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What Home Builders Need to Know About the Impending Secure Website Requirements

Unlike online banking or e-commerce, home builders’ websites rarely handle sensitive information like credit card payments or social security numbers. That means there’s been no urgent need for the familiar “green padlock” secure website connection… until now.

It may not be a top priority for every home shopper, but Google has some strong opinions about web security. Beginning in July, its Chrome browser is about to make all insecure websites a little more noticeable, alerting users when they access any non-secure site. Upgrading your website now means avoiding the warning, and a maybe a small bump in search engine optimization (SEO), too.

Why does Google want your website to be secure?

Internet privacy and security are big topics getting a lot of attention from governments and consumers alike. If you caught the Mark Zuckerberg testimony in front of Congress, you might also have read my thoughts on how that might affect builders. Have you noticed a flood of companies emailing you about their privacy policy updates? That’s in response to the new strict General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that applies to European Union citizens. The attention on consumer privacy is global, even if it’s not law in all countries yet, and Google is aiming to stay ahead of the tide.

What does this mean for your website visitors?

When a website is protected with an SSL Certificate, you’ll notice the address in the browser will include an “s” after the h-t-t-p. That “s” stands for secure, and it means that the data shared between the web browser and the website is encrypted — no one other than the user and the website/server can see what’s being transferred. This includes the content being read, watched, or shared via website forms. When visiting a secure website, even the Internet service provider (ISP) can only see the domain name. Everything after the “dot com” is encrypted and unavailable to them, and anyone else.

How does this benefit Google?

Overall, Google’s aim is to improve consumer confidence in the Internet experience — a sentiment critical to its continued success.

By encouraging a secure web experience, Google limits the power of malicious tracking scripts and onerous ISP terms of service that save and sell consumer behavior without explicit consent. Although, it is noteworthy that Google does seem to gain a competitive advantage by limiting the kind of consumer behavior an ISP can track.

This initiative also improves password security. If a consumer uses the same password for their online banking as they use to save favorite home listings on your insecure website, that password is at risk and interceptable by unscrupulous hackers.

How do you avoid negative impact?

In a sentence… Get an SSL certificate for your website before July.

Without an SSL come July, Chrome users might feel a little less confident browsing your website. The Chrome browser currently accounts for about 57% of all internet traffic worldwide. Those numbers are slightly lower for the U.S. and Canada, but Chrome is still the leading browser by far. There is no doubt that this will impact a large percentage of your users.

Your website host or developer can install the certificate for you, and the basic certificates that are sufficient to appease Google Chrome are quick and inexpensive. The cost is relatively small, and some certificates can even be acquired for free, but all will require some technical expertise for proper configuration. Expect costs between $100-300 annually to maintain your secure status.

Some other tips to keep in mind after your SSL certificate is installed.

  • Ask your web developer to “301 Redirect” all of your current pages to the secure version. This means users, and Google, will not need to type h-t-t-p-s, but will be automatically be directed there.
  • Update the links to your website where you can. Add the “s” to your Facebook profile, Instagram accounts, etc. If you completed the step above, traffic will be redirected anyway, but this is a best practice.
  • Update the “default URL” setting in Google Analytics to be “https://”
  • If you’ve claimed your website using Google’s Webmaster Tools, you’ll need to complete this step for the new https address.

What now?

Making your website secure may give an extra boost of confidence and credibility to your brand. Even if that’s not the immediate result, being a good steward of your customers’ privacy is just good business. And way back in 2014, Google announced it would give a small rankings boost to secure websites.

Good for the consumer, good for your search rankings, and just good business. What’s not to like?


Dennis O'NeilAbout the author…

Dennis O’Neil is a leading Internet sales and marketing thinker and doer with 18 years of building industry experience. Dennis founded ONeil Interactive, a creative marketing and website design powerhouse, after nearly a decade of sales and marketing leadership with a national home builder. Best known for his insights on the convergence of technology, sales, and the customer experience, Dennis’s latest book on the topic, Sales Actualization: Outselling the Internet is available from Amazon.

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