This is is part two of our series covering tips and tricks on setting up your own author website. You can read part one of the series here:
To recap, in part one we covered the basics such as choosing and registering a domain name, web hosting and doing a basic installation of WordPress.
But, there’s one important tip we left out, and that is that you should make sure you set up SSL on your author website to help increase your search engine rankings.
An SSL enabled website will begin with “https” instead of “http”.
Back in 2014, Google officially made HTTPS a ranking signal, giving sites that are SSL enabled preference over non SSL sites.
If you haven’t noticed this before, you probably will after you read this article. Try it right now and search for something random. Let’s try “self publishing” for example.
Your results may be different, but on the first page every site in the search result is showing HTTPS except (interesting enough) Lulu.com. I checked and their site does have SSL enabled. Just a hunch, but this could occur if they haven’t added the SSL version of their site to the Google Search Console.
There’s a chance they could go up a couple of notches if they fixed this.
Do a few more random searches and you will notice this on just about every search result. Now do you see why it is important to make sure your author website is SSL enabled? 😊
Another important reason to do so is to prevent errors/warnings from showing up to a visitor that may type in your website address starting with https. Many browsers will give a warning by default if the site isn’t secure.
So, let’s jump right into how you can fix this if you haven’t already…
Step 1: Check to see if your website has SSL enabled
This is pretty simple. Type your website address into your favorite browser and see if it shows up as secure. It will look different depending on which web browser you are using (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, etc.).
Here is an example of what you might see when you go to https://www.amazon.com using Chrome:
If you currently have a website, try typing it in to your web browser (Desktop or laptop preferred) and use https at the beginning instead of http. Example would be https://www.yourauthorwebsitename.com
Firefox has a similar lock icon in the same location. Internet Explorer is on the right instead of the left.
If your site is currently showing as secure, the only thing you need to verify is if the HTTPS version of your web site is showing up in the search results by default.
To check, go to Google.com and type “site:yourauthorwebsitename.com” (replacing that URL with whatever your website address is).
If the result show “www” then you may need to make changes by using Google Search Console. If this is the case for you, you may skip ahead to step 3 if you wish…
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you have a high traffic website and the search engines are showing the non secure version of your site, it is probably a good idea to hire an experienced SEO consultant to do this correctly for you.
If your site has low to moderate traffic and/or you do not want to hire an SEO consultant you can do this yourself pretty easily within the Google Search Console.
Step 2: Enable SSL on Your Author Website
The good news is many hosting companies will automatically set up SSL on your website by default.
Because there are so many different hosting companies with different sets of instructions, it is best to simply contact your hosting company’s support to have them help you get it set up properly.
The only thing you need to know is there are FREE SSL options out there. Many domain registrars and hosting companies may try to sell you expensive security certificates. For smaller low to average traffic level sites I wouldn’t bother.
If you have money to burn from your book sales, and a popular website, then it is probably worth the extra money.
A popular free SSL certificate option you may see in your web hosting control panel is from Let’s Encrypt.
Here is a quick video tutorial showing how it’s done on Hostgator.
The same instructions apply to most other hosting companies, but as mentioned before, this is a little advanced so you may simply want to contact hosting support.
Step 3: Set up the HTTPS Version of your Author Website in Google Search Console
If you haven’t signed up with Google Search Console, you can do so free and quickly if you have a Google/Gmail account. Simply go to https://www.google.com/webmasters and either sign in or click the “Start Now” button to sign up.
Once that is set up, you can then begin to add your websites. You will need to verify each site you add by upload a verification HTML file, or choosing one of their other methods.
The below tutorial will help you walk through these steps and show you how to add your secure website to Google Analytics as well.
An entire tutorial on the Google Search Console could easily fill a large book, so if you get stuck with a specific step, you can get answers in the help section when logged into the console or simply search on YouTube as there are plenty of how to guides.
One final note – if you have already installed WordPress, and have recently activated HTTPS on your website, you will need to change your default website from within your WordPress dashboard.
You can do so by going to Settings -> General Settings. Once you are there simply change your existing http website address to https in two different fields. One is labeled “WordPress Address (URL)” and the other is “Site Address (URL)”.
After you click “Save Changes”, you may be logged out of the dashboard and have to enter your WordPress admin username and password to get back in.
We hope this article has raised your awareness of why it is important to make sure your website is secured. Over time, this should increase your search engine rankings and as a result will be another step to help increase your overall book sales.
It is not a crucial task you need to complete immediately, but is something you should put on your to-do list and get fixed eventually – perhaps in the next few months if you are busy.
If you get stuck or have further questions, feel free to contact us and we will do our best to help you.
Stay tuned for Part 3 which will cover more detailed aspects of customizing your default WordPress installation for your author website…