Aug, 12th, 2014

Is your security affecting your search rankings?

Google with SSL encryption

Google recently announced it is going to start using HTTPS as a ranking algorithm. It’s only a slight factor, “affecting fewer than 1% of global queries” and carries less weight than, for example, high-quality content.

On Twitter, @RyanJones, an SEO expert in UK, summarised things nicely: “for the record, there’s about 100 things you could do right now that would have a bigger SEO impact than switching to SSL”.

Regardless, much of SEO is a game of hundreds of small wins, so it would be foolish to ignore a small win.

So, our advice is: don’t panic, but do move to HTTPS.

Google states: “over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.”

We’ve had a number of clients move to HTTPS this year (with our encouragement) and seen no disruption to their traffic.

What is HTTPS?

First off, let’s explain Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). HTTP is the primary technology protocol that transfers data between the client and server in plain text, which allows users to link and browse on the web.

Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is another protocol, but uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). Unlike HTTP, HTTPS encrypts the data flow between the client and server to create a secure and safe web for users. Basically, this makes it much harder for people to spy on your traffic. With the growing concerns around web security, this has been rapidly becoming a hot subject online.

HTTPS migration guidelines

Here are some of our tips on how to migrate to HTTPS with minimal downtime to your website.

Content Loading

Since the HTTPS version of the site will typically use more resources to serve the site as it is encrypting the connection, it is important to note that Google takes into account page speed in its algorithm, so it is important the infrastructure can deal with SSL. Also, care needs to be taken to ensure all content is moved to HTTPS to avoid mixed content warnings. All internal links should start to use HTTPS, not just to pages but also for images.

301 Redirects

Since the secure (HTTPS) version of the site may be considered a new domain in the eyes of Google, it will be important to ensure that every URL on the current site is 301 redirected to the corresponding URL on the new site to let search engines know the site has permanently moved. This is also necessary to avoid the possibility of having duplicate content, which can create issues.

Another advantage of having 301s, is there are many sites already linking to the HTTP version – therefore these 301 redirects will ensure that the value of these links will be passed on to the new HTTPS pages.

Robots.txt file

Add a robots.txt file on the new HTTPS domain and exclude any folders that should not be crawled and/or indexed by search engines. FIRST can provide recommendations on the URLs that should be excluded. Assuming no changes to site structure, this file will be the same as the robots.txt on the HTTP site.

Webmaster Tools

There are a few things to consider with regards to the migration to a secure server when it comes to Google Webmaster Tools.

Since HTTP and HTTPS are considered different sites, the HTTPS version will have to be listed separately in Webmaster Tools.

You can contact FIRST if you require any assistance with switching your website from HTTP to HTTPS.

No responses yet

Jul, 4th, 2014

Questions you should be asking your digital media agency

I have had a number of conversations recently where marketing teams are questioning the digital media plans proposed by their media agency, especially when it comes to gaining measurable results.

Here are some questions you should be asking your media agency before the proposed plan is approved.  Asking a few questions now could deliver far greater results, and save a headache later.


  • Are the campaign objectives clear?
  • Is the proposed plan going to meet those objectives?
  • How will success be measured?
  • How will success be tracked?  What attribution method will be used to evaluate the influence of various channels towards the goal?

The details

  • What placements?  Run of site? or specific sections?
  • What targeting options will be used?  Behavioural / interest?  Geo-location? Gender skew?
  • What creative formats will be used?  Banners? Text links? Content blocks? Advertorials?
  • Will the media be ‘always on’ or just on certain times of days / weeks?
  • Is the placement on a CPM, CPC or CPA buy, or a combination of all those?
  • Is this going to get us the best result?  What would happen if we dropped [x placement] or improved targeting on [y placement]?
  • What placements / channels are going to be known to deliver the best response? What is going to play a secondary role in results, but still will attract the right audience?
  • How do we know we are getting best rates for this placement?
  • How will we evaluate the effectiveness of any online video promotion?
  • What channels have been left off the media plan? Why?
  • How does this online media plan support and complement the PR plan?  How does it support and complement the offline advertising plan?

Optimisation & performance

  • How will performance be optimised over the scheduled planned period?
  • Is the plan set in stone? Can it be changed dynamically as results are gained to push more of what works, and less of what doesn’t?
  • Does it make sense for the campaign to be front-weighted, or should a soft launch with a ‘test and see’ approach be adopted?
  • How will Creative + Media + Conversion align to the same objective?
  • What creative optimisation will take place as the campaign progresses?
  • What ‘optimisation’ will be performed ‘on-site’ to maximise conversion?  How will landing page testing play a role?
  • How often will the outcome be reviewed?
  • What happens if despite best efforts it fails?  What is an alternative plan?

Many times, media agencies have the answers and just need a little encouragement to draw the best thinking out of them.  Ultimately, you need to be able to measure tangible success – if you are not seeing success, the strategy needs to change!

No responses yet

Jun, 11th, 2014

Furnishing Staples’ website needs

Part of the world’s largest office products company, Staples Australia approached FIRST to create an Australian and New Zealand website for its Business Interiors by Staples business.

FIRST worked closely with Staples to create the new and fully responsive website, which is optimised for search engines and user-centric design.

Working within Staples’ brand guidelines, the site is a digital catalogue of the company’s Business Interiors product range and case studies. Using Drupal, the content management system is easy for Staples staff to update the site with all the latest products and content.

Visit the Business Interiors by Staples website for Australia and New Zealand.

Business Interiors by Staples home page Business Interiors by Staples home page, which has a full-width carousel that dominates the page to display the latest commercial fit outs.
Business Interiors by Staples on mobile and tablet The website is fully responsive, meaning the site works on any device and browser.
Case study landing page The case study landing page takes on a Pinterest-style design where it displays images of varying heights and widths, which then moves each case study around to fit like a jigsaw puzzle.
Business Interiors product range Business Interiors product landing page. When a user hovers over a product category, a transparent colour overlay appears.
Business Interiors product page Product pages allow the user to: click on an image to zoom in and take a closer look at the product; download product specifications and CAD drawings; and pin products to Pinterest.
Opus case study page Just like the product pages, Business Interiors’ case study pages allow the user to view various images of an office fit out and zoom in on the images, as well as share the case study via Pinterest.

Business Interiors team

Users can find out who the Business Interiors team is and connect with them via LinkedIn.

No responses yet

Jun, 2nd, 2014

10 themes from the Google Analytics Summit 2014

Google Analytics Summit 2014
As a Google Analytics Partner, we have had the privilege of spending the last two days at the 2014 Google Analytics Summit in San Francisco. What a wonderful conference it was! Although I could write much, I wanted to summarise and highlight just 10 consistent themes of the conference.

  1. Agility – Agility and speed is a weapon and some of the most important skills in business today. We must be smarter, faster and more agile.
  2. The Analytics Cycle – a) capture data, b) analyse data, c) take action. Then rinse and repeat.
  3. Universal Analytics – Migrating to Universal Analytics is an absolute necessity
  4. GTM – Implementing Google Tag Manager (GTM) is critical to success (and efficiency)
  5. Attribution – Attribution was a very strong theme throughout the whole conference and is only going to get more important. My key takeaway – if you are using ‘last click’ as your primary success metric, you are doing it wrong!
  6. Enhanced eCommerce – Google launched Enhanced eCommerce publicly at this event. It is a complete rework of the eCommerce reports and now includes fantastic visualisation and more ways to take action from your data efficiently and effectively. I have played with this, and it is cool. More info and next steps here
  7. Lets get more technical – Google Analytics API use is strongly encouraged and perhaps necessary for more advanced insights
  8. Upload offline/external data – There is an understanding that ‘web’ is only a portion of the story, to really understand your customers and their journey, you will need to upload external and offline data as well and combine.
  9. Remarketing – Remarketing should be an ‘always-on’ tactic. Is it for you?
  10. Segmentation – With all of the above, averages are pretty useless. Segmenting data is very powerful and is the best way to find gold and act according to the behaviour and needs of each segment.

There is certainly something for all of us to work on, and I am very excited by the possibilities Google Analytics will bring as they continually roll out new features. You can view the official Google Analytics blog here.

FIRST is always happy to talk through any of the above in more detail.

No responses yet

May, 26th, 2014

Optimizely technical tips

Published by under General

Install Optimizely snippet into your website

Optimizely officially recommends installing the Optimizely Snippet as high up in the head tag as possible. Add the Optimizely Snippet before the code for any analytics or heatmapping platforms as well.

Sample code:
<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang=”en”>
<script src=”//”></script>

However, there are a few exceptions that you need to be aware of.

  1. If you use jQuery 1.6.4 or later 

Optimizely includes jQuery 1.6.4 by default but your project may need a newer version of jQuery. In that case, you may not want to make your visitors download it twice.

You can use Optimizely with your own copy of jQuery by loading it before Optimizely on the page.

Sample code:
<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang=”en”>
// load jQuery first
<script src=””></script>
// then, load Optimizely
<script src=”//”></script>


And on your Project Dashboard, click Project Settings > jQuery Settings. Then, select the: Do not include jQuery option.


  1. If you use legacy Google Analytics

Depending on your _setDomainName configuration you may experience inflated ‘% New Sessions’ and ‘Visit Duration’ metrics inside your Google Analytics reports. If this is the case, you need to use _setDomainName without the leading period or make sure the Optimizely Snippet comes after _setDomainName call but before the _trackPageview call.

Sample code:

<!DOCTYPE html>

<html lang=”en”>


<script type=”text/javascript”>

// <![CDATA[

var _gaq = _gaq || [];

_gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-xxxxxx-x']);

_gaq.push(['_setDomainName', 'none']);

_gaq.push(['_setAllowHash', false]);

_gaq.push(['_setAllowLinker', true]);

// ]]>



// load Optimizely after_setDomainName

<script src=”//”></script>


<script type=”text/javascript”>

// <![CDATA[


// ]]>





Preview the variation

Optimizely provides a great preview function. This preview function allows you to view all variations in the experiment. If you simply want to check to load a particular variation of your experiment on a live page on your site across different browsers, this method is easier to use.[Experiment ID]=[Variation ID]

[Experiment ID] is the ID of the experiment which can be found from the Optimizely Editor URL when editing the experiment

[Variation ID] stands for the variation tab number, where the original equals 0, #1 equals 1

This optimizely_x force parameter will skip all audience and URL targeting conditions. This will tell Optimizely to blindly run the variation code for that specified experiment’s variation.


Global CSS

Optimizely has Global CSS feature, but please note that changes made here will apply to all variations in the experiment, including the original.

Optimizely Global CSS
To apply Global CSS only to a specific variation then you can use the following method instead:

$(‘head’).append(‘<style type=”text/css”>insert your CSS here</style>’);

Dealing with Ajax

If your website loads content using Ajax then you need to take care when using the Optimizely Editor. Optimizely does not work with Ajax content by default and what you see in the Editor is the fully loaded content.

In this case, you need to use one of the following methods to apply changes on your live website:

  1. Use ajaxComplete method

window.$(document).ajaxComplete (function () {

// your code here


  1. Run Optimizely code after xx seconds

window.myInterval = setInterval(function() {

// your code here

}, xx);

Make sure you test well with Ajax on Optimizely.

No responses yet

« Prev - Next »

© 2015 FIRST, part of the BeyondD Digital Marketing Group a wholly owned subsidiary of Beyond International.