Made The Move To HTTPS!

Early last month, I decided to make the move and finally run my site under a secure certificate. This something I’ve been meaning to do over the last year as it became apparent that Google will soon penalise your search rankings if an SSL is not installed. Quite a few of the developer blogs I follow have already made the transition, so I thought I too should do the same. I was surprised how cheap it was to move to HTTPS. For myself, I pay around £25 a year that consists of a basic Comodo SSL certificate and a dedicated IP. This is purely because my website is hosted on a shared hosting provider. It’ll probably be even more cheaper for those who manage their own hosting.

I highly recommend anyone who still has qualms on making the move to https to read the following post by Scott Helme: Still think you don't need HTTPS?. He brings up some very interesting points and benefits that motivated me to make the move.

The transition to making the move to HTTPS was painless and required no major downtime. But I did have to spend time in ensuring all external requests from my site were secure, for example Disqus, Google Ads and some external JS references. However, something a little more pressing caught my eye and got quite a fright when I logged into Google Webmaster Tools yesterday. Unbeknown to me, ever since my site changed to HTTPS, both my clicks and CTR statistics declined drastically over the month. Take a look at the blue and yellow lines:

Google Webmaster Tools Clicks/CTR Decline

At least this decline has not been reflected in my Google Analytics report. The number of visitors to my site has remained stable and have even noticed a slight increase - I don’t think the increase has anything to do with the SSL certificate. So what caused the rapid decline in Webmaster Tools? It seems like I missed something in my haste. I needed to in fact create a new website inside Webmaster Tools that contained my website URL prefixed with "https://". This is because a "http://www.surinderbhomra.com" is considered a different URL to "https://www.surinderbhomra.com". Makes sense when I think about it. I wrongly presumed that as long as I have the correct 301 redirects in place so all pages on my site is served over HTTPS, there won't be an issue.

HTTP and HTTPS Sites In Google Webmaster Tools

John Mueller wrote a FAQ post on Google+ that covers most of the important things you need to know and how to setup Webmaster Tools correctly on change to HTTPS: https://plus.google.com/+JohnMueller/posts/PY1xCWbeDVC.

I won't lie to you, seeing that green padlock in the web address bar whenever I visit my site gives me a new found sense of euphoria!

Google Seems To Have An Issue With My Server Response Time...

...and I think I know why...

Out of all the issues Google PageSpeed Insights seems to have when analysing my site, there are two specific things crop up that annoy me:

  1. ​Reduce server response time
  2. ​Leverage browser caching (due to Google Analytics JavaScript file)

The Google Analytics issue is something I will have to live with since (as far as I'm aware) there's nothing I can do. It would be nice if Google wouldn't penalise you for using a product they have developed. However, the "Reduce server response time" was something that perplexed me. My site is relatively simple and not doing anything over-the-top.

Due to the nature of my hosting setup (shared), I didn't have all the capabilities to make my website respond any better. The only way I could think of improving server response time was to move my hosting to another region and purchasing a VPS to get more control.

Now, I think I have resolved the server response time issue...It has something to do with a Web Statistics service called AWStats that was enabled by default as an "addon" service on my hosting. Once disabled through my Plesk Management Portal, Google PageSpeed didn't seem to have any issue with my server response.

I cannot 100% confirm if by disabling the Web Statistics service is a permanent solution and will work for everyone else. But there might be some truth behind this. Web Statistic services like AWStats store all analytical data in log files directly on the server, so this must have some affect on the time a request is made. I could be talking complete nonesense.

If you have experienced the same problem as me, check your own hosting setup and it's "addon" services. You never know, it may give you that extra Google PageSpeed point. :-)

Google Analytics and Adsense Android App Alternatives

Being a Web Developer and owning my own website, I’m quite interested in seeing how my site is doing when I am not in the vicinity of my computer – mainly analytics and advertising revenue. Even though Google Analytics and Adsense provides me with really good information, I was interested in seeing if there were any alternatives in app form on Android.

To my surprise there were no official app alternatives for AdSense or Analytics. Thankfully, there are a few unofficial app's currently available to download free on the Android Market. Here are (in my opinion) the best ones:

gAnalytics

gAnalytics Screen Shot gAnalytics provides all the necessary types of stats you would require. Even though currently in beta, this hasn’t restricted the app in anyway and I haven’t experienced a single issue whilst using it. You have access to the following type of reporting (not a complete list):

  • Visitor stats –  pageviews, average time on site, bounce rate and new visitors.
  • Demographics – language, country and city.
  • System stats – browser, operating system, screen resolution and service provider.
  • Referral/Direct traffic.
  • Search Engine traffic – keyword and search query.
  • Content stats – page, search term and exit pages.

If that wasn’t enough, gAnalytics lets you retrieve statistics from a given date period.

To summarise, gAnalytics is a perfectly comprehensive and a brilliant all round app.

AdSense Dashboard

AdSense Dashboard ScreenshotI would say the AdSense offering in terms of reporting isn’t as comprehensive as gAnalytics. What AdSense Dashboard does do well is providing you with a heads-up view on all AdSense metrics, such as:

  • CPM
  • CTR
  • Page views
  • Clicks
  • Estimated revenue

Unfortunately, you don’t get an option to view AdSense metrics over a specific date period. Only today, this month and year to date.

AdSense Dashboard is a simple app giving you top-level on stats and revenue information over four different screens.