Wednesday, November 15, 2017

What’s all the hype about HTTPS?

Decisions, decisions…

What the heck is HTTPS – and why should I care? It’s a question our clients are asking more and more, thanks to more and more buzz across the web.

Much like English is the international language, HTTP and HTTPS are the international languages of the world wide web. Most websites are built with HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol). Think of it like an ATM without a password. You can get in and see whatever you want, read through any page you want to, even take anything you want, with nothing to stop you. No big deal right? Until you start collecting sensitive information like credit cards, passwords or personal data.

That’s where HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) comes in, with another layer of encryption that prevents unwanted viewing and data theft. That encryption uses yet another protocol called SSL/TSL (Secure Sockets Layer and Transport Layer Security). You can spot an HTTPS connection by the green lock symbol that appears next to the URL in your browser bar. HTTPS has been around for a while – some say since the mid-90s – but the recent trend toward more secure site viewing has put the spotlight on it.

Google is driving it (of course), and if visitors are using Chrome (owned by Google) or Firefox to view your website, they’ll see a warning about viewing a webpage that isn’t secure. Google started flashing the alerts in January of this year, and it’s catching on. Not all sites are experiencing this yet, but they could by the end of the year if they don’t have an SSL in place. You’ll definitely see a benefit to going SSL, as it ensures your site is secure in the areas of ownership, content and transactions (if applicable).

The effort was supposed to initially target sites that require visitors to submit sensitive or personal information but has now spread to all websites. The momentum actually started back in 2014 when Google made https sites a signal that could raise your search engine ranking. But it really didn’t gain traction until this year when Google began putting warnings out when visitors tap the URL.

While most sites haven’t converted to HTTPS yet (30 to 50% depending on which study you read), we do know usage has tripled since 2014, on both mobile and desktop. Not surprisingly, shopping, healthcare and finance rank in the top 10 of industries with the highest HTTPS usage. And there’s no doubt having that extra SSL impacts your ranking – half of the first and second position sites in a random sampling of 100,000 keyword results were HTTPS.

Why make the move to SSL? Our top four motivators:

  1. Security – as we said, protect your users’ privacy and their data. 
  2. User confidence – especially as time goes on, users will be conditioned to trust sites with HTTPS, and turned away by Google’s security warning message. 
  3. Analytics – when you get a referral from another site through HTTP your analytics report simply says “direct.” When your site gets visits from other HTTPS sites, you’ll see the traffic from each referral. 
  4. Because Google says so – history tells us when they drive a change, sites that don’t conform steadily drop in rankings. 

The good news: It’s not terribly complicated for us to put the SSL in place. We handle it all behind the scenes. When applied, it covers your entire website as well as future pages and content you add. You won’t notice an impact on page load times or server resources, and visitors may actually notice that your site moves faster, thanks to ramped up browser speed only available when you activate HTTPS.

Bottom line: There’s just something about the little green padlock that provides big browsing benefits. We’re ready to help you turn the key. Contact our Digital Director, Susan Crisler at [email protected] or 309-346-4230.

Monday, August 28, 2017

5 Reasons to Boost Your Results with Microsites and Branded Blogs

As human beings, our attention span has shrunk to 8.25 seconds – less than that of a goldfish! Is it any wonder microsites and branded blogs are reporting increased conversion rates of up to 200%? These little workhorses are quick, not-so-quiet secret weapons. So why don’t you have one?

First things first: What the heck is a microsite (or branded blog to some)? A microsite allows you to zero in on a specific product, service, event or marketing effort to quickly raise brand awareness and convey hyper-specific information. It has its own URL, likely completely separate and independent of your main website URL. It can be short-term, like those based around a campaign or marketing effort (like Prudential’s, or evergreen, like those supporting a specific company platform or effort (like Red Bull’s These sites can be bulked up periodically or in the case of a blog, a social media platform that changes all of the time.

Alive Anytime - A microsite McD Marketing built for South Haven, MI

5 reasons why you should consider adding a microsite to your marketing arsenal. 

  1. They have less pages and content than your average website, making them faster to develop and pop up. That more compact, streamlined size and content profile can also translate to more cost-efficient development. Often developers are able to incorporate high-impact images, videos or animations. 
  2. They quickly raise awareness by focusing on specific content. Often tied to a specific product or service, they give your audience a fast, clear way to explore your new offering. And, they’re great for public and media relations, instantly generating interest and audience. In fact, microsites can improve conversion rates by as much as 200%. 
  3. You can mine a whole new array of keywords and SEO value without overhauling your main website. You don’t have the worry of managing your main site through a quick or short-term hard-hitting, fast-moving campaign. And, you don’t over-crowd or congest your main home page. 
  4. They can look completely different from your mother brand – especially important and valuable if you’re launching a product, service, event or campaign that targets an audience different from your norm, such as a more youthful segment. For example, Unilever leverages a microsite for its Axe product line’s unique marketing approach. 
  5. Add a branded blog to your digital footprint, and you raise your social media and SEO impact even more. And, you put your brand stamp out there in an even bigger way. You’ll want to be sure to schedule regular updates to keep content fresh and keep your target audience coming back to mine your brand messaging. And ideally, you’ll build it with a robust CMS that has the ability to allow for multiple publishing of blogs. P&G created the microsite and branded blog and reports that microsites are four times more effective than traditional marketing campaigns. 

Galena Country Journal - A microsite McD Marketing built for
Galena Jo Daviess County IL CVB.

While we’re at it, 3 things NOT to do with your microsite: 

  1. Put out duplicate content – one of Google’s cardinal sins; you’re zeroing out any SEO benefit your microsite provides if you’re not creating unique content. 
  2. Bandying about backlinks – the point of a microsite is to live separately from the mother ship. If you’re constantly backlinking to your current site, you’re defeating the purpose of building that unique online brand experience. 
  3. Piggybacking on your analytics – metrics rule in the online world, but if you’re muddying the waters by using your existing Google Analytics profile as-is, you’ll never know if your microsite fits the bill. A better approach: Create a new site profile under the same account. That way you can tailor and customize segmentation and goals to your microsite. 

You only have 8.25 seconds to reach… oh look a squirrel! The McD Digital Team only needs 6 seconds to get your attention. Think of us like the 6 million dollar man of digital: We have the technology – and the savvy. Let’s talk! Contact Tony Oedewaldt, Director of Business Development, at [email protected] or 309-346-6974.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Technical SEO? Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Has your web development firm said those three little letters to you yet? S-E-O? if you’re building a website you’ve likely heard it more than once. But did you know SEO is more than making sure your site is at the top of the search results? So how does Technical SEO differ from a total SEO approach – and why should you care?

Technical SEO (search engine optimization) embodies a truly technical approach focusing on how well search engines can index your content. Google algorithms for example, will crawl your site based on certain parameters and from those results determine where you rank when a specific keyword is typed into the search box. Mobile friendliness, site speed, bread crumbs, a URL-friendly structure and avoiding duplicate content are all good technical SEO practices that impact your site’s indexing. It’s a great start.

But savvy marketers like yourself are taking it more than a few levels farther, implementing a truly thorough approach to SEO that seamlessly and relentlessly integrates technical SEO with on- and off-page content SEO. This is the full meal deal to the value menu; the whole enchilada to the hard-shell taco. We’re talking keyword optimization, user-centric experiential development, leveraging natural and inbound links.

A robust, results-driven SEO approach incorporates equally robust, engaging, original content development. And more, that content must be factual, accurate and practical, it should elicit response and emotion from the reader. Gone are the days of simply incorporating a few hot hit list keywords into your website text and calling it good. Today’s search engines deploy tech-smart spiders to crawl websites looking not just for the right words, but the right wording. They’re looking for style, conversationalism, friendliness, usefulness and resourcefulness. They’re learning and evolving as they crawl, and they’re getting smarter every day.

Thus, today’s smart SEO approach effectively leverages Google’s Hummingbird algorithm (the tool that brought down Mobilegedden in the cyber world). More than keywords, it’s about semantics – how things are said, casual phrasing, and above all else, a logical, natural-flowing question-and-answer format.

And successful SEO delves into the behind-the-scenes of the web world too, implementing Google-compliant meta descriptions and title/browser tags to raise results, and making subtle improvements that make a huge impact in browser pings, like keyword enhancement, image alt tags, crosslinking.

It’s a mad, mad world we live in – and an uber-savvy SEO approach that speaks to the Google gods goes a long way toward taming the beast. We’re web-tamers extraordinaire - contact Tony Oedewaldt today to tap into our tricks: [email protected] or 866-431-4230.