What is an SSL Certificate and Why Does Your Business Website Need One?

What is an SSL Certificate and Why Does Your Business Website Need One?

What is an SSL Certificate and Why Does Your Business Website Need One?

In 2017 all business websites should have an SSL Certificate. If you’re not responsible for the upkeep of your website you may not be very familiar with this term.  However, as an internet user, you’ll be familiar with the green padlock symbol that you see next to website URLs in your browser window. The green padlock signifies that the website you are visiting is secure. That is essentially what an SSL certificate does.

It used to be the case that only e-commerce websites that took online payments needed an SSL certificate. Not any more. Websites that do not show an SSL certificate now display a warning to their visitors to say that the website is not secure. And that’s not good for business!  

As a business owner or manager you need to understand what an SSL cert is, why you need it and how you can get one. The following FAQs will help you get to grips with SSL certificates in a matter of minutes. After reading you’ll know what steps to take next.  You could even have an SSL certificate on your website by the end of the day.

What is an SSL Certificate?

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. Its purpose is to create a secure (encrypted) link between your visitor’s internet browser and your website server.  What this means is that the data shared between your visitor’s browser and your server remains secure.  It confirms for the user that they are connecting with your real website and not a fraudulent website.   

Why do you need an SSL Certificate?

  • If you don’t have an SSL Certificate the data on your website is vulnerable to hacking. Clearly not good for business!
  • Displaying an SSL Certificate establishes your status as a reputable business and engenders trust in your customers.
  • SSL Certificates also improve Search Engine Optimisation. Google wants all businesses to have SSL Certs. As the SEO game goes –  Play by Google’s rules and your search engine ranking will be rewarded!
  • Websites with SSL Certificates load quicker. This is good news for user experience and also gives an additional boost to your SEO, since Google favours fast-loading times.

What is the difference between HTTP and HTTPS?

You may have noticed that some websites begin with HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) and others start with HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure).  HTTP is the unsecure connection (without SSL) and HTTPS is the secure connection (with SSL).

HTTPS is what you want for your business because it tells your customers your site is secure.  The way you get this is by adding an SSL certificate.

Why do I need to get an SSL Certificate sooner rather than later?

As I mentioned above, SSL Certificates were previously only essential for ecommerce sites or sites where sensitive information such as credit card details were being shared.  However, this all changed in January 2017 when Google began implementing a gradual plan to mark all http sites as “Not Secure”.

Since January 2017, Google displays your HTTP site as non secure if the website has credit card or password forms.   
The next step in the plan for HTTP websites is being implemented in October 2017 when Google are adding two more “Not Secure” situations:

  1. When a  user enters any data.
  2. When users browse in Incognito mode.

Eventually Google will simply show “Not Secure” for all HTTP websites.

So, now is the time to get your SSL certificate sorted.

How do I get an SSL certificate?

There are different levels and types of SSL Certificates.  Although some websites can obtain free SSL certs, others will need to purchase theirs with prices ranging depending on your website’s needs.  In general, it is a fairly inexpensive one time cost that is far outweighed by its benefits.

SSL certificates can be purchased from your hosting provider or an independent provider.  

How do I add an SSL certificate to my website?  

If you have a web developer or web design company who looks after your business website then they will be able to purchase and install your SSL certificate for you.

Another option is to get in touch with your hosting provider and see if they will sell and install the SSL cert for you.

Alternatively, if you look after our own website then SSL DIY is also possible and fairly quick and easy to do. You’ll find lots of guides specific to your website platform online.  

Thank You!  

So there you have it – everything you need to know about SSL certificates in a matter of minutes!  So now you know what they’re all about you can go ahead and get one for your website and reap the benefits!

If you have any questions relating to SSL certificates or other web development enquiries please feel free to leave a comment below. I am always happy to hear from readers and on the look-out for new relevant topics!  


Orla Veale

Commercial Director

7 Black Hat SEO Techniques Your Hired SEO Agency Should Not Be Using 

7 Black Hat SEO Techniques Your Hired SEO Agency Should Not Be Using 

Many business owners outsource their website’s search engine optimisation to professional SEO and digital marketing agencies. Rightly so. SEO takes time, technical proficiency and expertise. And when time is money, you’re better off spending yours on the parts of your business you do best.

Unfortunately some disreputable SEO companies use black hat SEO techniques to try manipulate search engine rank. For business owners and managers it is therefore important to know enough about SEO techniques to know that your SEO agency is providing a quality service.

Read why Black Hat SEO techniques can be damaging to your website in my recent article ‘Why Black Hat SEO is Like Putting Salt in Your Coffee’. Put short, Black Hat SEO optimises for Search Engines rather than for humans. Inevitably, the user’s experience suffers. This is exactly what SearchEngines want to avoid. Thus, once detected, culprit websites are penalised – and this can leave permanent damage.

To be vigilant of SEO malpractices on your website you need to be informed. In other words, you need to know what Black Hat SEO techniques actually are.

The following explainer list will help you identify and understand some of the most common SEO tactics that fall outside the best practice codes set out by Search Engines. In particular, this list is mindful of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.. Use this as a quality control checklist to ensure that the SEO agency you employ is legit.

Black Hat SEO Technique #1: Keyword Stuffing 

Knowing what keywords your customers are using in their Google searches and optimising your website for those keywords is a crucial part of SEO. But there is a fine line between keyword optimisation and keyword cramming or ‘keyword stuffing’.

Good SEO agencies will weave keywords into your website’s text in a natural and relevant manner. The objective is to provide useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.

‘Keyword stuffing’ occurs when the repetition of keywords or numbers is so great that text loses its meaning. Keywords appear in lists or blocks, often out of context, and disrupt rather than serve the natural prose of information-rich content.

Web users find heavy repetition frustrating and will not tolerate it.  You must ask yourself then: What’s the point of using keyword stuffing to draw large volumes of people to your site, if readers are then repelled from it? The quality over quantity argument rings true here.

Black Hat SEO Technique #2:  Hidden Text

Hiding text on your website may seem like a crafty way to get extra keywords on your page without compromising user experience. However, Google considers this to be a deceptive tactic.

Keyword blocks can be hidden in several ways.

  • Putting white text on a white background
  • Placing text behind an image
  • Using CSS to position text off-screen
  • Setting the font size to 0

Links are another important factor in SEO. To avoid displaying excessive amounts of links, webpages sometimes conceal these too by only linking a single character.  A hyphen (-), for instance, is a popular place for masking a link.

While these strategies take account of user experience, they are nonetheless deceptive tactics. Search engines look on hidden text and links unfavourably and will penalise guilty websites if detected.

Black Hat SEO Technique #3: Auto-generated content

Automatically generated content is content that’s been created programmatically. This can appear as paragraphs of seemingly random text that makes little or no sense to the user, but which contains target keywords.

The best way to think about auto-generated content is as text that humans do not review before it is placed on your website.  For example, text that is translated by an automated tool or text generated by skimming RSS feeds or search results. When text is auto-generated it can be taken out of context. For that reason, web visitors may find it obscure or confusing.  Consolidating content from several automated sources on your webpage only works if this content can be contextualised and given some additional human value or curation.

Black Hat SEO Technique #4: Doorway Pages

Doorways are websites or webpages that are created to rank highly for specific search queries. For example: www.yourkeyword.com.

These can be bad for users because they lead to content duplication. Users may find multiple similar pages appearing in search results, where each result takes them to what is essentially the same destination.

Some examples of doorway malpractice to watch out for include:

  • Having multiple domain names or pages to target specify locations, but which funnel users to one page (E.g. www,yourdomain.com/yourkeywordlocation1; www.yourdomain.com/yourkeywordlocation2, www.yourdomain.com/yourkeywordlocation3 and so on…)
  • Excessive Pages generated to funnel visitors into the meaty portion of your site(s), where relevant information gives real value.
  • Pages with duplicate content
  • or text content that appears more like a search result display than information-rich prose.
Black Hat SEO Technique #5: Cloaking 

Websites that present different content or URLs to humans than they do to search engines are said to be ‘cloaking’.

An example of this is a website that serves a page of HTML text to search engines, yet displays a page of images or Flash to users. Another cloaking tactic is to insert keyword text into a page only when the agent requesting the page is a search engine and not a human user.

Cloaking is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines because users often receive different results than they expected.

Black Hat SEO Technique #6: Crafty Redirects

Web developers often use redirects to send a visitor to a different URL than the one they initially requested. There are lots of good reasons for this. When moving your site to a new domain it is important that visitors to the old domain name are redirected to your new site address. Another good reason is when a number of webpages are consolidated into one. In this case the old page links need to be forwarded to the new master page.

But not all redirects are honest. Some web developers use redirects to display content to human users that is different from that which is displayed to search engine crawlers. Manipulating redirects is therefore a little like cloaking.

Sneaky redirects evade search engine’s into indexing the original page instead of following the redirect link. Meanwhile, users are brought to the redirect target. Like cloaking, this practice is deceptive because it attempts to display different content to Googlebot than that experienced by the human user. Visitors can be taken to a different destination than they expected.

Black Hat SEO Technique #7: Link Schemes

This is a big one.

Links that are solely intended to manipulate a website’s search engine page rank may be considered part of a link scheme. These are a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Links are supposed to direct users to/from relevant and useful information. In the case of content marketing assets like blogs and articles  links are used to reference credible sources and direct readers to more in-depth info.

Links to/from credible sites, and which are intended to enhance the reader’s experience, are a positive. They’ll build up link juice which is a healthy ingredient for good SEO.

Link malpractice occurs when the key purpose of including links on a website is to counterfeit link juice.  Evidence of link scheme practices can negatively impact your website’s position in search engine results.

Here is what your SEO agency should not be doing:

  • They shouldn’t be buying or selling links that pass page rank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that containlinks; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone free product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link.
  • Your SEO agency shouldn’t be involved in Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”)
  • They shouldn’t develop partner pages for the exclusive purpose of cross-linking.
  • They shouldn’t participate in large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links
  • And finally, your SEO agency should not use automated programs or services to create links to your site.

The key thing to remember here is that links should never be paid for or coerced. You can do this by building strong relationships and, most importantly, by providing high-quality content. If your content gives value then other web owners, blog writers and content distributors will want to link to you.


Stay in the Know About SEO!

Reputable SEO agencies will not use the black hat techniques I have listed above. And there are many great companies providing quality SEO services out there – so fear not! Don’t hasten to outsource this important activity.  SEO is an essential part of digital marketing that your website cannot afford to miss out on. All you need to do is ensure that the SEO company you employ is the right one.

Use the above checklist of common black hat SEO techniques to make sure your website is being optimised correctly. Be informed and your website will thank you in the long run!

I hope this article proves useful to you. For more tips, advice and insight on all things digital and content marketing related be sure to sign up to our newsletter. In the meantime, if you have any specific questions or topics you would like to see covered here why not pop me an email to Sinead@conker.ie and I’ll see what I can do 🙂






Why Black Hat SEO is Like Putting Salt in Your Coffee

Why Black Hat SEO is Like Putting Salt in Your Coffee

Orla spits out salty coffee

I enjoyed a sinister moment of glee this week watching my ever-confident colleague Orla spit coffee all over her desk. Wincing with displeasure she choked out “I put salt in instead of sugar”.

While simple mistakes often lead to great discoveries, in Orla’s case it’s safe to say she won’t be leaving CONKER to trailblaze the ‘Saltwater Americano’ anytime soon. The incident led to a mini revelation for me, however.

I was struck with the thought that  putting salt in your coffee is a little like using black hat SEO techniques on your business website. They both resemble what you want. But despite looking like sugar, salt is definitely not a substitute for the sweet stuff.  Equally, black hat SEO tactics, which may initially seem like a good idea, cannot circumvent the best practice search engine optimisation techniques that define White hat SEO.

Inevitably, both salt in your coffee and black hat techniques in your SEO strategy will leave a bad taste in your mouth.

black hat seo equals salt going into offee

In this article I will talk about why you should avoid Black hat SEO tactics. Of course, the counterpoint to this argument is that White Hat SEO is preferable. So, let me begin by distinguishing between the two terms for you.

What is the difference between Black Gat SEO and White Hat SEO?

If you’re a total newcomer to the term SEO then you should know first that it stands for Search Engine Optimisation. Web developers use SEO as an ongoing strategy to help websites rank well in organic search engine results. You can get a quick lesson here by checking out The 5 Most Frequent Questions SEO Newbies Want Answered, 

So what’s the differentiation between black and white all about?

In essence, Black Hat SEO is bad and White Hat SEO is good. And yes you guessed it – the terms derive from the archetypal symbols of the bad cowboy (black hat) versus the good cowboy (white hat).

Yet good and bad cowboys share many of the same characteristics and behaviours. Likewise,, salt and sugar in matching jars are easily mistaken for each other. Orla learned that the hard way!

When it comes to SEO the shared characteristic relates to objective, because both Black Hat and White Hat SEO seek the same thing – to drive traffic to a particular website.

How can we distinguish between the goodies and the baddies of SEO?

For me, the distinction is simple. It relates to the ‘who’ that Search Engine Optimisation targets. Black Hat SEO optimises for Search Engines, whereas White Hat SEO optimises for humans.

A further distinction relates to compliance. Black Hat SEO uses aggressive strategies that attempt to evade search engine guidance or trick search engine algorithms. White Hat SEO, on the other hand, focuses on providing quality content for humans and adheres to search engine best practices.

What are Black Hat SEO Strategies?

Here are some of the aggressive SEO Strategies that are considered to be malpractice. If you want to stay in Google’s good books then you should avoid these techniques. If your business uses an SEO Service provider to manage your website’s optimisation then use this as a checklist to ensure they are not operating in the SEO underworld!

  • Keyword Stuffing
  • Hidden/Invisible Text or Hidden Links
  • Doorway Pages
  • Automatically Generated Content
  • Reporting a Competitor (Negative SEO)
  • Sneaky Redirects
  • Cloaking
  • Link Schemes and Link Manipulation (including buying and selling links and link farms)
  • Guest Posting Networks
  • Article Spinning
  • Rich Snippet Markup Spam
  • Automated Queries to Google
  • Creating pages, Subdomains, or Domains with duplicate Content
  • Pages with malicious behaviour, such as phishing, viruses, trojans, and other malware

Want to know more about these strategies? For a detailed description of these tactics you can check out our Explainer Sheet of Black Hat SEO Techniques.

Why Should I Avoid these Black Hat SEO Techniques? 

Black Hat SEO is Short-Lived

The appeal of Black Hat SEO Tactics is that they can deliver Quick Wins. Businesses are often impatient to rise up the ranks on Google Search Engine Results. This is a natural impulse, because ranking high in organic searches means more traffic to your website and ultimately more customers. It’s a lucrative place to be.

For that reason, some companies’ approach to SEO is to do whatever you can to increase your search engine ranking and do it fast. The black hat SEO techniques I listed above are quick fixes that can bring a lot of traffic to your website in a short burst of time. But be warned, success is short lived.

Search Engines like Google have checks in place, which eventually catch up with websites that are breaking the rules. Once identified bad websites are penalised and fall rapidly down the search engine rankings.

There is, in fact, a dedicated e-commerce business model centred on black hat SEO. These websites are set up to ride the wave of Black Hat SEO success until they are caught by the Search Engines. At this point, they simply fold and move their product onto a new domain name and start again with quick-win SEO strategies.

Id you are a credible online company this IS NOT your business model. Indeed, you probably want to build a reputable, long-term brand. In this case, you need to play the long game with Search Engine Optimisation and avoid black hat SEO techniques like the plague!

Black Hat SEO Enables Disreputable SEO Agencies to Evade Their Customers 

The fact that black hat SEO tactics are short-lived is one reason why some companies who use contract SEO service providers enjoy good results to start and then encounter a decline in traffic. By this time, your SEO service provider may have taken a step back or may be harder to reach. Worse still, they may be full of excuses about how you need to spend more money on your SEO.

This is by no means the only outcome of using an SEO company. There are tons of reputable SEO and digital marketing agencies that follow best practice protocol – including my own, CONKER.ie.  I’m just drawing your attention to this practice so that you are aware of it. That way you can monitor the activities your SEO contractor undertakes on your website’s behalf.

Make yourself aware of black hat SEO techniques to ensure that you are paying for a quality SEO service that will benefit your business in the long-run.

Black Hat SEO Can Cause Permanent Damage 

Undoubtedly, the drop-off in sales revenue once black hat SEO tactics burn out is disappointing. Far more detrimental to your online business, however, is the long-term negative effects those tactics can have.

As I noted earlier, Search Engines routinely check for website malpractices. They want to present the best possible results for their customers’ search queries. This means quality content that  provides the information a user is seeking. Thus, search engines want to cultivate an organic search environment where the cream rises to the top.

Black Hat SEO tactics attempt to manipulate the systems  Search Engines use to determine what content to display to their customers. For this reason, Google and other Search engines actively work to weed out black hat culprits. If underhand SEO techniques are detected on your website you can expect penalisation from Google. Depending on the severity of the crime,  you can even be black listed.

Once you have been shunned to the bottom of a search engine rank it is extremely difficult  to climb your way back up. Some websites will never recover the rank position they had even before their SEO campaign was launched . You have to ask yourself is a quick-win really worth permanent damage?

Black Hat SEO Can Repel Customers

So far I have discussed how black hat SEO tactics are designed to optimise websites to search engines in an attempt to beat the system. Ultimately, however, the point of a website is to facilitate human transactions.

Black hat SEO strategies can drive customers to your website, at least in the short tern. But – and this is a big BUT – evidence of black hat tactics on your site can drive customers away.

One example of this is keyword stuffing. I’m sure you’ve experienced reading a webpage where a keyword and close variations are densely packed into the text to the extent that it loses all meaning? It’s so frustrating.

Another example is the duplication of content across a number of pages. A website may include the exact same paragraph of keyword dense text on ten different pages, where each page has a slightly different title. Websites often do this to appeal to location specific search terms. I recently visited a website that had separate pages for ‘ Hen Party Dublin’, ‘Hen Party Wicklow’, ‘Hen Party Cork’ and so on, but where the text on each page was heavily duplicated.

In my personal opinion, these tactics result in a bad user experience. Hence, my professional opinion is to AVOID them! They are the salt in coffee that no one will enjoy.

In 2017 online users are web savvy and impatient. If they feel they are being duped or that their time is being wasted, they will leave your website and never return. Provide quality, however,  and they will stay.



Say No To Salty SEO and Life Will Be Sweeter in the Long Run!

So there you have it – my anti Black Hat SEO manifesto! And did I mention that salty coffee is a bad idea also?! Don’t be fooled by false appearances – they will inevitably leave a bad taste in your mouth. While you can clean your desk after spraying it with coffee, it is much harder to remedy a  penalised website. So beware! Choose best practice SEO strategies and life will be sweeter in the long-term.

If you would like to share any tips or experiences relating to this article, or even have a question, please feel free to leave a comment below. I’m always happy to hear from readers and to help if possible.

The Top 5 Questions SEO Newbies Want Answered

The Top 5 Questions SEO Newbies Want Answered

If you are new to the world of e-commerce, are a first time website owner or have found yourself in the position of managing a website without feeling fully qualified to do so then the idea of implementing and maintaining a Search Engine Optimisation strategy might seem a little daunting. In reality you have nothing to fear.  You don’t need to be a qualified web developer to understand how SEO works. Once you have the basics you can decide whether it is a task you are willing to take on yourself or whether outsourcing your SEO is a better option.

There is so much information on the web about SEO that it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. There are endless tips, articles and videos available on DIY SEO. But before delving into the nuts and bolts of SEO it is important to understand the absolute basics. If you are an SEO newbie you may need to see the wood before you can even think about the trees!

If this is you then read on, because this SEO article is about the woods!  Quite simply we have put together the 5 most frequent questions that people ask us when they first encounter Search Engine Optimisation.

1. Why is Search Engine Optimisation Important?

The answer to this question might seem pretty obvious, but it is important to distinguish SEO from other online marketing strategies.

Your business website is your greatest marketing asset. Think of it as the Mother Ship around which all your other digital marketing activities revolve. You want to drive as many new and existing customers to your website as possible to buy your products, book your service, sign up to your newsletter or simply find out more about you.

Search Engine Optimisation is all about increasing your website’s visibility in Search Engine Results. In a nutshell, this means ranking high on the Google results page when potential customers search for keywords relating to your products or services. These people are already qualified sales leads because they are searching for what you offer, so it is crucial that your business website is what they find! Effective SEO can help you beat out your competitors, heighten brand awareness and, most important of all, increase your revenue.

Sounds good right? Good Search Engine Optimisation really can make the difference between the success or failure of a business online. So the next question you are going to want to ask is……

2. How Does SEO Work?

There are a number of effective SEO techniques and SEO best practices required to boost your website’s position in Google Searches. The good news is that Google and other Search Engines like Bing and Yahoo give tips on how to perform better in their rankings. If you stick to this advice and avoid (like the plague) bad SEO strategies or ‘black hat SEO’ then you are going in the right direction.

The key to good SEO is keywords. These are the words and phrases that your potential customers type into a search engine when looking for the product or service you offer. You need to know and understand the patterns of keywords that your target market are using. You then want to optimise your website to contain these keywords so that the search engine finds your website when these terms are searched for. The words you think your customers use may not be the ones they actually input into Google so Keyword research is absolutely crucial!

There are lots of ways that the content of your website can be optimised to reflect the keywords being used by your customers. SEO Content Optimisation includes everything from the text that appears on your website to page titles and URLs, Images, meta descriptions and snippets.

It is important to be mindful of balance, however. It might seem like a good idea to jam your website with the top keywords your customers search for, but in reality Search Engines are super intelligent and should not be underestimated. Keyword stuffing is frowned on by Search Engines and can result in black marks against your website.

Aside from detection from Search Engines your customers will not appreciate unnatural content that is clearly written to optimise keywords and not to provide them with quality information. Content relevance and quality therefore needs to be balanced with Keyword SEO.  There can be quite a knack to getting this right!

3. What is Link-Building?

Another effective SEO strategy for improving your quality rank on Google is link-building.  Your website will appear more important to search engines if they see other QUALITY and established websites linking to you and you to them. This is the web or network effect – but it is crucial you only connect with quality websites.

4. How long does it take for SEO to work?

It is important to understand that SEO techniques are not one-time solutions. Search Engine Optimisation is an ongoing, organic process that needs regular monitoring and updating to respond to the evolving needs and behaviours of your potential customers.

Fresh content is a plus with Search Engines so developing a content strategy to stream new material such as a blog is really important.

The benefits of SEO do not happen overnight. It is contingent on organic growth and developing strong roots within the search engine. This needs to be built up overtime. For that reason SEO should not be your only online marketing strategy! If you need to make an immediate impact then consider Search Engine Marketing / Pay-Per-Click Advertising for short term web traffic solutions.

5. How much does SEO cost?

The good news is that Search Engine Optimisation costs nothing to implement other than time. There are free tools to help you research and monitor your website’s performance such as Google’s Keyword Planner and Google Analytics.  If you have SEO know-how and are able to edit your business website in-house, then SEO actions can be implemented free of charge. The only real price you have to pay is Time.

And of course therein lies the catch, because time is money. Search Engine Optimisation takes hours to manage and requires experience and expertise to get right.  If these resources aren’t available to you then consider outsourcing your Search Engine Optimisation to a professional SEO agency like CONKER.

SEO icon magnifying glass with arrowIf you value your time and want to get on with what your business is good at, then let CONKER get on with your SEO. It’s what we’re good at!

We hope you enjoyed this post and that it was useful to you. If you have any questions you would like to see answered here then drop us an email to hello@conker.ie .We are always happy to help and looking for ways to improve our content 🙂