Friday, 31 March 2017

Google Chrome SSL certificate proposal could affect millions of websites

Last year, the developers behind Google’s Chrome browser began taking steps designed to protect users and encourage companies to use HTTPS.

But now, potentially millions of websites that use SSL certificates issued by Symantec and affiliated resellers could find that their certificates are effectively worthless as far as Chrome is concerned, after a member of the Chrome team published a proposal that would make them untrusted over the next 12 months.

The reason? According to the Google Chrome team, Symantec has not properly validated thousands of certificates. In fact, the Chrome team claims that “an initial set of reportedly 127 [misissued] certificates has expanded to include at least 30,000 [misissued] certificates, issued over a period spanning several years.”

Ryan Sleevi, the Chrome team member who wrote the announcement, elaborated,

“This is also coupled with a series of failures following the previous set of misissued certificates from Symantec, causing us to no longer have confidence in the certificate issuance policies and practices of Symantec over the past several years.”

Under the proposal he put forth, the accepted validity period of newly-issued Symantec to nine months or less, and an “incremental distrust” of currently-trusted certificates and removal of recognition of Extended Validation status of Symantec-issued certificates.

A nightmare scenario?

Symantec is the currently the largest Certificate Authority (CA) and by some estimates, has issued a third of the SSL certificates in use on the web.

So if the Google Chrome team moves forward with its proposal, it will have a huge impact on Symantec and its customers. Symantec would have to reissue potentially millions of certificates, creating a huge headache for customers, who would have to go through the validation process and install replacement certificates.

What’s more, under the Chrome team’s proposal, Chrome would immediately remove the status indicators for Extended Validation certificates issued by Symantec.

These certificates, which require companies to provide greater verification that they are who they say they are, are often used by companies running websites that absolutely need to use HTTPS, such as those that handle payments and financial transactions.

Extended Validation certificates are more costly, and one of the justifications for the greater cost is the fact that most browsers display indicators for websites that use them. If those indicators go away, it could theoretically harm companies that have relied on these indicators to signal trust to their users.

Not surprisingly, given the gravity of the situation, Symantec is disputing the Chrome team’s claims about certificate misissuances. In a response, it called the Chrome team’s proposal “irresponsible” and said the allegations leveled at it are “exaggerated and misleading.”

Symantec is open to working with the Google Chrome team and while it’s reasonable to hope that both parties will identify a satisfactory resolution that averts disruption, companies with certificates issued by Symantec will want to monitor the situation as it develops.




Five most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from the world of search marketing and beyond.

This week, the Google SERP has got a bit more interactive with the addition of rich results for podcasts, and a new study has found that marketers are still failing to use advanced search tactics in their campaigns.

Plus, Google has launched a new website to bring all of its open-source projects under one umbrella, and an unlikely partnership has arisen between Google and Chinese search giant Baidu to bring faster mobile web pages to a wider user base.

Google adds rich results for podcasts to the SERP

Google has stealthily launched some new guidelines for structured data on its Developers blog, to bring rich results for podcasts to the SERP.

At the moment the new feature is only available via Google Home (where you can use voice activation to start up a podcast) or in the Google Search app v6.5 or higher on Android, but Google hopes to soon add support for Chrome on Android.

Google’s blog provided a sample image for how this will look in practice:

In his article for Search Engine Watch this week, Clark Boyd explains how you can get your podcast indexed on the SERP, and how to add the right structured data to your podcasts.

Study: Marketers still aren’t using advanced search tactics

Those of us who keep close tabs on search innovation and strategy – or comment on it – are probably familiar with search tactics like retargeting lists for search ads (RLSA), voice search optimization, ad extensions in paid search listings, and schema markup. We know how to use them, and the benefits that they bring to ROI and visibility.

But a study by Bing and search agency Catalyst has revealed that among marketers as a whole, very few still are making use of advanced search tactics like these in their campaigns.

When asked which of a range of tactics their company used or was planning to use in 2016, only 34% of marketers reported using ad extensions; 30% said they used Product Listing Ads (PLAs); and 28% used retargeting lists for search ads (RLSA).

Just 28% of respondents reported using voice search optimization, 27% said they used sitelinks, and a dismal 17% reported using schema markup.

So why are many marketers still failing to tap into the full potential of search? Search Engine Watch spoke to Microsoft’s Rob Wilk and Catalyst’s Kerry Curran to find out what search marketers can do to improve their campaigns.

Twitter introduces pre-roll ads for Periscope

Pre-roll ads might just be everyone’s least favorite ad format – so much so that YouTube did away with 30-second unskippable pre-roll ads earlier this year. But Twitter-owned livestreaming platform Periscope announced this week that it will be adding pre-roll ads to live and replay Periscope streams.

The new ad product is named, unsurprisingly, Ads on Periscope, and is an expansion of Twitter’s existing Amplify ad product. The Periscope ads are expected to share revenue with content creators in the same 70/30 split as Amplify ads.

Amidst Twitter’s struggle to drive revenue on its social platform, monetizing Periscope could be one way to bolster its flagging fortunes. But the autoplay ads may prove to be unpopular with users, especially with the news that they will run over streaming content – meaning that viewers will miss several seconds while the ad finishes.

Google’s new site brings all of its open-source projects under one umbrella

Google has launched a new website this week which is designed to act as a central directory for all of its open-source projects, bringing them together under one umbrella.

In its blog post announcing the launch, ‘A New Home for Google Open Source‘, Google wrote that the new site:

showcases the breadth and depth of our love for open source. It will contain the expected things: our programs, organizations we support, and a comprehensive list of open source projects we’ve released. But it also contains something unexpected: a look under the hood at how we “do” open source.

The site contains the source code for Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages Project official website, as well as the source code for its Android mobile OS, the Chromium web browser, its Tesseract Optical Character Recognition engine, and hundreds of other Google projects, both well-known and obscure.

While Google has always made the code for these projects available on GitHub and its self-hosted git service (this being the nature of open source), this is the first time users have been able to browse them from a central location, and is sure to provide Google enthusiasts with plenty of cool material to scour.

Baidu is working hand-in-hand with Google to accelerate the mobile web

And speaking of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), an unlikely partnership has arisen in the world of search, as Baidu and Google confirmed that they are teaming up to bring a faster mobile web to a wider user base.

Google has a rocky history with China. It has had a presence in the country since 2005, but in 2010 decided to stop censoring its searches in accordance with Chinese law in response to a Chinese-originated hacking attack on itself and a number of other US tech companies, redirecting the searches instead to its Hong Kong search engine. Access to Google’s search engine and services has been blocked by the Chinese government on a number of occasions.

In the wake of this, native Chinese search engine Baidu overtook Google as the main search provider in China, and now enjoys around 80% of the Chinese search market, while Google China only has about 10%. But the two have evidently agreed to set aside their rivalry in order to pursue a higher goal: accelerating the mobile web.

At Google’s first AMP conference in New York, Baidu’s Gao Lei announced Mobile Instant Pages (Chinese-language link), or MIP, Baidu’s answer to Accelerated Mobile Pages. Hermas Ma reported on Search Engine Land that MIP has very similar technology to AMP, the main difference being that MIP are optimized for the Chinese internet.

Mobile Instant Pages can reportedly reduce the rendering of above-the-fold content by 30 to 80 percent, and Baidu has been considering giving MIP a ranking advantage in search results (something which AMP doesn’t yet have).

Ma also notes that the AMP Project website now loads in mainland China where it didn’t before, further pointing to a burying of the hatchet between Google and its Chinese counterpart.




How Any Digital Business Can Explode Using Word of Mouth Marketing

We live in a digital age.

Each day we’re bombarded with an endless stream of online ads via social media, websites, search engines, videos, and so on.

Marketing companies spend billions upon billions each year researching, analyzing, and pushing ads to consumers.

But you know what?

No matter how sophisticated and streamlined digital marketing becomes, it still pales in comparison with the power of good old-fashioned word of mouth marketing (WOMM).

According to in-depth studies from Nielsen, “WOMM recommendations still remain the most credible.”

Just look at this graph that ranks consumers’ trust, depending on the form of advertising and the action it produces.


Positioned right at the top as the number one trust factor is “recommendations from people I know.”

It heavily shapes consumers’ opinions on brands/products/services, and this is unlikely to ever change.

Here are a couple more stats that demonstrate the power of WOMM:

  • 74 percent of consumers identify WOMM as a key influencer in their purchasing decision.”
  • “WOMM has been shown to improve marketing effectiveness by up to 54 percent.”

Just think about it.

Would you feel more comfortable buying a product recommended by a close friend or by a marketing message shoved down your throat by some slick marketing guru?

I would bet the former.

The full impact

There’s another important detail I’d like to point out.

It has to do with the long-term impact of acquiring new customers through WOMM.

According to the Wharton School of Business,

a customer you acquire from WOM has a 16 – 25 percent higher lifetime value than those you acquire from other sources.

This means you’re far more likely to get repeat business from an individual who’s acquired through WOMM than otherwise.

They also have a higher likelihood of becoming brand advocates or even brand ambassadors.

Consumers trusting other consumers

And there’s one more thing.

You don’t necessarily need to have a person recommend your brand to someone they know directly to benefit from WOMM.

In fact, the overwhelming majority of consumers trust recommendations from other consumers.

According to Nielsen,

68 percent trust online opinions from other consumers, which is up 7 percent from 2007 and places online opinions as the third most trusted source of product information.


Bright Local also reports,

88 percent of people trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust recommendations from personal contacts.


The way I look at it, old school WOMM has meshed with the digital age.

Many people now turn to other online consumers, whom they don’t actually know, to find out whether a brand is worth purchasing from.

If you can impress a handful of consumers and turn them into brand advocates, it can have a domino effect: they spread the word, which can lead to a surge in sales.

It can set off a chain reaction.

Have we forgotten about WOMM?

There’s a paragraph in a Forbes article I really like:

The problem is that for the last few years, marketers have been focused on ‘collecting’ instead of ‘connecting.’ In other words, brands are too caught up in collecting social media fans and they are forgetting to actually connect with them.

I think this really hits the nail on the head.

Many marketers (myself included) are guilty of it to some extent.

I feel we’ve gotten so caught up in the latest and greatest marketing techniques that we sometimes forget about what good business is founded on in the first place: relationships.

Before there was social media, SEO, PPC, or even radio/TV commercials, most businesses gained new customers from old school person-to-person recommendations.

But it’s never too late to cash in on WOMM.

However, it does require a slightly different approach from the one used in the past.

The great thing is there are some really potent resources and platforms out there to streamline WOMM and maximize its impact.

I’d now like to discuss some fundamental tactics you can use to make your digital business explode using WOMM in the modern age.

Focus on your core audience, not the masses

The first step to making this strategy work is to understand who your core audience is.

Founding editor of Wired Magazine, Kevin Kelly formulated what I think was a brilliant hypothesis in 2008—the 1,000 true fans theory.

His idea was that any artist, business, etc. could survive on having only 1,000 true fans and that “returns diminish as your fan base gets larger and larger.”


In other words, you’re more likely to have success if you focus on gaining 1,000 true fans rather than tens of thousands, or even millions, of lukewarm fans.

Tim Ferriss has actually embraced this idea, and it has been a key part of his meteoric rise to fame.

Ferriss even talks about the concept of 1,000 true fans in-depth in his new book, Tools of Titans.

And I think this is a good approach to take in WOMM.

You’re far more likely to create brand advocates if you focus on truly connecting with your core audience rather than trying to appease the masses.

This basically goes back to Pareto’s 80/20 principle, which applies to many different areas of life and business.

The premise is that 80 percent of your customers account for 20 percent of your sales and 20 percent of your customers account for 80 percent of your sales.

What you need to do is put most of your attention on “wooing” the 20 percent and deepening your relationships with them.

If you stick with this game plan, your core audience should grow even stronger, and you’ll be creating the perfect environment for WOMM to take place.

Be authentic and transparent

I know saying something like this may sound a little generic and cliché, but it’s still very important.

I feel many brands are out of touch with their audiences, and they end up suffering for it in the long run.

I believe authenticity and transparency are two of the most vital traits a brand can possess.

Most people can spot any ounce of pretentiousness from a mile away.

And with so many sleazeballs out there today, most consumers have developed a sense of skepticism that isn’t easy to stamp out.

I also realize that simply telling you to be authentic and transparent is a little vague.

You might be asking: how exactly does one accomplish this?

Of course, this is a huge topic to tackle, but I really like these suggestions from Copyblogger on how to get your customers to like you and build trust:


When it comes to transparency, it all boils down to being yourself and making it a point to engage with consumers.

You want to “humanize” your brand.

Check out this post from Vision Critical for more on this topic.

It highlights five specific brands that embraced transparency and found success as a result.

Leverage reviews

As I mentioned earlier, most consumers are receptive to online reviews and trust the opinions of other consumers even if they don’t know them directly.

If you can get your satisfied customers to leave positive reviews, you’re almost guaranteed to see a spike in sales.

So, I suggest doing everything within your power to encourage your satisfied customers to leave reviews.

This starts by “claiming” your business on some of the top review sites such as Google My Business, Angie’s List, and Yelp.


I won’t go into all the details of this process, but I recommend you check out an article I wrote on on how to get more online reviews.

This will provide you with an in-depth look at and tips on how to make this strategy a success.

I also suggest looking at this post from HubSpot that talks about 19 online review sites that can help your business get more reviews and gain traction.

Add fuel to the fire with a referral program

If you really want to expedite your WOMM, consider implementing some sort of a referral program.

When done correctly, it can lead to an influx of new customers while giving your brand equity a nice boost.

Here is a great example of a referral program that got it right.

Several years ago, Dropbox started a referral program that offered customers up to 16GB of free storage for “inviting a friend” to join.


What was the end result?

  • The refer-a-friend feature increased signups by 60 percent
  • Users sent 2.8 million direct referral invites
  • Dropbox went from 100k to 4 million users in just 15 months
  • This resulted in a 40x increase, or a doubling of users every 3 months

This just goes to show the power a referral program can have.

The key is to come up with some way to reward existing customers for referring your brand to a friend.

This could be a discount, freebie, cash back, or whatever.

As long as the reward has genuine value and isn’t going to kill your profit margins, it should work.

The specific reward program you’ll want to implement will depend largely on your industry or niche.

That’s why I suggest reading this post from Referral Candy.

It goes over 47 different referral programs that totally crushed it and should give you some ideas on coming up with an approach for your business.

I also recommend checking out this guide from Referral Rock, which tells you pretty much everything you need to know on the subject.


With all the cutting-edge, sleek, and sexy marketing techniques out there, WOMM sometimes gets overlooked these days.

And that’s unfortunate.

If you look at studies involving research on WOMM, it’s easy to see that it’s still alive and well.

In many ways, WOMM is more powerful than ever when you consider the ease with which consumers can share reviews with one another.

I know I usually find myself reading at least a couple of reviews before I purchase something on Amazon or especially before I book a spot on Airbnb.

The way I look at it, it’s never been easier to harness the power of WOMM than it is today.

It’s simply a matter of bringing this old school concept into the modern marketing era.

By using a handful of fundamental concepts like the ones I discussed, you can absolutely make your digital business explode using WOMM.

The best part is that many of the new customers you receive will be repeats and will even recommend your brand to their friends.

And this is the very definition of creating a sustainable business model.

How big of a role do you think WOMM plays in business today?




Search & social integration: Takeaways from SMX West

Search and social don’t have to live in separate silos. Contributor Caitlin Jeansonne recaps SMX West sessions that looked at how SEO and social media teams can complement each other to provide stronger results.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.



Reaching users wherever they are

Columnist Josh Todd explains why omnichannel marketing will be increasingly necessary for keeping your customers engaged and moving them through the sales funnel.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.



How to decide ‘Should I bid?’

Are your paid search ads cannibalizing your organic search traffic? Columnist Kevin Lee explores the problem of determining when it’s worth it to bid and when it’s better to let organic do the work.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.



Snapchat makes it possible to search for Stories by keywords

The change should make it easier for people to discover more content on Snapchat, perhaps leading to more time spent in the app.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.



Google Maps ad traffic steadily growing

Columnist Andy Taylor of Merkle shares data on the growth of ad traffic from Google Maps, including conversion rate and CPC data by device.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.



Baidu becomes Google’s biggest ally in mobile page speed

Chinese search engine Baidu will soon support Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in its search results, expanding the reach of AMP significantly. Columnist Hermas Ma believes the worldwide impact on mobile page speed will be notable.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.