Is your security affecting your search rankings?

published by on 19th August 2014 under General, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)


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.

Searching for motorhomes & campervans online – NZ/AUS Reach

published by on 7th August 2014 under Industry Reports, Research

campervans image FIRST blogpost

For the full report (PDF) please use our download form


Which New Zealand campervan and motorhome providers are maximising their market share online?

Find out which campervan/motorhome providers are taking the lead in organic search and how they’re doing it.
FIRST has investigated the organic search engine rankings for NZ consumer searches focused on campervans and motorhomes, utilising FIRST’s Ranking Based Reach (RBR) analysis framework. In addition, a consumer survey was carried out to discover what would encourage Kiwis to hire a campervan.

In this report we discovered:

  • According to a NZ tourism industry report (12/2012), international visitors hired 53,710 campervans during 2011, staying an average of 16.8 days and spending a total of $447.9 million in New Zealand. Domestic residents hired a total of 10,220 campervans during the same period, staying an average of 8.9 days and spending a total of $38.1 million outside their home regions.* These numbers are likely to increase as also Google Trends show that the search term for “campervan hire nz” is continuously increasing. Companies that manage to improve their online visibility can significantly increase sales.

  • Search results are broadly dispersed among a wide range of competitors. In this competitive market, some providers have recognized the urgency of ranking well in organic search, nevertheless there are still many companies which are not very present within search. It would make sense for them to invest in a robust and smart search strategy.

  • In our survey we revealed that more than 1 out of 5 Kiwis have already hired a campervan and that most respondents were searching on Google to find a campervan or motorhome to hire. This also reflects the high importance for companies to rank at a good position in the search engine.

  • A considered digital strategy that integrates both organic and paid search should be a key customer acquisition and revenue driver for campervan/motorhome providers.

FIRST uses its bespoke metric called RBR (Ranking Based Reach) to estimate how well each company is ranking in search engines. RBR provides a simple way to compare a website’s search engine rankings with its competitors. RBR is an estimate of the percentage of available search traffic a website will receive for a set of phrases – this gives the sites share of search or reach. It is weighted based on the popularity of each search phrase and the relative click through rate (CTR) of each ranking position.

For the full report (PDF) please use our download form


Related posts

YouTube Promoted Video Case Study

published by on 23rd July 2014 under Case Studies, Search Engine Marketing (PPC)



The Icon Artist Series is a diverse, hand-picked collection of artists who represent and epitomise the Serato ethos. They include DJ”s like Fatboy Slim, Erykah Badu, Mix Master Mike and The Gaslamp Killer.

Given the popularity of video amongst the Serato and DJ celebrity fan base, as well as the reach and targeting potential of YouTube, YouTube Promoted Video was an obvious promotional platform choice to amplify and extend the reach of the Icon Artist Series Video’s cost effectively.

FIRST’s goal was aimed at generating maximum video views whilst minimising the average cost per view (CPV).

By focusing on a few key elements, Serato & FIRST managed to gain some impressive exposure and reach, very cost effectively for the launch of the first few Icon Artist series videos.

With 60% less media cost, see how we were able gain a 145% increase in views while reducing the cost per view by 84% as well as some key insights to help you maximise the effectiveness of your YouTube Promoted Video campaigns.

Download the full case study here

youtube promoted video nz case study

Download the full case study

Which Eyewear Websites Provide the Best Customer Experience?

published by on 15th July 2014 under Industry Reports, Research

blog post small image

For the full report (PDF) please use our download form

Find out if Specsavers or Clearly Contacts (both: Eyewear providers) offers the better online customer experience and how they’re doing it.

This report is part of a series that looks at leading websites within specific industry verticals, to highlight good digital marketing practises, and opportunities for improvement. Additionally, a consumer survey was carried out to discover what is most important for Kiwis when buying eyewear online.

By comparing website pages, online visibility and survey data, we discovered:

  • Who has the edge in delivering a better customer experience
  • How their online ordering process differs and which we think is best
  • Which site offered the easiest way to find products
  • How they each fair in getting in front of their target market online
  • Some areas to improve conversions
  • Where the first place Kiwis go when searching for glasses and contact lenses
  • The least important criteria for making a buying decision

We believe that User Experience is critical to online success. This report is intended to simply provide an overview using readily available data. Further work would need to be undertaken for a complete and comprehensive market or competitor analysis.

For the full report (PDF) please use our download form

Related posts

How RentalCars NZ Increased Per Visitor Value by 78.6% – CRO Case Study

published by on 8th July 2014 under Case Studies, Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)

How One Small Change Made a Big Difference for RentalCars NZ

RentalCars NZ is proud to be a 100% kiwi owned and operated family company specialising in rental vehicles at affordable rates. Conversion Rate Optimisation provides an environment that enables RentalCars NZ to quickly test different scenarios aimed at improving user experience, conversions and revenue.

Using to run this A/B test, our goal was to increase online completed bookings, and increase revenue. We noticed a that there may be disconnect between ad message and landing page experience.

Our theory was if a user clicks an ad that promotes a specific/special price, then a product that matches that price point should be immediately visible on the landing page. By not meeting this user expectation straight away, it may result in negative feelings from the visitor towards the brand and deter some visitors from further engaging to book a car rental. ‘Bargain hunter’ type visitors who are price sensitive, might also not hang around long enough or sift through listings to find the right match, especially if the ad that brought them to the site pre-qualified them in some way.

For the full scoop on how this small change resulted in increased bookings from visitors who landed on the test page by 59.2% and improved revenue per visitor by 78.6% compared with visitors who landed on the original page, download the full case study here conversion rate optimisation nz car rental case study. Download the full case study