Thursday, 04 January 2024 13:05

On business websites: Promotion, privacy and padlocks

Written by Linda Comyns


In the age of social media, are business websites still needed? This was the opening question at Southern SIG’s meeting on 9 November 2023. There were 12 SENSE members on the Zoom call, plus Alex Went, a web designer based in Prague. Alex designed SENSE member Linda Jayne Turner’s website and he kindly offered to share his expert advice.

The answer to the opening question was an overwhelming ‘Yes!’ from those present, partly because some of us do not have a social media presence and partly because platforms such as Instagram and Facebook only reach certain clients. For many of us our websites are more of a calling card, a place where potential clients can check us out once they have heard of our services via other channels, most often by word of mouth.

Although not necessarily expecting to appear on the first page of Google search results, we were all keen to hear more about the possibilities. Alex explained how the Google search algorithm favours dynamic content and recommended including a blog for this purpose, providing it is kept up to date – Google loves fresh meat. A blog can also be used in combination with social media posts to promote your business: simply post a link to your latest article on your social media channels to direct people to your website. Alex also told us about Google Search Console, which he finds more useful than Google Analytics for analysing a website’s performance in Google search. You do not have to worry about your budget, as Google Search Console is free to use.

Website security was next on the agenda and the conversation moved on to secure network connections and privacy. Alex explained that the padlock symbol in your browser denotes that the website uses secure sockets layer (SSL) to provide a secure network connection and that this is important for Google’s search algorithm. You can choose between two types of SSL certificate: a free one which is usually available via your hosting platform or your own personal one, which may be subject to an annual fee. Also vital for those with a contact form on their website is compliance with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Since a contact form collects personal details (such as email addresses), it is important to have a check box that a prospective customer has to click to confirm that they have read and agreed to your privacy policy. Just having the privacy policy on your website is not enough!

Compliance with GDPR is also a concern when using a captcha to prevent spam. Alex warned that it might be best to avoid reCAPTCHA v3 because it uses mouse movements to determine whether a person or a bot is navigating your website. Since these mouse movements occur before someone has clicked to confirm that they have read and agreed to your privacy policy, this type of captcha is actually in violation of GDPR.

Google’s search algorithm reared its head yet again in response to a question about website domain extensions, such as ‘.com’ or ‘.nl’ or ‘.eu’. With many options available, these two or three letters make our lives difficult once again. Here the difference lies in the country of the prospective client. A Google search in one country will bring up a different set of results to the same search in another country, depending on the website domain. Although having several hosted websites can be costly, using a simple redirect from different domain extensions to a single main site could be a cost-effective solution.

We packed a lot of discussion into our 90-minute meeting. Other topics included some of the tools people used to design and create their websites, with Squarespace, WordPress, Polylang and Divi all being mentioned. We also debated how best to structure your website. Should you follow the trend of a few years ago and have just a single page or go with several pages and a menu? Lastly, and somewhat surprisingly, we discovered that bilingual – or even trilingual – websites can cause more problems than you might expect, such as additional fees and search engine problems, and even our expert Alex said it was an area he wanted to explore further. For those of us with clients who only speak one language, having a website available in multiple languages is a must, and although there are various automatic translation options available, do you – as a language professional – really want your calling card to be written by a machine? Watch this space for a follow-up talk…

As we wound up the meeting there was a final bonus for attendees: Alex offered to do a free audit of our websites. I imagine his inbox was pretty full the next day! In keeping with our tradition, we appointed our latest Southern SIG member of the month (the attendee located farthest south) and this time Linda Jayne Turner was a worthy winner, dialling in all the way from the Czech Republic.

About Alex Went

Experienced web designer with proven track record of consultancy to small businesses, NGOs and individual clients. Also worked in higher education and creative industries. Recommended media and communications professional. Graduated Master of Arts from Cambridge University. Lives in Prague.

Blog post by: Linda Comyns



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