website

Is your site marked “not secure”?

Google has been chatting about the importance of secure websites for a few months. With a market share of 86.28% among leading search engines*, when Google speaks, we should pay attention.

And, as promised by Google, their message is no longer background chatter. Since the start of summer, it’s being broadcasted loud and clear with an ⓘ. HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) sites are now flagged as “not secure” in Google Chrome search results.

The consequences

A nonprofit seeking donations, members and volunteers may see a hit in their online activity when their website is flagged with this warning:

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You should not enter any sensitive information on this site (for example, passwords or credit cards), because it could be stolen by attackers.

That’s scary language. I know I’m going to back away from the keyboard and making an online donation when I see that warning. Will your informed donors react the same? Charity Watch lists 9 pointers to look for in making certain online donations are safe. Number four on their list, highlighted in red, is “give safely” and advises potential donors to look for an HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) URL.

SSL certificate

Your web hosting company or website developer can help you with the steps of obtaining an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate, along with activating and installing it. This digital certificate provides authentication for your website and encrypts data while it is being transmitted. Expect an annual fee for the certificate. When the ⓘ becomes a green padlock next to the URL, you will know the website has been deemed secure by Google.

Beyond the padlock, additional security tips

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Don’t let the padlock lull you into a false sense of security. It’s only covering data as it is transmitted. You will still need to have a firewall in place to prevent unauthorized access to your web server. Also, make it standard practice to create secure passwords. Use a service to monitor for malware to protect data from online threats. Update software when notified as the updates often include security patches. And, don’t allow visitors to your site to upload files as that can open the door for problems. If necessary, use a SFTP or SSH method instead.

Finally, one more tip… As external websites are certain to update their security, double check that this doesn’t result in any broken links on your site when referencing resources outside your organization.

These are just a few tips for protecting your business and donor data from the bad guys. What tips do you have to share?

Susan Mertz is a Content Specialist at M&C. She specializes in website development, search engine optimization and enhancing user experience. 

*statista.com/statistics/216573/worldwide-market-share-of-search-engines/

Search Data Is Not My Job

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If you are a copywriter, sales representative, human resource manager, social media manager or business owner who avoids search data, you might want to rethink that approach. Implementing keywords and phrases isn’t just the job of the person who does the website. It involves all aspects of doing business and marketing a business.

Tylor Hermanson of Intouch Solutions and Sandbox SEO shared search data insights and applications at a recent Kansas City Data-Driven Marketing Association (KCDMA) luncheon. Towards the end of his program, he listed ten ways to use search data for anything but SEO. Here’s my take on a few of his suggestions:

Job postings – a job description with industry keywords will help a business attract candidates with qualifications closely matching the need.

Social media – craft content with trending topics and keywords to maximize the value and expand the reach of each post.

Customer service – know what customers are searching for and make it easy for them to find answers with content in an FAQ format that includes familiar keywords and phrases.

Smarter targeting – familiarity with search data and incorporating industry keywords and messages in the content will help businesses reach qualified, targeted prospects.

Affiliate relationships – search data can help increase the awareness of allied businesses and expand an industry network.

Relationship marketing – use search data to help a business connect with customers and prospects by learning where they are hanging out and what they are interested in.

Got it. Search data is important to my job. Now what?

There are many tools available for exploring search data. Hermanson recommends starting with social media, focus groups, and surveys. You can also learn key terminology from employees who answer customer questions and meet with customers on sales calls.

Then, take advantage of several free resources to explore keywords and search data:

Moz – 10 free keyword searches per day

KWFinder – build upon your keyword with keyword phrases

AnswerThePublic – an entertaining site with great information

Keyworddit – learn search results related to your keyword

Finally, don’t forget the power of Google! Google Suggest (the words that pop up when you type in a few words), Google Trends (see what people are searching for) and Google Correlate (patterns and trends) are all free tools.

Ok, I realize not everyone is like me. I love SEO and am inspired by search data results and the ensuing creative possibilities. I see opportunities to create a FAQ document, a marketing flyer, a social media post or a how-to video.

How about you? How can search data help you and your business?

Susan Mertz is a Content Specialist at M&C. She specializes in website development, search engine optimization and enhancing user experience. 

Your Website is Never "Finished"

"But We Just Did Our Website . . ."

I hear that line quite often from nonprofit leaders. Sometimes, "just finished" means as much as 5 or 7 years.

Given the time and cost involved in developing a website, the sentiment is understandable. But the reality is websites are NEVER finished. They should be always evolving.

Think of it like a house. Yes, there is an act of purchasing at a moment in time, but invariably it will require maintenance. Sometimes that maintenance is simple, like mowing the lawn, for example. Other times it requires a larger investment, like a new roof or heating and cooling.

Websites are no different. They will require both structural and aesthetic updates to remain relevant and effective. That's why we recommend our clients keep this in mind—and plan for it—at the outset.

Ongoing investments to build into your plan include:

  1. Updates to the look and feel
  2. Enhancements to functionality (new features are released every day)
  3. Security updates (this is vital for content management systems like Wordpress or Joomla)
  4. Administrative matters (like updating and paying for the domain and hosting)
  5. Training new staff on how to update the website, if applicable

Ask as many questions as possible if you are in the midst of a web redesign and set your expectations accordingly. It will save you from surprises and make for a better website, too.