How to prevent the latest Google penalties from affecting you


In a crackdown on website security, Google will now penalise sites that run without an SSL certificate, labelling these “not secure”. With seventy percent of people using Google as their primary search engine or browser, failure to comply with these changes is likely to reduce your web traffic, harming your business. On the other hand, having a safer site could enhance your clients’ trust, improving your business. So, if your website is not yet properly SSL certified, it’s probably time to make the change. Here’s what you need to know:

What is an SSL Certificate?

It may seem complex, but SSL is actually just a chunk of code that you input into your server, which encrypts your connection, making your site more secure. The impact of this can be likened to posting a sealed envelope in the mail instead of an unsealed one.

How do I know if I have an SSL Certificate installed?

You can check whether or not the code has been enabled by typing your domain name into the address bar on Chrome. If a padlock appears next to your domain name, you’re SSL certified. Another option is to check whether your site loads with the prefix “https” or “http”. If you’ve got extra a ‘s’ which stands for ‘secure’, this also means you’re SSL certified.

How do I get an SSL Certificate?

Issued by a trusted Certificate Authority, the process is usually quite simple – you’ll probably need to create a CSR and prepare some documentation before submitting your order. Just keep in mind that there are many kinds of certificates. The one that’s right for you will depend on the size of your site and your e-commerce requirements. Here are three main types:

Extended validation

The most secure (but also costly) option, ideal for e-commerce sites that require hefty amounts of personal information to be imputed. These tend to take the longest to obtain.

Organisational validation

The middle option, ideal for companies that don’t quite need EV, but still want to assure their online customers that they are a legitimate company that’s safe to do business with.

Domain validation

The most quick and affordable option on the market. These offer standard encryption and not much else, meaning they’re probably not quite secure enough for sites that request any data from customers.

Despite these distinctions, there are thousands of SSL products available at a range of price points, ranging from totally free to thousands of dollars, which means it’s important to shop around to find the best option for you.

Will all this affect my SEO rank?

Yes. Not only does having an SSL certificate ensure greater trust between you and your customers, it’s also favoured by search rankings. But it’s also important to note that because going from ‘http’ to ‘https’ does change your site address, you’ll need to take adequate precautions to ensure that switching doesn’t harm your SEO keywords. Here are some ways to secure this:

  • Ensure all your links are all aligned with the changes.
  • Make sure the ‘https’ version of your website is also updated in your robots.txt, CDN, Webmaster tools and Google Analytics, etc.
  • Perform adequate tests to ensure this is all running smoothly. There are quite a few testing tools available on the market and the company that sells your certificate will probably recommend one to you.

Need help with your digital strategy? The Merryn Bourne Creative team are experts at building websites as part of your overall brand and marketing strategy. Beautifully designed, outstandingly safe and functional, a website designed by us will give your customers have the best browsing experience possible. Why not speak with the experts? Call us now, on 02 8399 2223.


Are load times slowing your business down?


It’s common for businesses to prioritise sleek design, nifty functions or extra content over fast load times when building a website. Having all these added bells and whistles can be an asset to your brand, helping you to stand out against competition and attract customers’ attention. But if they begin to encroach on your website’s speed and efficiency, there’s a point where they’ll stop making your customers happy and start slowing sales down. Not convinced? Amazon reports show that just a one-second improvement in page speeds yields seven per cent growth in conversion rates and a ten percent overall increase in sales – proof that speed is a big deal.

Here are the main areas of your business load speeds may be influencing:

Customer experience

Research shows that when a website runs efficiently, we perceive the brand to run with equal efficiency, leading to better trust and improved customer retention. Alternatively, slow load speeds can kill the browsing experience. After all, how frustrating is it when a site lags for what feels like a lifetime when you’re just trying to access basic information? A website could be beautifully designed and have awesome interactive features, but at the end of the day, if it is too slow, users will simply shut the tab and switch to a competing site. In these situations, the business is not only at risk of losing a sale, but also a repeat customer, which is a big opportunity cost. Remember, consumers, value their own time above all else, which is why a smooth user experience should always be first priority.

Search rankings

While many people expect loading times to influence user experience, few anticipate how much they can also affect search engine ranking algorithms. There are two factors influencing this. Firstly, Google searches have user engagement indexes that track how many potential customers are engaging with the content on a website. So if people keep dropping off a page shortly after opening it, Google will think something illegitimate is going on, placing the site lower in its rankings. Secondly, if the search engine is too slow to connect to the data on a particular web page in time, it will simply ignore the content, leaving the site out of search results, no matter how good its other SEO efforts are. And as you’re aware, search rankings have a large impact on web traffic, which is a crucial driver of sales.

Here are some simple tips to help improve your page loading speeds:

Compress your pages

Large pages are bulky and slow to download. The best way to speed pages up is to zip them, which reduces their bandwidth, improving download speeds by up to seventy percent (according to Yahoo).

Optimise images

Large images take too long to load, but small images are too low quality, which is why striking a perfect balance is key.

Enable browser caching

Caching temporarily stores data on visitors’ computers, keeping them from having to re-download it each time they visit your page.

Minimise CSS

Excess or unnecessary code can really slow download your speed. It’s important to regularly sift through your coding and make reductions where possible. You can also copy and paste CSS into tools like CSS Minimiser, which will optimise your stylesheet automatically.

The Merryn Bourne Creative team are experts at building websites that are both beautifully designed and quick to load. For more information about improving the functions of your site, contact us today.

your path to seo success

Your path to SEO success

your path to seo success

Want to make your brand more visible on Google? Here are some tips to help you improve your search engine ranking so you no longer feel invisible.

No matter what you do, never sacrifice good writing for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Quality content drives search engine rankings and the best websites are written for the user and not for the search engine. Rule of thumb: make a site you would want to visit and write it the way you (and other humans) would want to read it.

#1 Keywords are Key

Google relies on keywords to establish who you are and how to connect you to the World Wide Web.

Keywords should be thought of as the words someone is most likely to type into a search engine to find your content. To stand out, it’s important you place your keywords should somewhere in your content, preferably in the first paragraph, so that they appear.  Again, try here to speak like a human and use words that you believe humans are most likely to use when they are searching for a page about your topic.  

One thing to be mindful of with Google is that it looks for how often your keywords pop up. However, it’s less about quantity and more about quality, so don’t try to trick the search engine by repeating the same word over and over again. By creating quality content specifically for your intended user your site traffic will organically increase.

#2 Stay Fresh and Remember to Refresh

Updating your content on a regular basis is viewed by Google as one of the best indicators of relevance for a website.

#3 Be Link-worthy

Google looks at the words you use in links to help determine the content of your page. Using links within your website will help to emphasise keywords. So, rather than having “click here”, try writing out the name of the destination as “click here” has no search engine value.

#4 Start Socialising

If you want to achieve higher recognition and boost your brand, you need to socialise with your audience. Social media is great for this. You may find that a great deal of your traffic comes from social platforms, so it would be wise to make sure your content is “social friendly”.

In addition to this, social platforms will allow you to understand where your target audience is and therefore help you build a stronger presence.

#5 Mobile Friendly means Google Friendly

As more and more people are using their phones to search for content, it would be wise to make your content mobile-friendly for the sake of good user experience. In saying this, you will also want to do this for the sake of search, as Google has indicated that mobile-friendliness is a Google ranking signal. This also includes being wary of pop-up penalties.

#6 Make Friends with the Top Dogs

Work hard to make connections in your field as this will help you spread your business’s message and vision. Once you know which companies you want to befriend, follow and like them on social media and even engage with their content to help boost your brand’s awareness.

We hope these tips put you on the right SEO path.

With SEO there are no guarantees or quick schemes. SEO is highly technical and complex, but at its heart lies the philosophy that Google wants to highlight the most relevant search matches to each user when they go searching. So, remember this;

Google determines relevance by;

    • Seeing how many people visit your site
    • The content published on your pages
  • The websites that are linking to yours

If you need help optimising your status with Google, please get in contact with us at Merryn Bourne Creative.

Our team of communication specialists will help your brand’s voice sing loud and clear.


A guide to Google pop-up penalties


With mobile devices expected to exceed 60 percent of total web traffic by the end of the year, it’s no surprise that the search engine giant is trying to make the Internet a more mobile-friendly place. With smartphone screens averaging around five inches, pop-up adverts can lead to a particularly frustrating browsing experience on many devices. That’s why, starting in 2017, Google will push for complete mobile accessibility on websites by flagging out pages with pop-ups they deem too intrusive for mobile browsing.

What kind of Pop-ups will be flagged?

  • Pop-ups that need to be closed before the user can access the content.
  • Pop-ups that cover the main content of the page when the user first opens a link or after some browsing.
  • Pop-ups that mimic the site’s above-the-fold content while pushing the actual content below the fold.

What do the penalties mean for me?
Keeping any of the above pop-ups on your website will put you at risk of dropping down in Google search rankings, which make up close to two-thirds of the search engine market, according to comScore. This has the potential to hinder your site’s reach, and in turn, the overall success of your business.

Why mobile-optimisation?
Google’s commitment to mobile-optimisation is proof of just how important it is to ensure users have a positive browsing experience on portable devices. It’s important to consider that a mobile-friendly site will not only help you to avoid Google penalties but will also improve users’ browsing experiences, helping to boost your overall conversion rate.

What makes a site mobile friendly?

  • Compatibility with iPhones, Androids, Blackberries and tablets
  • Content that downloads quickly
  • Information that is simple and easy to navigate
  • Clickable links that make it easy to get in touch with you

Merryn Bourne Creative is Brand and Communications Agency. We create beautiful mobile responsive websites that are SEO ready, as part of our client’s overall strategy. If you’re concerned about how Google penalties might affect your website, contact us.


Why Google Analytics is your free gold mine for growth.


Google Analytics is a powerful website analysis tool which helps you understand the people who use your website. But how can this help your business? We’ve put together five ways Google Analytics can help you improve your marketing strategy and keep visitors engaged with your website and business.

Hot spots – Where are people looking?

Google Analytics shows you what parts of your website are attracting interest and the key words and phrases which pull in new visitors through search results. Meaning you can offer new content and services your customers are interested in.

Boring bits – Where are people NOT looking?

Help weed out content your customers are not interested in. Sometimes content is just not appealing, other times bad positioning can lead to great content being lost. Having a lacklustre heading is the first step in losing customers focus and an easy fix. There are some great guides out there to help write a punchy headline.

Break down the bounce.

Bounce rates are when visitors leave your site without clicking through to other pages, which means they are not engaging with your content and your business. Google Analytics helps break down what point visitors leave your site so you can see what’s turning customers away.

Desktop, tablet or mobile – How are people viewing your site?

If your customers are mainly using a mobile to use your site or a specific browser it’s vital that your site is optimised for that platform and they are getting the best viewing experience. This is where having a responsive website is important, so no matter which platform they are using your site will still be fully functional. The geo location feature of Google Analytics is also helpful in targeting your key audience and producing content that is relevant to them.

Who is the best – How does your site rate against your competitors?

You can use Google Analytics to compare your customers engagement with that of your competitors and find out where your site needs improvement. However this tool’s usefulness can depend on if your competitors are also using Google Analytics.


Brand Security

Did you know that Google boosts your SEO ranking if you have an SSL certificate installed on your website?

Don’t know what an SSL certificate is?

Well basically it ensures enhanced security for your users.

How do you know if you have an SSL certificate?

It’s easy to identify if your site has an SSL certificate installed. Have you ever realised that some websites have HTTP::// at the beginning of their URL and some have HTTPS:://? Well you guessed it, HTTPS::// means your site is secure!

Security is now top priority with Google.

Generally this security measure is only for Ecommerce sites, to protect your customers credit card information, but now security is Google’s top priority and wants HTTPS everywhere for safer browsing and secure online data.

We recommend.

Fish Tank Creative can install an SSL certificate on your website to help boost your site that little bit further up in search engines ranking. Call us to secure your brand, 02 8299 2223.


seo best practices

SEO Best Practices

A simple and cost effective way to improve your websites Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is to begin with managing your on-page optimization.

What is on-page optimization you may ask? Well it is an area of SEO that applies to the content and structure of your website.

So let’s get started!

On-Page Optimization can be divided up into a number of areas;

  1. Keywords
  2. Title Tag
  3. Meta Descriptions
  4. Image and Alt Tags
  5. Headers


Prior to creating any content for your website keyword research is of most importance and can make or break your website.

There are two types of keywords, primary and long tail.

  • Primary Keywords
    The most important while optimizing a web page and should appear in vital areas such as the title and header tags.
  • Long Tail Keywords
    Long tail keywords support your primary keyword and don’t usually score as many hits but are more specific and therefore has fewer pages to compete with.

Title Tag

The Title Tag (title elements) is the most critical form of on-page optimization and is used in search engine result pages to display a snippet of a given page. Google will only display the first 50-60 characters of your title so be mindful of length and keep your important keywords close to the front. Long title tags have 20% lower click through rate as they can be considered as incomplete.

Meta Descriptions

As of 2009 Google announced that meta descriptions have no effect on your ranking in search engines but instead are important in gaining user click-through rates as they provide searchers with information on the given page. The optimal length for your description is roughly 155 characters. Rework your primary keyword into the description for better results.

Image and Alt Tags

Renaming any image file name and alt attribute to include a keyword is a must do! Although you don’t want each image to have the same keyword otherwise it appears to be spam. Ideally you would want each image to use different keywords so try using at least 3-4 different keywords for your images.

Header Tags

Header Tags aren’t a huge contributing factor to SEO but they should be taken advantage of whenever possible. Try to incorporate your primary keywords into post and page titles and any long tail keywords into the sub-headers.

seo best practices