Google have been banging on about https as a ranking signal for quite some time. Well it became official last week. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Get an SSL certificate for your web server.
For most businesses you will get these through your hosting company. They can cost between a few dollars per month to several hundred per year. The amount you pay depends on things like the level of security and the warranty provided to you if anything goes wrong with the certificate.
2. Setup your web server at HTTPS.
You need to get your hosting company to do this as well unless you are hosting your self. Make sure you setup HTTPS version in webmaster tools and don’t forget to redirect your www version of the https site to the root. Also make sure you have setup a sitemap in webmaster tools with all https URLs.
3. Redirect the HTTP versions.
This is extremely important. If you don’t do this you will have a completely duplicated site and the new https version will not inherit any of the link love. Depending on the size of your site you may then want to manually remove it from the Google index but for most sites if you have done the 301 redirect properly Google will remove it automatically.
Importance of HTTPS for SEO?
If your content is rubbish it’s more important to fix that first. All the security in the world won’t help you if you don’t have great, unique content.
Following on from the so called “faulty redirects” Google is now issuing these notices for sites where they have found an old page in the index that is now redirecting smartphone users to the home page. Previously we’d only seen these notices where smart phone users had clicked on a desktop result then had been redirected to the m.webaddress.com . Now if you have ever 301 an old page it would be a good idea to also remove it from the index if you have not done so already, lest you feel the wrath of a penalty.
David Jones Redirects
If you have a big site that you are fixing up it’s presence in the index, then the job just got a lot harder. The retailer David Jones has a lot of redirects. For instance the subdomains www2 (looks like an old site) has nearly 14,000 pages indexed, their shop.davidjones.com.au has over 400k, www has 2800. In addition to these subdomains there is also, blog.davidjones, facebook.davidjones , catalogue.davidjones, staffconnect.davidjones, fashionhub.davidjones.com.au and the list goes on. When I recorded this week’s video there were about 3million pages within the davidjones.com.au domain. 10 hours later there are 3.1 million. A lot of the new pages are these search results pages. It’s my guess that DJs would have a lot of these smartphone redirect errors. However the is the least of their problems.
A few weeks ago I said that you need to manipulate Google. By that I meant you need to tell Google what you want it to crawl and what you don’t. Simple things like using a robots.txt and a sitemap.xml can make a massive difference to your rankings rather than just giving Google unbridled access to index whatever it wants. Why on earth do you want Google indexing staffconnect.davidjones.com.au ? To give you an example of the duplication that is going as Google is running rampant through davidjones.com.au you need look no further than this search for this very expensive fragrance.
David Jones Selling Fragrance for $99,999
If you do a search for that fragrance at that price you will find this result it appears on 23 different pages at shop.davidjones.com.au including this one which I’m sure they do not want indexed.
It was just a few weeks ago that Google started issuing notices about smartphone faulty redirects. Now we’re seeing the warnings increase and sites getting removed from mobile search if they are doing the so called “faulty redirect” .
BigW recently launched a new site and now has at least three sites that I can see. www.bigw.com.au, ebooks.bigw.com.au & m.bigw.com.au. The problem for them having the m.bigw.com.au site is that it has a lot less pages than www.bigw.com.au.
BigW has 92 pages on m.bigw.com.au but over 350k on www.bigw.com.au
This means that there are not enough equivalent pages on m. to redirect to if someone finds a www page in Google whilst on a mobile. BigW seems to be redirecting all mobile traffic, as you would expect, to a page on m.bigw.com.au.
Google seeing redirection as misdirection.
In the case of mobile search Google does not want its users redirected to another page that does not have exactly the same content. For this reason it is highly unlikely that you will see a www version of a site appear in Google search results if an m. version of the domain exists.
BigW redirecting mobile users away from www
Prepare for a drop in mobile traffic
This will not affect sites that are using responsive design or possibly even those that don’t any mobile version of their site. Unless you have an exact mirror of your www site at your m site you will probably see a drop in traffic as Google begins to remove your www pages from the search results.
I have had reason to investigate speeding fine laws recently and I noticed a few people trying to sell information products in the space but it turns out they were targeting the wrong people. In todays video I use two tools that are free and I use all the time for SEO.
1. Google Trends
I use Google trends all the time for keyword research. I’ve used a lot of different tools over the years but for ease of use and accuracy trends wins hands down. In today’s show I was looking at the phrase “Speeding fines” and when I looked at related phrases I saw that “demerit points” was a breakout phrase. When you see this in Google trends it means the phrase has been rising in popularity over time. Quite often you’ll see it for topics that have been in the news a lot.
Demerit points breakout
I decided to compare the volume of demerit points searches with that of speeding fines. As you will see in the video I was pretty amazed. Since I recorded I decided to use a control phrase in analysis that I have some idea of the real volume of from my own webmaster tools data. The easiest to use was my own name as it has good volume as I am not the only Jim Stewart around but I rank well for it. In April Webmaster tools tells me there were 1300 searches for my name which was about 2% of volume when compared to “demerit points”.
Demerit points volume
Based on the above data I can make the calculation that there were about 65,000 searches in Australia for the phrase “demerit points” in April vs 17,550 for “speeding fines” . In the case of a site I’m looking at in today’s video, if they were converting traffic at 5% that would mean a difference of around 2300 sales at $67 or $150k plus. That is not chump change. Guess what though? They don’t rank for “demerit points” Which brings me to my next tool to quickly analyse your competitors.
2. Aaron Wall’s SEO For Firefox.
I love this tool and have been using it for years. It puts a lot of data in easy reach when you need it. It’s like a toolbox for the SERPs. You can quickly see exactly how strong your competition is for any phrase. I quickly work out in today’s video that it’s actually easier to rank for “demerit points” than speeding fines and that’s where all the money is.
Some people think that it is a bad thing. I would argue it is quite necessary. As you will see from today’s show sometimes Google goes to places you just don’t want it going and I don’t mean emotionally either. At the very least you should be directing Google where you want it to go. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use your robots.txt file. This is a really simple thing to setup even if you are not that technical. The robots.txt file keeps Google out of areas you don’t want it nosing around in.. in theory anyway.
Keep the Google Bot Out
Most good content management systems will come with a pre-populated robots.txt file that all good robots should obey. However there are still plenty of robots that won’t. Google has released a new tool inside webmaster tools so you can test your robots.txt, see today’s video for details.
Google The Tour Guide
Think of Google as a nosy tour guide wanting to find out everything there is to know about your site so it can show its users. If you give it free reign it will not only access all areas it will index all areas for everyone else to find as well. Whilst it’s bad enough someone finding a version of your website from the 1990s, what’s worse still is Google trying to make sense of it and how it relates to your current site. Stretching the tour guide analogy even further, why would they want to send someone to a confusing destination when there are easier ones to navigate?