An SEO Guide to SSL Certificates

What is an SSL certificate?

In short, an SSL certificate is a digital authentication certificate which provides a site with HTTPS encryption. This certificate is then used to verify the legitimacy of a website and will allow that website to display to its users that it is trustworthy, as well as providing those same users with HTTPS-level encryption, further protecting non-sensitive information, names, passwords and banking details.

The benefits of HTTPS level encryption include:

  • Providing security for users from man-in-the-middle attacks and protecting the user’s data, in line with GDPR
  • Increase in organic rankings, based on additional trust signals
  • Displaying a padlock next to the site’s URL as a visual clue to users informing them that encryption is active on the site

How does an SSL certificate benefit SEO?

With search engines pushing towards a more secure web, websites with HTTPS level encryption (as opposed to HTTP) can see positive effects when it comes to rankings.

Many browsers are also displaying warnings to users when they visit a site without HTTPS encryption, such as Apple’s Safari and Google Chrome displaying these warnings:

Sites will also receive warnings if any resources used on the site are not HTTPS encrypted, this is called mixed content warning. A few months ago we released a post detailing how Google Chrome has cracked down on mixed content, along with how this should be treated. Resources that have been targeted by Google Chrome include:

  • JavaScript and CSS
  • iFrames
  • Audio, video, and image files

Ensuring all these resources are served using HTTPS encryption will safeguard the site from being negatively impacted by “insecure site” warnings.

If an SSL certificate fails or is invalid, browsers such as Google Chrome will display a warning that the user’s connection is not private. This warning is much more severe than the “mixed content” warning and will need to be resolved as soon as possible.

How to get an SSL certificate?

For most sites, SSL certificates are provided as part of a web hosting subscription, such as SiteGround, BlueHost and Host Gator. Although these SSL certificates will usually be low-level, domain validated SSL certificates, suitable for sites that don’t receive a high amount of traffic and require minimal encryption.

All types of SSL certificates can be purchases from dedicated service providers, such as Comodo SSL Store or Digicert or domain registrars, such as NameCheap and GoDaddy.

There are many types of SSL certificates that will be suitable in different scenarios and can be split into 3 main types:

Domain Validated Certificates (DV)

Perfect for SMEs and offers minimal encryption, these are also the cheapest certificates that don’t require verification of the site owner’s information. Domain validated certificates provide just enough encryption for browsers to display the HTTPS padlock within the address bar.

Organisation Validated Certificates (OV)

A tier up from domain validated certificates, organisation validated certificates provide an extra level of trustworthiness and involves a manual investigation to take place on the information of the organisation applying for the SSL certificate. This certificate is ideal for sites that use customer login information (excluding payment specific information).

Extended Certificates (EV)

These offer the highest level of encryption and also require the highest level of validation. Extended certificates are recommended for sites that require sensitive customer information, such as payment card information for ecommerce sites.

Each of these certificates will provide sites with a padlock within the address bar, however will provide users with a varied amount of security for users.

How much is an SSL certificate?

Prices for SSL certificates can vary depending on level of encryption, level of verification and added benefits provided as part of the service. Splitting prices into the 3 types mentioned in the “How to get an SSL certificate?” segment, these can fit into the following price margins (pricing is approximate):

SSL Certificate TypePrice PointApproximate Cost
Domain Validated (DV)££5-£150/yr
Organisation Validated (OV)£££15-£1,000/yr
Extended Certificate (EV)££££50-£2,300/yr

What is the recommended validity length of an SSL certificate?

With a bill being passed on 1st March 2018 reducing the maximum validity length of DV and OV SSL certificates from 39 months to 825 days (around 27 months), EV SSL certificates are already limited to a maximum lifetime of 27 months, and 13 months for validity information. So, what is the recommended length of a SSL certificate’s validity across browsers? And is it better to have a longer or shorter validity time?

To answer the latter question, a shorter validity time on an SSL certificate can be seen to provide a higher amount of security as authenticity checks will need to be performed more often.

In regards to the recommended validity length of an SSL certificate, Apple have placed themselves at the front of this conversation by announcing that as of 1st September 2020, they will be setting a hard trust limit of 398 days, as opposed to the current acceptable duration of 825 days. This means that any certificates issued after this date for longer than 398 days will not be trusted by Apple products. Google have also been seen to show some interest in shortening their trust limit to around one year, although nothing has been passed as of yet.

With trust limits currently sat at 825 days across all browsers until 1st September 2020, any certificates purchased before this date can be valid for up the full 825 days and be trusted across all browsers. For certificates purchased after 1st September 2020, we would recommend ensuring that validity lengths are kept under 398 days, in order to keep within Apple’s (and all other browsers) trust limit.

If you found this useful then please check out our other blog posts, and if you’re interested in finding out more about how we can help with your organic rankings, get in touch with us today.

10 brands responding through social media to COVID-19

Stopped to check your screen time on your phone recently? With the world indoors in response to Covid-19 there has, perhaps unsurprisingly, been an increase in content consumption across digital media. Social media is no different to this, with all channels seeing usage levels skyrocketing since lockdown, LinkedIn alone reported seeing engagement growth rise by just shy of +3000% from January to March 2020. In response to this brands are acting accordingly – producing endless content to satisfy the insatiable hunger felt by a planet of people trapped indoors.

Newsfeeds are swamped with brands’ responses to the outbreak, company announcements and tips for the isolation period. So, the question remains, how do you get your brand heard amongst a sea of voices? To help you gauge what works, we have compiled a list of ten brands that have taken to social media to offer a response to COVID-19.

1. H&M

H&M, who have amassed a total of 8.3M followers internationally, have taken the notion of giving their voice to those that need it in a very literal sense by allowing ‘takeovers’ of their social media from global aid organisations. A simple idea but highly effective, offering an international platform to organisations such as the Red Cross to spread information and help across the globe.

2. Nando’s

How acceptable is humour in a time like this? As Harvard Business Review states ‘the nuances of brand voice are more delicate than ever’, so the real challenge here is understanding your audience and your brand perception. Nando’s is a great example of a brand that can play with humour in an effective, yet informative, way. Remember, it’s times like these that social media offers an escape through humour and light-heartedness, and we all need a laugh right now.

3. Volvo

Copy done properly. Volvo have put a minimalistic slant on this clever example of anti-advertising. As a multi-million-pound brand they have taken this opportunity to use their internationally renowned position to promote an important message in a very savvy manner.  

4. Ikea

On brand and on-point, here Ikea Israel have repurposed the oh-so-familiar flat-pack instruction manual formatting to create their most unforgettable manual yet.  

5. Guinness

A genius approach from Guinness, this social media post found its fame initially as a fake Guinness campaign that went viral. The artwork has now been authenticated by the Guinness brand who too were fans of this creative concept.

6. Nike

Playing on the conscience of the consumer this clever post from Nike tackles both the ‘play (or stay) inside’ message along with the idea of community spirit that is so tangible in the current climate. This message translates health officials’ guidelines, whilst maintaining an undeniably Nike feel.

7. Burger King

Taking to the outdoors to convey their stay indoors message, Burger King Belgium presents an industrial scale change of tack. This brand opted to change their iconic ‘Home of the Whopper’ slogan to a more contemporaneous ‘Stay Home’ message. Bold and brave, this eye-catching amendment offers a physical reminder of the government recommendations seen across the world.

8. Vogue

Powerful and poignant, Vogue Italia responded to the devastating crisis by leaving their front cover plain white for the first time in their history. Editor in chief Emanuele Farneti supplied the accompanying copy ‘Above all: white is not surrender, but a blank sheet waiting to be written, the title page of a news story that is about to begin.’ A strong sign of optimism, hope and respect in these times of darkness.

9. Gym Shark

Low cost and high impact, Homeshark (otherwise known as Gymshark) simply changed their display name in an effective PR stunt that resulted in their most liked Instagram photo.

10. Go Outdoors

Following a similar path, Go Outdoors shared a short promotional video branded ‘Go Indoors’ displaying the beautiful British landscapes and urging the viewer to ‘stay at home’ to ‘protect the NHS’ and ‘save lives’.

So, there we have it, ten brands covering a breadth of audiences, nations and tones all responding in different ways to the COVID-19 crisis. What we can learn from this is the importance of expressing your brand’s voice in this time, as Ted Murphy founder of IZEA put it, ‘We see significant opportunity for brands to connect with an audience that is hungry for content, education, and online social experiences’. The answer is not should we speak, but how do we want our voice to be remembered.  Take the time to uplift your audience, praise you heroes and you will find your brand remembered on the right side of history.

Stay safe, stay home and save lives.

For more information on Social Media and SEO market updates take a look at our other blogs.

Starting up during lockdown: a Q&A with the newest additions to Team Fusion

There’s nothing like a new face in the office, and amongst the madness we had two fresh ones join the team just last week. Along with almost the whole country, Fusion Unlimited has been a work-from-home operation for almost a month now, meaning our new starters began their first day with a virtual greeting from the team and a solo tea-round. Not quite the conventional first day in the new job they’d probably imagined.

Routine has been thrown up in the air for all of us, but have you wondered what it’d be like to be starting a new job in the midst of all this? In this post our new content consultant, Dalia, and the latest addition to our paid media team, Danielle, give you an insight of what it’s really like to start a new job in the middle of a pandemic.

Q. What was it like meeting everyone virtually on your first day, rather than in person?

Dalia: “To be honest, meeting everyone on Skype rather than face to face was just about as nerve-wracking as meeting new colleagues in the flesh! I have to say, doing it from a distance takes away some of the fun of meeting new people and settling into a new office. 

It will be interesting to see how long this situation lasts and how it will be meeting the whole team face to face at the end of it. Something like “Hi nice to finally meet you in person, I’m the new team member you have worked with remotely for weeks now!..”

Danielle: “I had been working from home for 2 weeks prior to starting, and truth be told I’d gotten myself into the bad habit of wearing cosy clothes and not doing my make-up. My first day gave me a chance to reset, I made sure I wore something nice and it made me feel a lot better. 

Meeting everyone over Skype for the first time was nice but of course a little unusual. I think working from home mostly got rid of the first day butterflies, although I was definitely still very nervous. But I know that if I had been in the office, I would’ve been a bag of nerves! Because no one has met me face-to-face, it’s nice to use video on calls.”

Q. Have you found it’s been more difficult to settle in? 

Dalia: “Despite the situation, everyone has been so nice and helpful! I think they all appreciated that starting in a new company is hard enough, let alone doing it under these circumstances. I asked a million questions via Skype and was given tasks to begin with that helped me familiarise myself with clients and strategies.”

Danielle: Everyone has been really lovely, and helpful. I love that there is still a sense of friendship and comradery over Skype. Everyone is still trying to have a laugh and it’s a great morale booster. I think it’s easy to feel isolated when you work from home, but I haven’t felt that way at all since I started. I also love that there’s a Friday pub quiz. It’s a great idea to bring everyone together and it’s something to look forward to!

Dalia and Danielle, the newest additions to the Fusion Unlimited team.

Q. What would you say has been the main struggle?

Dalia:  “The lack of human interaction is quite a big one! That goes for everything these days though. I really miss going out and enjoying a coffee in a busy cafe. It is also quite hard to have a full on-boarding remotely, so I find myself wondering what the best process to do something is and if we have any company directives to follow. In that situation, asking for help is key!”

Danielle: I’d say the only downside is not being able to see everyone in person! There are a lot of positives to working from home, but I do miss office banter. I think we take for granted the value of seeing people and being around other people, it’s good for the mind.”

Q. Do you think this could have a positive impact in the long-run? 

Dalia:  “I hope so! I just know one thing though, the first day in the office will feel like a proper treat. Meeting everyone, getting to know the team better, setting up the new desk and please let’s all get a drink after! We will have survived a global lockdown, after all…”

Danielle: “It’ll be really reassuring to know that, if we can keep going on through this, we can survive anything that comes at us! Having everyone working from home isn’t an ideal situation but it’s a real confidence booster to know we can do it well if we need to. I’m sure everyone will pick up good habits and new ways of working that they can bring into the office on the other side, and we’ll all have a great new-found appreciation of proper interaction and spending time together.”

If you’re interested in joining the Fusion Unlimited team, anyone who is passionate about delivering great work is always welcome at our table. Take a look at our current opportunities and get in touch for any more information.

SEO Market Updates: March 2020

Join Fusion’s SEO team as we round up last month’s major industry updates and more.

Google prioritises NHS content for health queries

People searching for health related queries in the UK, have started seeing NHS hosted content in the Knowledge Panels in an attempt to provide high quality, localised, easy to understand and trusted health information.

Bing provides similar functionality using Focus Medica for medical conditions, as well as First Databank for medications. We have also seen results from the MayoClinic and the National Library of Medicine appear in the search results for this search engine.

Comparison of the instant answers for both Google and Bing for the query allergies

NHS content is also promoted on YouTube with an info box returned above the typical search results.

Links to NHS information featured in YouTube

Google: Mobile first indexing for all in September 2020

The smartphone Googlebot has been used for a few years, now Google have announced a shift to mobile-first indexing for all sites starting later this year. The search engine will also crawl sites using the desktop crawler, but to a lesser extent.

It has been pointed out that it will become even more important that sites comply with mobile-first indexing best practices to ensure they are represented well for both existing, as well as new sites. Google has also recommended against using separate mobile URLs for sites (such as m.domian.tld), and for implementing responsive design.

Google also recommended to set any other monitoring or tools used for site analysis to a mobile user-agent to reflect what the search engine crawlers see.

Changing the user-agent in Screaming Frog to mobile

WordPress 5.5 to include auto-updates for plugins

WordPress, which powers 35% of the web (including this site), will include a feature allowing auto-updating capabilities for plugins and themes.

This move should improve the roll-out of updates; plugins are often a WordPress attack vectors as quality control can vary depending on the authors. This should in theory allow for a “set and forget” approach to the installation of plugins, as long as they are patched by the developers.

WordPress 5.4 was released on March 31, so I you haven’t updated the CMS yet, we recommend doing so now. It comes with a new features for both users and developers, including block editor enhancement and more.

New WordPress text formatting tools

Google responds to COVID-19

  • As a response to events being cancelled or moved online, a new optional eventStatus property can help prevent the event being dropped from the search experience. Some elements of this are still under development, but can be used already.
  • New structured data for critical announcements (SpecialAnnouncement) is in Beta, designed primarily for health and government organisations. This can also be done using Search Console.
Special announcement options in Google Search Console
  • Google My Business allows brick-and-mortar stores to be marked as temporarily closed to avoid confusion. Google has also made a point that temporarily closes will not impact local search engine rankings.
Marking a business as temporarily closed on Google My Business
  • Google News has added a COVID-19 section organising news from selected sources seen as authoritative
  • On YouTube curated playlists have been created containing information from trusted sources
  • Community Mobility Reports have been published providing insights on how people move after restrictions have been imposed by local governments, charting trends by geography as well as category of location in comparison to a baseline
Visits to transit stations and workplaces have seen an decrease in West Yorkshire

Check out our latest blog posts for the latest news, and if you’re interested in finding out more about what we can do for your brand, get in touch with us today.