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Yearly archive for 2008.

Your site addressed http versus https, but I'm still a little nervous about something. When I go to my bank's site for example, I immediately see https in the URL window (& get a little locked padlock image on my browser frame), but they still ask me to log-in with a user ID and a password. That is what I'm used to with sites asking for my financial information to place an order. However, a yarn site I am interested in ordering from, while having the https appearing in the address and asking for me to create an account with a password, does not trigger that little padlock icon on my browser frame. They have some security company related links on their site making it appear as if they are taking security measures, but having worked at a large insurance company and having seen viruses make their way across monumental security efforts and proliferate in that network, I'm still nervous about doing business on-line at a personal level. I sent an email query about this and received the following response: "Hi Beverly, Our site is very secure. I put a lot of effort into making sure and I am audited by my merchant bank and an independent agency (Security Metrics) to insure security. Both my internet connections (broadband and router) and my site (Volusion) are scrutinized. If you see "https://" in your browser address bar, the page (site) is secure. The "lock" icon on the page is window dressing. It is the address bar that tells the true story. Thank you, John" Why doesn't their site trigger the icon and would you say that it is still reasonably safe to do business with an https site that doesn't trigger the icon? Beverly

You have a good eye and a good instinct, Beverly. You're right; this site doesn't behave exactly as you expect most secure websites to behave.

On my web browser (firefox) the padlock icon does appear, but it has a warning message attached to it. What is the warning? The warning is that even though the page itself is on a secure server, it draws resources from non-secure servers: "Parts of the page you are viewing were not encrypted before being transmitted over the internet. Information sent over the internet without encryption can be seen by other people while it is in transit."

What sorts of resources might those be? Well, the most likely culprit is image files that exist elsewhere, in non-secure locations, and are called up as components of this secure page. What does that mean? It means that when you are loading up that page, it's possible for people to "eavesdrop" on some (but not all of the content) being loaded.

Is it going to cause problems? Mmm...probably not. It doesn't mean that your financial information is unsecure. But, honestly, the fact that they haven't bothered to secure all of the content on that page would make me think very long and hard about giving them my credit card information, and I would choose against. But of course, you need to make your own choice on that matter. Hope that is helpful!

Doug - I read your note about phony offers for web site hits, but could you recommend something legitimate. I am starting [some new websites], and would like to show some hits to start pushing the site up in ranking - in addition to doing some pay-per-click, etc. Any ideas for me? Thanks,

First, let me start off by saying that you shouldn't count on Pay Per Click systems raising your rankings in the search engines. Yes, they will drive traffic to your site, but there's no guarantee that it'll help you get a higher ranking in Google, MSN, Yahoo or the other big boys. I'll explain more about that in a minute.

Let me give you three suggestions for getting your site better rankings in the search engines.

First, you need to make sure that your site is optimized well for search engines. This means dealing with your Title tag on each page, as well as your meta description and meta keywords tags. Here's an explanation of those tags: Meta Tags - Description and Keywords. What are they? Now, you can hire someone to do that work for you (I'd even consider taking on the project myself) but you probably have someone in house who can study up on the details of optimizing your tags, and do it without paying an outside contractor.

Second, get your site listed in as many search engines and web directories as possible. The search engines are good, but directories are also valuable, because they are a permanent clickable link to your site, which the search engines then take into account in their measurement of link popularity.

Third, ncrease your "Link Popularity". Generally speaking, the search engines like websites which have a lot of other websites linking to them. Getting people to link to you can be a daunting task, and it takes months sometimes before the search engines even notice the links that others have given to you. If you want people to link to you, you need to make sure that your site has valuable content.

And, of course, if you provide valuable content, eventually people will link to you without you even asking. Because this site is filled with fun educational games, it has hundreds of school districts all over the world which have linked to it, and I never asked them to. Why? Because the teachers love the free educational games and resources!

Now, back to my Pay Per Click comment. Remember that search engines are hungry for sites with link popularity, and you might think that having Pay Per Click ads on other sites counts toward link popularity. But typically Pay Per Clicks are either hidden behind javascript, or redirects, or some other fancy footwork, so the search engines never even see your site through those links. So while Pay Per Clicks will drive traffic to your site, they won't get you any long-term ranking help (unless, of course, the people who visit your site from those ads then proceed to link you up on their own websites!)

I've noticed that a lot of pages use "alt" tags in their images, and I'm not really sure what the purpose is. Do I need to use them?

Alt tags are used to provide alternate text for your images.

There are several reasons for including alt tags in your pages.

You can use the alt tags to provide more keywords, which helps with website rankings in search results.* 

If your picture is slow loading, the alternate text lets the user know what the picture is, while waiting for it to load

Similarly, if your image is hosted on a different server, and that server goes down, the image will not load at all, so the alternate text will be very important

Perhaps most importantly, alt text provides valuable information for vision impaired visitors, who cannot see the images, and so rely on text.

* 2016 update: this is not a terribly helpful technique any more. Because alt tags were generally not visible to the public, webmasters started using them as a way of spamming keywords into the search engines, which resulted in the search engines more and more ignoring these tags.

It's still good to provide alt tags - just not for this reason!

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