What Is A SSL Certificate and Why Is It Important?

What Is A SSL Certificate and Why Is It Important?

An SSL certificate is a type of digital certificate that provides authentication for a website and enables an encrypted connection. These certificates communicate to the client that the web service host demonstrated ownership of the domain to the certificate authority at the time of certificate issuance.

This authentication process is much like sealing a letter in an envelope before sending it through the mail. SSL, short for Secure Sockets Layer, is commonly used on e-commerce sites and pages that require users to submit personal or credit card information.

By ensuring that all data passed between the two parties remains private and secure, SSL encryption can help prevent hackers from stealing private information such as credit card numbers, bank information, names, and addresses.

Researchers have predicted that e-commerce will make up 17 percent of all U.S. retail sales by 2022, up from around 12.7 percent in 2017. This growth is only possible with a foundation of trust. SSL certificates create trust with users by verifying that websites used to track finances and make online purchases are secure and legitimate.

Why do you need an SSL certificate?

An SSL certificate ensures that the provider is who they claim to be and also indicates secure connections between personal devices and websites. Understanding SSL certificates is important for website trust and to help protect customers from becoming a victim to scammers. It’s smart to keep in mind that not all websites, or SSL certificates, are created equal.

An SSL certificate helps secure information such as:

  • Login credentials
  • Credit card transactions or bank account information
  • Personally identifiable information — such as full name, address, date of birth, or telephone number
  • Proprietary information
  • Legal documents and contracts
  • Medical records

What are the different types of SSL certificates?

Website owners purchase SSL certificates through Certification Authorities. CAs are trusted entities that manage and issue security certificates and public keys that are used for communication in a public network.

There are three different types of SSL certificates. Each provides a different level of security. The levels of security differ greatly among the types of certificate. This is why it’s important to understand what kind of SSL certificate a site is using when performing a financial transaction or doing anything involving personal user data.

  • Domain validated (DV). DV certificates only verify who owns the site. It’s a simple process where the CA will send an email to the website’s registered email address in order to verify its identity. No information about the company is required. Be aware that DV certificates have the lowest level of trust and are commonly used by cybercriminals because they are easy to obtain and can make a website appear more secure than it is.
  • Organizationally validated (OV). To receive an OV certificate, a CA must validate certain information, including the organization, physical location, and its website’s domain name. This process typically takes a couple of days. OV certificates have a moderate level of trust and are a good option for public-facing websites that deal with less sensitive transactions.
  • Extended validation (EV). This type of certificate is a must-have for websites that handle sensitive information. It has the highest level of security and is the easiest to identify. In order to issue an EV certificate, the CA performs an enhanced review of the applicant to increase the level of confidence in the business. The review process includes examination of corporate documents, confirmation of applicant identity, and checking the information with a third-party database. Users can know if a website holds an EV certificate if the browser’s URL bar contains a padlock and the company name is listed in green

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Business Website Essentials-The 6 Must Haves For Success

Business Website Essentials-The 6 Must Haves For Success

Telling a small business owner to “assume the perspective of your customer” is one of those classic easier said than done problems. It’s not for lack of trying, but owning a small business isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle. And when you put that level of passion and commitment into something, your unique familiarity with it can be tough to shake.

Yet this is the simplest way to quickly optimize your website. By deeply considering your customer’s perspective and buying journey, we can make decisions that put everything in the right place for the customer to easily and quickly complete their interaction with your business and maybe even leave a nice review to boot.

While it’s absolutely essential to have each of these elements be part of your website, the specifics of their presentation need to be in consideration of your specific customer demographics. Most notably will be the difference between information on an online store, where the priority is to drive sales, versus a traditional brick and mortar business, where the priority is to get them to visit you.


The must haves

Contact information

Much of your web traffic will be coming from customers looking to use your website as a tool to communicate with you. Whether by email, phone or in person, the information that helps them accomplish this needs to be a top priority. Placing an easily found “contact us” link in the top right corner of your website is never a bad move. But if your customers aren’t web savvy, consider putting your address, phone number and hours of operation right on the home page. Additionally, if your business location is a little off the beaten path, consider using a map application on your website to help people better understand your location.

Product information

This is a growing priority for small businesses online, as a huge number of searches now happen on mobile with the intent of “in the moment” product research, sometimes even in-store. This means that the more specific information you can have online about what you sell, the better. This may even lead to customer conversions while they are in a competitor’s store.

Keeping an up-to-date and functional product catalog online can be a lot of work, but it is most certainly worthy of consideration given the potential value. This is particularly important if your demographic skews younger and more web savvy.

Business description

Give a quick, easy-to-find snapshot of your business and history available for people interested in learning a little more about you. Keep in mind, if people are looking at this part of your website, they are likely close to buying. Make sure you put in a little marketing effort here to help seal the deal. Make it concise but include things like business history, location, relevant achievements and philosophy. It’s also not a bad idea to include customer testimonials if you have them.

Quicklinks to social channels

Social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are all great tools to help foster a direct line of communication between your business and its biggest fans. Your website should prioritize getting those follows and likes as easy as possible by installing a quick link widget into the footer or header of your website. That way, no matter where you customer goes on the site they are always one click away from connecting with you on Social.

Content/media

It’s becoming more and more common to see small businesses feature active content strategies and it’s easy to see why:

  1. Content is authentic – No one likes being sold to, and content is a great way for a business to build a relationship while leaving the hard sell on the shelf.
  2. Content is made for local – A good content strategy can help a business establish itself as grounded in its local area through authentic stories that are for and about their community.
  3. Content is hyper-targeted – Based on how you answered the first three questions your website, at least a little, is likely targeting customers at a specific part of the sales funnel. Having a fully realized content strategy allows you to add balance to your site. For example, if your site is designed to drive new sales, perhaps the content can be targeted towards customer retention by adding value to those people already in the fold.

Easy content strategy win = how-to videos

These can be extremely effective and easy to produce. Plus, creating how-to videos gives you the platform to demonstrate your expertise. Double-win if it’s related to your business.


Putting it all together with design

When considering design and layout, it’s completely appropriate to look at it as an opportunity to infuse some of your business’s personality into your website’s look and feel. But heed this warning: design is where it’s most critical to consider the customer’s perspective. Too often small business owners create a website that works perfectly for themselves while failing to consider how it will work for their customers.

Here are two top level considerations when choosing a design.

Mobile functionality is king

This has to be top of mind at every stage of design. While most modern design templates are mobile functional, it’s worth taking second looks at the ones that do it best. And if you haven’t updated your website since the inception of the smartphone, you might want to think about a redesign.

Keep it simple

You may have noticed that this article really pushes the need for priorities. With that in mind, consider putting only the most crucial information on the home page. Your home page must include easy links to: contact info, product info and business description. After that, it becomes really dependent on your goals and objectives. But when considering the perspective of your customer, oftentimes less is more.

Build for speed

By keeping things simple and prioritizing mobile functionality you are likely also building for speed. But this point is critical enough that it bares repeating. Your site needs to be fast! According to a study from Forrester Consulting 40% of shoppers will wait no longer than 3 seconds of load time before abandoning a retail website. As well, Google uses load time as factor in determining your search rank so a slow site might even be keeping customers from finding you when they look online.


Final thoughts

All in all, it’s a pretty swell time to be building a website for your business. Hosting is cost effective and secure, design templates have never looked nicer, and there is plenty of great content out there to help guide you through the process. But if you are ever curious if your website is serving you well, just follow this tip from Kevin Lao at Google: take out your phone, pull up your site and ask yourself “do you like what you see?” Now go to your closest competitor’s site and ask yourself the same question. Your answer will tell you all you need to know.

Understanding and Optimizing Your Website Speed Is Critical

Understanding and Optimizing Your Website Speed Is Critical

What is Page Speed?

Page speed is the amount of time it takes for the content on a website’s page to fully load. In a world where people have come to expect instantaneous results, faster is better.

In fact, nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds, according to surveys done by Akamai and Gomez.com.

But how long do most websites take to load?

The standards many have been using for page load time come from a study conducted by Geoff Kenyon where he compares website speed against the rest of the web:

  • if your site loads in 5 seconds, it is faster than approximately 25% of the web
  • if your site loads in 2.9 seconds, it is faster than approximately 50% of the web
  • if your site loads in 1.7 seconds, it is faster than approximately 75% of the web
  • if your site loads in 0.8 seconds, it is faster than approximately 94% of the web

So how can you determine how your website stacks up?


How to Determine Your Page Speed and Score

Here’s how to measure how your website stacks up:

  1. Hop into your website’s Google Analytics Site Speed reports. This will give you an idea of how your site has performed over various time periods and the load speed of each of your pages.
  2. Enter your site’s URL into Google’s PageSpeed Insights Tool. This will give you a report card on your website’s speed performance on mobile devices and desktop. The report comes with some recommended actions you can take to improve your site’s speed.
  3. Check Pingdom’s website speed test to find out the speed, rank and percent faster than the average of Pingdom’s tested websites
  4. GTMetrix will provide a comprehensive look at your site’s speed optimization status.

Note: Don’t puzzle yourself when you see different speed timing in Pingdom and Gtmetrix. As Pingdom will show you load time (The time it takes to show the first result of your website—that’s what google counts and you should too) and GTmetrix will show you full load time (The time it takes to show full page with it’s full functionality running).

For further understanding, it’s always good to see the speed waterfall from both tools.


Why Does Page Speed Matter?

Bridging the gap between user expectations (2 seconds) and average website load time (5 seconds) is the goal of page speed optimization and the tactics we’ll outline later. But why exactly does page speed matter? It comes down to 3 main interconnected reasons:

1. Speed Kills UX

User experience is probably the most important reason you should care about website speed, so we’ll start here.

People don’t have the patience for slow loading websites anymore. In the beginning, just connecting to the internet required a tolerance that just doesn’t exist anymore.

Today, people are constantly online and you’ve got 3 seconds maximum to display your page or they’re gone. More than 3 seconds creates a poor user experience and the bar is only going to get higher in the future.

2. Speed Kills SEO

User experience is actually the driving force behind the SEO implications of site speed. While Google has been slow to officially reveal whether slow websites would receive ranking demotions, it appears that those days are coming. You need to make sure your website is ready.

3. Speed Kills Conversions

Your site speed’s effect on conversions is what should really catch your attention. How can you move people through your funnel if each step takes forever? Your super-fans will do it, but those new, hesitant people who are prone to buyers-remorse will bounce.


8 Tactics to Make Your Website Load Faster

Speeding up your site is not necessarily going to be a snap. If you have a small, light site you may just need to try a couple of tactics on this list.

However, large, older sites with a lot of code and content may require some persistence and the implementation of several tactics on the following list.

Here’s where to start:

1. Leverage browser caching:

When you visit sites, your browser often caches pages on the site to speed up load time.

Browser caching stores webpage resource files on a local computer when a user visits a webpage, so leveraging browser caching is when you instruct browsers how their resources should be dealt with.

Things can slow down when the response from your server does not include caching headers or if resources are specified to be cached for only a short time.

Leveraging caching will load your pages much faster for repeat visitors and so will other pages that share those same resources.

Here’s how to do it

2. Optimize images:

If images load faster, your site loads faster, period. Google notes that “…images often account for most of the downloaded bytes on a page. As a result, optimizing images can often yield some of the largest byte savings and performance improvements.”

This means that you can get some big improvements when the images on your pages can be optimized to reduce their file size without significantly impacting their visual quality.

Here’s how to do it

3. Minify HTML, CSS & JavaScript:

Minifying removes any unnecessary characters that are not required for the code to execute.

Sources of redundant data that you can remove includes code comments and formatting, removing unused code, using shorter variable and function names, and more.

Here’s how to do it

4. Enable gzip compression:

Gzip compression drastically reduces the size of files sent from your server when someone visits your website. This will speed things up considerably.

According to GTMetrix,

“The reason gzip works so well in a web environment is because CSS files and HTML files use a lot of repeated text and have loads of whitespace. Since gzip compresses common strings, this can reduce the size of pages and style sheets by up to 70%!”

Here’s how to do it

5. Reduce server response time:

Server response time is the amount of time it takes for a web server to respond to a request from a browser. This is a key issue to address because if your server response time is slow your pages will display slow, no matter how optimized your pages are for speed.

Google says you should reduce your server response time under 200ms. So how do you make this happen?

Here’s how to do it

6. Avoid landing page redirects:

Your site can really slow down when you have more than one redirect from the given URL to the final landing page. This sets off a redirect loop that takes time to process.

Here are a few examples of redirects that can slow things down:

example.com → m.example.com/home – multi-roundtrip penalty for mobile users.
example.com → www.example.com → m.example.com – very slow mobile experience.

Here’s how to do it

7. Prioritize visible content:

This is the exact message you’ll get from Google’s PageSpeed tool when additional network round trips are required to render the above the fold content of the page.

This “above the fold” content is what you see on a desktop or device when you visit a page. So prioritizing visible content is the recommendation that you prioritize things so that essential elements on your page load first (and quickly) for users and that you defer secondary page elements like social sharing plugins, analytics javascript, etc.

Here’s how to do it

8. Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content:

JavaScript and CSS resources often prevent your page from displaying until they’re fully loaded. This is often a good idea, since the premature display of your above the fold content can look pretty grotesque.

However, this is a common message you’ll get from Google about site speed, and addressing it can really take your page speed up a few notches.

Here’s how to do it

Note: This is the hardest thing to fix for most people. There are WordPress plugins that just do it but they can make your site look like Frankenstein on every load.

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