Google Sends Strong Message About HTTPS in Upcoming Google Chrome Release

At the end of the month, Google will release a new version of the Chrome web browser. In this release there will be a critical change in the way it displays sites that are not using HTTPS, or SSL. We were notified of this through WordFence, the security plugin we use on all our websites. There’s a good article about this on their blog.

What is HTTPS?

The ‘S’ at the end of HTTPS stands for ‘Secure’, meaning that communications between your browser and the website are encrypted. Browsers will display a lock icon in the address bar to show that HTTPS is in effect.

What does this mean for your site visitors?

If you are not using HTTPS on your website, this new release is going to be confusing for your site visitors on Chrome. Your website will have a message in the url bar that says “Not Secure” on pages that collect credit cards or login information.

Do you need to upgrade to HTTPS?

If your site doesn’t take credit card payments, and doesn’t give your customers the ability to login, this won’t affect you right away. However, you should still consider upgrading to HTTPS, because it is quickly becoming the new standard.

Google has been moving this direction since 2014 when they started giving a small rankings boost to sites with HTTPS. As of now, this is only a minor boost, but experts predict Google will strengthen this signal to encourage all sites to go HTTPS. The most recent Chrome update is a strong indicator of this.

If your site is not currently using HTTPS, most hosts offer SSL certificates. It’s generally an extra $100/year to add an SSL certificate to your hosting package.

This update needs to be coordinated with your web designer, because there are number of changes that need to be made to your WordPress site. Google has a good article about steps you need to take to implement SSL on your site.

4 Tips to Avoid Domain Name Scams

I thought I would quickly post something about this, because I see it happen all the time.  There are many shady domain name registrars, and illegitimate companies running domain name scams that you have to be VERY, VERY careful anytime you get something faxed, mailed, or e-mailed to you about renewing your domain name.

Most of these solicitations don’t come from your existing registrar, and are designed to get you to register a domain name you don’t need (at a very high price), or to transfer your domain name out of your current registrar and over to their company, by making you think your domain is about to expire.

Here are a few things you can do to avoid these scams:

1).  Know who your host is, and who your registrar is.

These are usually two different entities.  It is possible to have your hosting and domain name with the same company, but often they are different companies.  The quick explanation is that the registrar is the company that you pay each year for your domain name or your address on the internet.  Domain names generally cost about $10-15/year.    Your host is the company that allows you to put your website files on the internet, and stores them for you.  Very basic hosting is around $10-15/month, or $100/year.

2).   Know when your domain name expires.

You can look up the information about your domain name by going to:  www.betterwhois.com .  Here you can see who your domain registrar is, when you first registered the domain, and when it expires.  You can also check to make sure you contact information is current.

3).  Always keep the administrative email on your domain name current.

I can’t stress this enough.  If your email address is current you will receive notifications from your registrar reminding you that it’s time to renew your domain.  Again… know the name of your current registrar so you don’t get tricked into transferring your domain to a shady registrar.   If you lose your password, you will need the correct email address on file with the registrar in order to retrieve it.   You can find out what the administrative email is on the domain by going to www.betterwhois.com.

4).  When you get a notification about your domain name expiring, go to your registrar and login.

If your domain name is truly expiring, you can renew it here.  Each time you login to renew your domain, check your account contact information to make sure that your email address is current.  If you ever need to register another domain, login to your existing registrar and buy the new domain from within your existing account.  This way all your domains will always be in the same account, and you will only need to keep track of one registrar, one username and one password.

Finally, don’t rely on anyone to keep track of your domain for you… not your web designer, not your children, and not your staff!

 

Don’t Forget to Check Internet Explorer

Anyone who has worked on the web knows that different browsers display pages differently, and that Internet Explorer can be a problem. It doesn’t really follow the rules. A site that looks fine in a standards compliant browser (Firefox, Safari, Chrome) can look downright broken in Internet Explorer. To complicate matters each version has its own set of issues. For Internet Explorer, I limit myself to checking how a site looks in IE 6, 7, and 8. Since I work on a Mac, the options for testing a site in all these browsers (IE for Mac is completely different) comes down to:

Using an online browser preview site browsershots.org
I can see how this might work for some people but for me it’s too slow. If I’m trying to figure out what went wrong I want to be able to jump back and forth to check my changes. It’s also just a picture of  what the site would look like, not how it behaves.

Using a PC
This is what I’ve been doing up until now. I have an extra computer, a Dell Inspiron 5100 using IETester. IETester lets you preview IE 6,7,8 on a PC (even on a PC you can’t have all three versions installed). Using an extra computer works, but sometimes I can get pretty far into a project before I remember to check.

Installing virtualization software
This creates a virtual computer on your Intel Mac. Once it’s installed you can run Windows on your Mac. There are two contenders, Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion. According to mactech.com, in a side-by-side comparison Parallels looks the clear winner.

So I ordered a copy of Windows XP Home Edition and Parallels Desktop 5. Parallels installed fine, but getting Windows XP to install was problematic, and once it was finally installed doing updates would cause disk errors. I don’t know how many times I tried to get it to work, or how many support forum posts I read, but it took up most of my day.

As a test, to see if it was Parallels or XP that was the problem, I downloaded the trial version of VMware Fusion. XP installed on the first try, and all my updates so far have worked without a hitch. Zero errors, wow that was a huge difference.

Now I’ve got XP running on my Mac, IETester for previewing sites, and if something comes up where I need to install a Windows program, I can.

Anyone want to buy a sweet used Dell?

Protecting Your Domain Name

Chances are, like most business owners, your domain name is a key part of your overall marketing strategy.  It is in your best interest to know when it expires.  Don’t rely on anyone else to keep track of this information for you.

So, how do you find out who your domain name is registered with, and when it expires?  Go to www.betterwhois.com and enter your domain name in the look-up box.  You’ll have to enter a 4-digit code to verify that you are a real person requesting this information, not a machine.

In the results look for the following information:

Registrar

This is the company you registered your domain with.  This is the ONLY company you should respond to regarding domain name notices.  You will most likely receive a notice from Domain Registry of America (droa.com) that your domain is about to expire, and chances are they are NOT your registrar. They are simply trying to trick you into transferring your domain to their company.   Go to the search for “droa scam” in Google to see what I mean.  While we’re talking about scams, look at “ilscorp scam“, and “dnrcenter.hk scam“.  If you get an email about your domain name that you don’t trust, do a google search to find out if it’s legitimate or not.

Expiration Date

This is the date your domain name will expire.  You can renew your domain name for more than one year at a time, and search experts often say that Google gives extra weight to domain names that longer expiration dates (it shows you have staying power).  Simplify your life and renew your domain name for 10 years at a time.

Administrative Contact

This should be you, or someone you trust.  This is the person who will receive the email notifications that your domain name is about to expire.  If you change your email address, make sure you update the email address at the domain registrar so you receive any notifications from them.

Make it your business to know what is going on with your domain name!