Late Night Listener Feedback
Speaking of things and people that I’m thankful for, I was on Cliff Ravenscraft’s show a couple weeks ago and he was on my show last week, as you guys know. We’ve been talking about email marketing a lot because Cliff is working on his email marketing program now with ConvertKit, I’m doing the same, we’re trying to take our stuff to the next level. I got a question from a buddy of mine, Stephen Cross. Stephen and I know each other actually through Cliff. That’s one of the magical things that you can do when you have an online presence is you can connect people.
I hadn’t talked to Stephen in awhile, but he writes in the show comments on Episode 113 and says he’s recently started using ConvertKit. Congratulations, I fully approve that decision. He writes, “I’m struggling with the best strategy for handling video. As you know, ConvertKit doesn’t support embedded video, they recommend placing an image in the email that links to the video. I’m trying to decide the best approach between 1) embedding the video on a page on my website and linking to that page, or 2) link directly to a video on Vimeo or YouTube. The whole thing is a training sequence that will include text and video tutorials.”
This is great. It happens that Cliff and I just had this conversation a couple of weeks ago because Cliff is in exactly the same situation. I think the answer here is pretty clear once you indentify exactly what it is that you want to accomplish. If you are interested in making sure that people subscribe to your YouTube channel, for example. Stephen’s example was Vimeo, but let’s take YouTube. If you have a meaningful presence or you plan to build a meaningful presence on YouTube, one of the outcomes that you probably want is to get people on your list to discover and subscribe to your YouTube channel so they can find you again that way. If that’s an outcome that you want, then you probably should direct some of your video viewers from your email list over to YouTube (or Vimeo) and encourage them in that process, maybe even in the videos themselves, to click on the subscribe button so that they can get future amazing content of all types.
Let’s give an example of an email marketing ecourse that you’re doing, like Cliff has. If you sign up for Cliff’s email marketing ecourse he could send you to a video and ask you to subscribe because in his YouTube channel there is lots of other stuff outside of the email marketing topic that you might be interested in and be wanting to discover in the future. If that’s your goal, that’s a good reason to do that.
On the other hand, if you really are just using Vimeo as a place to host videos and you don’t really intend to use that as a platform all by itself, it’s really a video storage place, then I definitely would send the traffic to your website and embed the video on your website, because once they’re on a post on your website there’s an opportunity for them to see promotions that you’re running, to see related posts, and to spend time on your website getting to know you. That’s where your content is. There’s a strong argument for training people to visit your website. One of the ways you can train your subscribers to visit your website is by sending them there in an email message.
The way this would work is you would write some great copy in the email message about how great this information was that you were about to provide to them and then you would embed a graphic that looks like an embedded video right in the message, with the little play triangle right in the center, and when they click on it they’re really clicking on a hyperlink that is going to open up their browser and take them directly to the video either on Vimeo or on your blog post.
Again, if you want to build that channel and you want people specifically to subscribe to the video property because that video property (like YouTube or Vimeo) is its own thing that people are discovering independently and has unique content on it, go for it. Otherwise, stay on your website and drive all of your traffic, social media, video, and others back to your website. I think that’s the right answer.
I hope that helps you, Stephen. It was really good to talk to you. I hope things are going well for you.
This Week in Internet Marketing News
This week in the news I wanted to cover something that is being reported over at Search Engine Land. We know that around the middle of September (I think on September 23rd) Penguin 4.0 came out.
It’s interesting because the people over at Google who are in charge of the search engine said, “This is the last time we’re going to tell you about a specific update to the Penguin algorithm.” One of the reasons is because now this is what they consider to be a real-time algorithm. This thing is running in the background, it’s part of their artificial intelligence approach they’re taking where they’re dynamically changing things, and they’re going to be incrementally updating this thing and I assume it’s also going to be learning all of the time. There aren’t going to be anymore Penguin releases; Penguin is going to be in a constant state of release, constantly updating.
One of the things that we know from this is that they are going to start paying attention to unnatural outbound links. What this means is if your website has a bunch of do follow links, these are links where you’re linking out to some other property and there are so many of them that they’re unnatural, Google is going to pay attention to that and they’re going to start to reduce the authority of that page or perhaps that site. It looks like they’re going to be issuing manual spam penalties regarding this.
What’s a manual spam penalty? That’s a delightful message that you get from Google, and it appears in your Google Webmaster Tools, that says we stuff on your website that we really don’t like so we’ve penalized you manually, which is like tying a boat anchor to your website rankings in Google and dragging you down. You can fix that thing and sometimes ask for reconsideration and they’ll remove that spam penalty – sometimes.
In this case, if they see a lot of outbound links they’re going to penalize you. Why? That’s what blog networks do. Blog networks have enormous amounts of outbound links for the purpose of boosting the link authority of the sites that they link to. You might pay $50 to publish a post on a site and in return for that $50 that site will link back to your site on the post that you wrote. That’s what a blog network is and that’s why there was so much trouble around paid guest posting in the recent past. That’s the kind of thing that they’re attacking here.
What does this mean for you? One is if you’re just doing normal blogging you don’t need to worry about it. If you have normal links, like I recommend a couple of outbound links to authority sites, that’s not going to be an issue for you and you can just keep going. You know it’s not an issue because you haven’t gotten a manual spam notification.
If your site is not hooked up to Google Webmaster Tools, I definitely recommend that you do that so you can understand when these things are happening to you. That’s the reason we want to do that. If you haven’t been notified by Google in Webmaster Tools, you’re fine.
If you have paid links on your site where you have either obviously, or maybe even not so obviously, taken money in order to link to someone else’s site, you need to 1) stop that, and 2) you need to get rid of those links or mark them as “nofollow”. We’ve talked about this on the show many times before. Do follow links are just normal links with no special attribute to them at all. No follow links are links that have a special attribute written in the code [rel=”nofollow”] that signals Google not to pass any link authority to this link.
One of the places where we like to use no follow links is on affiliate links. What we’re telling Google is we’re linking to this thing but this is not an editorial link where we’re referencing something that we think is important. This is just a link that we need to make so that we can get credit for a sale, so we’re going to “nofollow” that to give Google an indication that link authority should not be going that way.
If you have some kind of situation where people have been paying you for links or you have lots of posts with tons of outbound links and it looks somehow unnatural, that’s something that you’re going to want to think about.
Here’s a link to that Search Engine Land article and that will give you more information on that topic.
One last point on this. If you’re not sure, if you don’t really know exactly what I’m talking about, no way this applies to you. The only way this applies to you is if you’re doing something weird or you’re putting links in for money. If you’re a little bit confused, that’s probably a good thing in this case, everything is going to be all right.
Switching Website to HTTPS
The big thing I wanted to address today was my efforts to change LateNightInternetMarketing.com over to a secure transport protocol. You might be thinking, “What does that mean?” You’ve seen this before. If you go to a website and you’re going to buy something, like Amazon.com for example, instead of the normal HTTP, which stands for hypertext transfer protocol, you’ll notice that it actually says HTTPS. Sometimes, depending on your web browser, you’ll see a little closed lock suggesting that this is somehow secure.
This hypertext transfer protocol is the language that computers use to talk to each other and specifically to transfer information from a web server to a web browser so that the information can go reliably from Point A, which is the web server, to Point B. Amazon.com has this great listing for a super product you want, it’s in computer code on the server, they send it magically over the internet, and the language that they talk in and that your web browser understands to transmit that is called HTTP. That’s the protocol, the handshaking, they use to send the information back and forth.
Usually the underlying language that is describing the webpage, the thing that they’re sending, is HTML. Those are technical terms for the different piece parts that are used so that you can magically see the listing of this thing you want to buy and there’s a button there you can press and buy it. All of that magic is made possible by things like HTML, which is the language that the page is written in, and HTTP, which is the way that we got the page from the Amazon server to your computer. Really cool.
In this day and age you can imagine there are all kinds of ways that you might intercept that transmission if you’re a bad guy and look at it. A long time ago someone had the bright idea let’s encrypt that, let’s agree on a secure protocol and let’s agree that we’re going to send the information from Point A to Point B, but instead of just sending it in the clear we’re going to send it in code. This is exactly the same as your children are doing whenever they decide to speak Pig Latin. We want to tell our buddy to meet us at the part, but instead of speaking English which our parents can understand we’re going to do the communication in Pig Latin which our parents can’t understand. (Don’t tell the kids that we can understand Pig Latin.) That’s kind of the situation that HTTPS is designed to solve. HTTPS is a secure version of HTTP and it uses a technology called secure socket layer, SSL.
Okay, alphabet soup time is over. Now you know that HTTPS is this special encrypted language that web servers and web browsers can use to get information back and forth where no one can eavesdrop on the communication.
Google has come out and said we understand that websites that are serious about being trusted are going to use HTTPS, so we are going to give a little more authority, and therefore a little better ranking, to websites that use the secure protocol.
So some guys like me, internet marketers, have decided to convert their sites over to HTTPS. I’m not conducting any financial transactions actually on my site, I’m not taking your credit card information actually on my site, all of that stuff when I do it is done off-site. But I know based on what Google said that they want me to use HTTPS and so therefore I decided to make the switch.
I’m going to tell you about how you can do that too. A couple of caveats…
One is it’s not much of an advantage at all, from what I can tell. I do see a little bump in traffic, search traffic particularly. I don’t know if that’s a coincidence or how long that will last. I don’t have hundreds of test cases that I can use, I just converted one website. But I do think that it makes sense that converting your site to HTTPS is a signal to Google that you actually care about being a trusted website and you’re trying to offer the best possible experience to your readers.
That’s one of hundreds of things in the algorithm, but it is a thing. Most people who have done this and studied it are all sort of reporting small to no increases in traffic, maybe tiny bumps, which is what I observed. That’s pretty cool.
I think what’s going to happen in the long run is that Google is going to flip it, because what has happened is it has become very easy to do this and change to HTTPS. It used to be very hard, you used to have to pay a lot of money for a certificate that was specific to your website, maybe a couple hundred dollars, it was very technical to install that certificate, you had to do a bunch of stuff on your server. Shared hosts like Bluehost and SiteGround and other places didn’t really support it. It was just hard and expensive. In cases where they did support it, you had to pay a lot of money. Most hobbyists that are trying to get started in internet marketing certainly couldn’t afford that, especially when they didn’t have a strong reason to go do it, like accepting credit cards.
Now it’s really easy. There have been a lot of initiatives in the online industry, like Let’s Encrypt, to make these certificates that used to cost hundreds of dollars freely available. Now there are several plugins for WordPress that make the magic of all the server side stuff that you need to do on your server literally one click install. That is super cool.
I’m recommending to you that if you have a website, you investigate how to convert that website over to HTTPS and you go ahead and do that now. I’m going to give you a couple of options of how to do that.
The first option is if you are using a web host like SiteGround, which is the web host that I’m currently using for my smaller niche sites, it’s excellent shared hosting that I really love, you’ll notice that they support this kind of SSL stuff directly and you can follow their instructions for how to make your website use SSL. There are many choices over there.
But, I have something even easier for you. Back in 2013 the Late Night IM website and several others in our space got attacked by what are called denial of service attacks. Pat Flynn’s website went down for almost a week when all of this happening. At that time I invested in hardening the website. One of the things that I did was I moved over to a service called CloudFlare. CloudFlare is what we would call a reverse proxy and it also has some CDN capabilities.
Let me talk to you about all of that hocus-pocus. CloudFlare has the ability to stand between you and the rest of the internet to protect you against certain types of attacks. That’s one thing that they can do. In order to do that they also manage your domain name services in a way that is very nice and efficient and fast, so whenever someone on the internet says, “Where is Late Night Internet Marketing?” CloudFlare handles that. One of the benefits of that is they can do caching and other kinds of sophisticated performance things like distributing content closer to the point at which it’s going to be downloaded. Chances are if you download my show in Great Britain you’re not actually downloading it from the Late Night IM server in Dallas, you’re actually downloading it from some edge server that’s already in the UK, and that improves your experience. CloudFlare does all of this kind of stuff as if by magic.
If you haven’t checked out CloudFlare, I have all of my sites on CloudFlare now without exception, I really like their service. You can find them over at CloudFlare.com and they do have a free level. Highly recommended.
Once you’re on CloudFlare one of the things that you get magically is this generic security certificate that I was talking about. I guess the way to say this is by using CloudFlare you’re able to take advantage of their security certificate, so you don’t need to do anything on the getting a certificate side. By signing up for a free CloudFlare account you automatically have access to their certificate. That’s super great, that solves the first part of the problem.
You’ve got the certificate, it’s applied to your website, CloudFlare does some magic to bring you under their umbrella. But you’ll find that if you go to HTTPS for your site it won’t work, it will be broken and part of it won’t load, and that just doesn’t work. There’s another piece that you need. You need the piece that lets your server know that all of your stuff that used to be HTTP should now be HTTPS. In other words, you need to tell everybody to use this secure channel that you’ve created. There’s a plugin for that called Really Simple SSL.
For those of you that are worried about performance issues on your website, this plugin has been benchmarked and it takes less than one-thousandth of a second per 60,000 requests or something like that, so it’s a really efficient program. Really all it’s doing is it’s redirecting HTTP requests for your web server to this secure channel HTTPS. It’s like don’t talk to me in regular English, you have to use Pig Latin, that’s basically what this plugin is doing more or less.
That means that if you want to convert your site over to HTTPS, it’s a really simple process.
- Step one, go get yourself a CloudFlare We love the guys over at CloudFlare, they’re awesome. That will improve your site’s performance, get you some attack protection, and give you a way to expand the performance of your site in the future. As it grows you can move from the free plan to some of their plaid plans, which really can add to the robustness of your website.
Then you turn on SSL at CloudFlare. It’s just an option, you click the switch.
- Step two is you come back to your website and install the Really Simple SSL plugin.
Bingo, you’re running on HTTPS, your site is secure, and you’re doing something that Google encouraged you to do, which is always a good thing.
Now, two caveats. One is in Google Webmaster Tools you’re going to want to let it know that your site is now HTTPS instead of HTTP. Same thing for Google Analytics, you’re going to want to login and change that as well. That’s a very simple thing to do. I think that will do it, that’s really all you need to do and it will work just fine.
I was able to do this in about 10 minutes and with absolutely no side effects, things just started working automagically and it looks great. As I said, I see this bump in traffic, which is small and I have no way to prove that it’s related to this HTTPS thing but I don’t believe in coincidences so I’m going with that.
That’s what I have for you today. I encourage you to experiment with that. I’ll have links to everything you need to do that in the show notes.
That wraps it for today. I will be releasing an episode on Thanksgiving Day, look for that. Until then, do what I asked you to do this week, take a minute to take an account of all the things that are great with you and your business, all of the potential you have to be successful, all of the places you’re going to go and the things that you’re going to accomplish. Use that as fodder to fuel the fire in 2017.