October 18th, 2016 Business


Google is Changing the Game… Don’t Leave a Target on Your Back!

Often I write about the elearning industry’s latest news, tools, tips, tricks, and technology. Occasionally though I like to share insights gained that are more indirectly related.

This article falls into that category 🙂 .

The topic I want to talk about is applicable whether you have online courses or not – and that’s implementing SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) for your website.

Now, if you are just starting out creating your online presence then you don’t have much to do except to make sure that your hosting provider implements a SSL certificate for your site (don’t worry, “Let’s Encrypt” makes this easy… and free).

If you already have a site and don’t have SSL active, then you have a little more work ahead of you.

Why We Didn’t Have SSL

When this site started some years ago it was only a blog.

To be specific, it was just personal blog for writing about elearning, connecting with other individuals with similar interests, and doing a little market research. It wasn’t even on the “learndash” domain name.

As time went on the site moved to learndash.com and the intent of the site went beyond blogging. It was going to be a business and we were going to sell software – the LearnDash WordPress learning management system.

First things first: we had to decide how we were going to sell it. If you are involved in the WordPress industry then you know of the popular WordPress shopping cart plugins available. We looked at these but ultimately opted for a hosted shopping cart instead.

There are a variety of reasons but the main being that it decoupled the purchasing process from our WordPress site (which meant that one didn’t impact the other) and it meant that shopping cart security (including SSL certificates) would be handled by experts. I was working in a full-time consulting career during this time so offloading this responsibility was really attractive.

Push Came to Shove…

We operated without SSL for quite some time. Our traffic stats continued to climb and our brand also grew. There didn’t seem to be any reason to switch.

Until relatively recently.

In 2014 Google announced it would factor SSL into its algorithm for search rankings as a way to nudge websites to adopt certificates. It was certainly tempting, but there were always other priorities (such as our customers and software) so making the switch took a back-seat.

That all changed when Google announced that not only would SSL continue to play a part in rankings, but now they would be flagging sites without SSL certificates as “not secure” in Google Chrome starting in January 2017. They even have rolled this out to some degree already.

It is clear that “push has come to shove” with regards to SSL. Some believe that this is only a scare tactic by Google. Maybe they are right, but it was enough to motivate us to make the change.

But now that we have made the change it feels pretty good.

There are many benefits to having SSL enabled on your site, some of which include…

  • There might still be a small bump in search rankings
  • Your visitors can visit your site in confidence
  • Customers are more confident when making a purchase
  • You don’t have to use only PayPal as a payment option

How To Get Secure

If you are looking for a step-by-step tutorial then you won’t find it here.

One thing I learned early in my entrepreneurial journey are my strengths and weaknesses. Switching over an aged domain with a ton of content to SSL isn’t in my toolbox of skills, nor anyone on our staff.

After having a few conversations we decided to let the experts handle the entire process. For this we brought in Valet.io and they really delivered.

Our job is now to monitor and make adjustments as needed (or should I say: let Valet know if there is an issue and they’ll take care of it all).

If this is something you want to do for yourself then you certainly can and there are some very good resources out there to reference.

The alternative is that you let people with experience handle it for you. Again, many great options to choose from, though I can only speak of our experience with Valet and it was top-class.

However you decide to handle your SSL switch is up to you – just don’t wait too long as everything begins to change in January 2017.

Justin Ferriman photo

About Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Justin's Homepage | Twitter

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2 responses

Leave a Comment

Does Thinkific cover SSL to paid subscribing users’ ecourse site?

Avatar David

Most likely but you’ll probably want to check with them.

They actually do, but they want you to pay over $250 per month for it. I am switching to hosting my own LMS, because that is just crazy to me.

Avatar James smith

Most reputable hosts support https://letsencrypt.org/ (free SSL). If yours doesn’t then switch immediately. These guys are good.

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