This just happened to a friend of mine a few weeks ago, and I could not believe she put up with the incompetence. She’s a real-estate broker, who has a small, typical R-E website – listings, contact forms, lead-generators, mortgage calculators, how-to information for potential customers. The site works well, does what it needs to, generates leads and also showcases her most recent deals. Simple, effective, a solid marketing mechanism, with a few forms on it.
Briefly, here is what happened: her hosting company didn’t bother installing a secure certificate on the host/domain. They didn’t bother to do it in October 2017, when Firefox browser has started identifying non-secured sites as ‘unsafe’. They didn’t bother to update any language about information privacy back in May 2018, when GDPR legislation came into effect (some of her real-estate customers are international, targeting European customers). And they didn’t install anything back in July 2018, just two months ago, when Google’s Chrome browser started showing alerts about websites without proper SSL certification.
Here’s the kicker: she found out about this issue, when one of her clients pulled out of a deal because they visited her website and saw an alert, and assumed the site was fraudulent.
By the time things were sorted out, the hosting company, after making some lame excuse about SSL being optional and expensive, and ‘you don’t need it anyway, but we’ll do a favor for you’ – installed everything, she lost at least another client, with the same explanation. Two real-estate deals vanished, just like that. In a space of a day or so.
She doesn’t know how many more good leads were turned away by that padlock icon in the browser. She didn’t know it was mandatory, especially on a website that’s clearly collecting information from users, and conducts business online. She had to reach out to her hosting provider, and request a simple, inexpensive feature that usually comes standard by now. It’s Autumn 2018 – not only SSL comes standard, you can get free SSL certificate for life from most hosting companies.
She’s staying with the current hosting company for now, but I’m sure that relationship is damaged – it cost her real commissions, possibly reputation – and it was an avoidable problem, easily fixed.
How many other small businesses are tripping over these issues? To me, this is a simple ‘proactive vs. reactive’ approach to technology. It’s not enough to just build what you have, and support what you (or your clients) have. You need to stay ahead of technology changes, and regularly advise, upgrade, update, iterate. And you need to communicate to your customers, no matter their size and budget, to get those updates done on time.
Get your site secured!
Get your site mobile (or multi-platform)!
Get your site into search engines!
Get your site into social platforms!
Get your customers where they need to be, whether they know about it or not. Simply taking their money without any regard of the site’s vulnerabilities, performance issues or risks – is lazy, unprofessional, and will cost them (and you) a lot of money down the road. Be proactive with your sites and servers.