to attacks online. Other personal information such as email addresses and social media messaging are also at risk. SSL encryption allows for the safe passage of this information, blocking it from any potential third-party access or unwanted hacks. If your website encourages its visitors to sign up to any memberships, or fill out any contact forms, then SSL encryption should be considered in order to safe guard this information.
  • Site verification: – SSL certificates authenticate and verify the owner of a website, preventing that site from any potential phishing attacks, where third-party hackers often impersonate a website in order to obtain personal information.
  • Verification of information: – SSL certificates also provide verification of the information that is listed on websites. This is particularly apparent on news sites such as the BBC or Guardian, and further prevents a users content from being altered by any third-parties.


If you run a small brochure site, or do not require any personal information to access certain areas of your website then you are in no major rush to upgrade to an ssl certificate. While Google has announced that they are beginning to favour secure websites over non-secure websites in search rankings, the implications are still small, and Firefox is yet to stop displaying non-secure websites.

However, if your website does require any level of personal information then online security is particularly important especially when shopping online. Even if you are simply entering an email address over wireless connection, this information can be vulnerable to third party access if your site simply operates on http access. Securing this information with SSL encryption (https) immediately combats any risk of unwanted sharing of your information. “Privacy by Default” is the new internet mantra and this is a message that companies such as Google and Facebook have began to endorse.

Does a user want the movie, or information about bee population? Google is learning to determine user intent.
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User Intent and Organic Ranking

Is your website content  adequately addressing user intent?

Busy small business owners may understand bits and pieces of good digital marketing strategy, but as search engine algorithms become smarter, adequate keyword ratio on your website may no longer be enough to keep your site competitive organically.
You may have already heard about the concept of “user intent” in search engines – the goal of returning web page results that match what the user wants, not necessarily the exact words they are searching for. As with so many things, it’s a good idea to start with Google: While the search engine giant is typically inscrutable when it comes to the nuts and bolts of page results, there is an unmistakable turn away from what you might call pure keyword page ranking, and toward the intent of the user.
Google can do this because it has access to a gargantuan amount of data on searches and internet users. The company is trying to tweak its search engine with that data to make it more predictive and utilitarian. You may search for “new furnace vents” but Google knows that you are probably looking for “grills” and “registers” too, so it includes those in its top results (it’s worth noting that other search engines, like Bing, stay away from these interpretations, and so return very different results). You can spot the SEO keyword strategy problem here – companies that put “furnace vents” in their keywords are being crowded out by those who use “grills” and “registers” separately or in addition to “vents.”
It’s a paltry example, but you get the point. The consumer is clearly right here: They know what they are searching for, and if intent algorithms can help them find it, so much the better. But where does that leave your SEO efforts?
“Well, if that’s where Google is going, shouldn’t I follow?” is a reasonable response here. But intent of user strategies can take a lot of work, plus a new perspective at how you use keywords (hint: they are becoming less important). If you really want to jump aboard the intent train, here are a few important points you should know.
Usability: Intent and native advertising are good bedfellows. People want real information, advice, explanations, contacts, and results. Native advertising is all about creating content that’s worthwhile to read. As a result, more focus on creating full, native content means better user intent ratings.
Analytics: To study intent of user, you have to know what searches consumers are making, what specifically is drawing them to your site – and probably what your competitors are using, too. Evaluating referral and keyword source analytics will help.
Longer Searches: Most searches are between 3 and 5 words, depending on how specific people get. This means Google favors keyword phrases that are longer and more specific, because that’s how consumers are searching to get past the clutter they don’t want.
Does a user want the movie, or information about bee population? Google is learning to determine user intent.

Does a user want the movie, or information about bee population? Google is learning to determine user intent.

Related Words: Instead of just picking up keywords, Google is beginning to look at words throughout the content. If certain words throughout the article/page chime with the search (furnace, thermal, duct, HVAC, efficiency, etc.), that site will be ranked higher. All your words are becoming important.
Time: Google is getting better at intent. That doesn’t mean it’s good at it, not yet. User intent is improving, but it will take time to see the full shift, and how much it will change. Prediction and inference are notoriously difficult tigers to tame.
The paradigm of user intent is both fascinating and a little frightening for marketing teams: It’s hard to know just how big the impact will be, and how it will affect foundational keyword practices. But like with all SEO, the key is careful, continuous adaptation. In addition to incorporating a few of the tips mentioned, keep your eye on user intent as a metric.
How many SSL security certificates do you need?
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How Many SSL Certificates Do I Need

How many SSL Certificates does my website need and why should I care about SSL?

Every small business owner understands the importance of their website.  With regard to marketing and good Search Engine Page Results (SERP), most small business owners know a solid website is essential.  However, there are many elements that factor into organic rankings on a SERP, as well as credibility and building trust with potential customers.  One of these factors is the security of your website.  This is described in technical terms as Secure Socket Layer or SSL.

SSL IS a big deal, and for almost every type of website an SSL certificate is essential, however, depending on the function of your website and the types of products or services you offer, different levels or layers of SSL are recommended (if not required by search engines in order for your site to rank on their results page).

So what is SSL?

  • SSL (Secure Socket Layer) is the security for your website.  Think of it like an alarm system for your house.  In the same way you secure your home so that no one is able to poke around without your consent, an SSL certificate functions like a security system for your website.  SSL can prevent your site from being hacked, which would allow the hacker to collect data on your subscribers and publish content or add outbound links without your awareness.  However just putting an SSL certificate on your website doesn’t 100% guarantee your site won’t be hacked.
  • There are 3 levels of user trust for SSL Certificates and it depends on what your site will be providing to your customers or users as to which one to install.

So how many levels of SSL does your website need?  In other words, how many SSL certifications should you consider?

o    Domain Validated certificates (DV):  These certificates check against your domain register to confirm the validity of the connection.

o    Organization Validated certificates (OV): These certificates are strictly authenticated by real agents against business registry databases hosted by governments.

o    Extended Validation certificates (EV): These certificates are the highest level of trust and require more validation to ensure the person buying the certificate owns and manages the website the certificate will be installed on your site.

For any of these levels of security, you will likely need the assistance of your domain host to install the SSL Certificate, and get the proper amount of SSL Certificates on your site.


Does my website need an SSL Certificate

  • The short answer is YES but which one do you need.  The following guidelines should help you when choosing the right certificate for your website.
  • For sites where security isn’t an issue like an internally hosted website for your business or a public facing information only (no personal information is collected, which includes email address for newsletter subscriptions or contact forms) then an EV certificate would be ok.
  • If your site is used for transmitting personal data like email, address, credit card information then you would want to move up to the OV certificate at the least.
  • The highest level of security and most expensive is the EV certificate.  This type of certificate has the most rigorous validation process.  The EV certificate use the Green bar you’ll see on some of the bigger sites like Amazon, Google, Wal-mart, target and more.

If you have any questions about the security of your website, please contact the team at for help.  Our IT guru, Robert will be happy to help you.

avoiding pop up ads makes a better user experience - woman sitting at computer smiling
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User Experience and the Coalition for Better Ads

User experience is paramount in the new Chrome.

By way of explaining this, let’s travel back in time to the 1900s. Waaaaaay back in the early 1990s when AOL, Earthlink, and Yahoo were what people were using to browse the web, online advertising was in its infancy. Ads were strictly placement ads on specific websites, and sites were, believe it or not, actually indexed by human beings who would read content on a page and determine what type of query that page would satisfy. It was the wild west for online advertising because anything flashy, huge, multi-colored, and attention-grabbing was permitted.

avoiding pop up ads makes a better user experience - woman sitting at computer smiling

For best user experience, avoid pop-up ads and promotions on your site as much as possible.

Fast forward to late 1990s and early 2000, some genius college students realized what a horrible experience browsing the web was and decided to change that. Introducing Google. Google search engine was groundbreaking in that it would not show results that were paid, it would show results that were RELEVANT to the query.

Without getting into the AdWords bidding system, let’s just say that the algorithm scored “documents” (landing pages) based on their relevance to a query, and the amount that webpage owner was bidding to show their ad was a factor, but not the deciding factor. This immediately raised the bar for user experience. No longer were users at the mercy of the highest bidder. Google was the first browser to be user-centric and, therefore, rapidly became the most popular browser in the online world.

Since then, Google has set the standard for not only what is a good user experience, but what is an appropriate ad. Ads can no longer make outrageous guarantees or bait-and-switch. Advertisers are held to a fairly high standard because it’s built into the search engine algorithm that if the query does not match the information (images and text) on the page, that page ranks very low in both paid and organic results.

Now, a new level of filtering is coming into play, and it’s largely due to the findings of the Coalition for Better Ads. The role of the Coalition for Better Ads is to, like Google, ensure that the internet is a PLEASANT experience for users, users find search results helpful, and advertisers are held to a very high standard of integrity and ad quality.

The Coalition for Better Ads has actually indexed sites that offer poor user experiences, and the new Google Chrome Ad Filter, which is built right into the browser, is utilizing this data to determine which ads show and which don’t. In other words, if your site offers a terrible user experience because of pop-ups, flashing text or distracting animations, or if your site has videos that auto-play, or prestitial ads with a countdown (the ad covers the page until the countdown ends), the Coalition for Better Ads has probably deemed your site “correlated with an increased propensity for consumers to adopt ad blockers.” That’s a mouthful, but it basically means the site is annoying, misleading or distracting to a user, and, therefore, is NOT offering a good user experience.

In summary, do NOT put pop-ups on your site.

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Protected: Evaluating How You Rank Against Competitors

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Local SEO Best Practices
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Smart Local SEO Practices for Small Business

The query “…Near Me” has become one of the most prolific search queries within the past couple of years.  If you are a brick and mortar business, it is absolutely essential that you understand local SEO and how your business is showing in a SERP.  Location specific queries are managed differently by search engines, so it’s important to understand which elements of your website are the most important with regard to local SEO.

When search engines, specifically Google, determine that the user is searching for something geographically near them, the results page has a “local pack” showing the data that Google has on file about relevant businesses in a specific geographic region.  This information is geography based, and the listed choices are featured on a map to the right.  Below the “pack” local organic results appear based on page rank as determined by that search engine at the time of that query.  The search engines are using the data that is currently on your website to display this information, so if your business is not updated with current info, phone number, hours of operation, and service description, you may be losing a sale.

Because it is still the most widely-used search engine, making sure that your Google My Business page is current is foundational to local SEO.  (If you don’t know how to update, edit, post, and reply to rankings on your Google My Business Page, become a member now for an in-depth tutorial on Google My Business or contact Savvy Sister Marketing for help.)

Local directory sites such as your local Chamber of Commerce website, BBB,,, and the local online paper are important as well.

Contextually relevant citations in review sites like HomeAdvisor, BBB, Yelp, Manta, Trip Advisor, Wix, and FourSquare should be consistent across all sites.  Another important element is having “on-page signals” for the search engines that alert them to your physical location.  Your site should list the names of the cities, counties, zip codes, and regions that you service.

If your location is incorrect in Google maps, and you provide goods and/or services at your brick-and-mortar location, this must be addressed immediately.  If you have customers telling you that their GPS sent them to the wrong location, or they cannot find your location in their GPS, correcting this is also a priority.  For more in-depth information on how to ensure your business is showing properly in maps and GPS systems, become a member to access our tutorial, or contact Savvy Sister Marketing today.  Don’t put this off – you’re losing customers.

Getting good local SEO established can be very time consuming, and if you’re a busy business owner, it may be worth it to source this out so that you are certain it is done correctly and consistently across all relevant platforms.  Good local SEO depends on good website content as well as relevant inbound links, reviews, and citations.  It can seem an overwhelming task, but when done correctly it can be a game-changer for a local small-business owner in dominating the local SERP.

If you want an audit of your “local” presence, or if you want help making sure you’re listing properly in local relevant sites, contact Savvy Sister Marketing today.  We Will Help You!