As many may already be aware, Google has recently made significant changes to some of their key services, which have a direct bearing and will undoubtedly impact on many organisations day to day online operations and activities.
This article aims to highlight some of these changes, in particular, changes to website security through HTTPS and changes to the billing model for Google Maps API.
Changes to website security through HTTPS
In early July 2018, Google implemented a change that means websites without SSL Certificates (a security certificate denoted by a green padlock and an HTTPS secure URL string) are now classed as ‘Not secure’ and flagged with a warning in the URL bar of users browsers. As shown in the below example;
What is HTTPS?
HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) is an internet protocol that protects the integrity and confidentiality of data between a user’s computer and a website, providing secure encryption of sensitive information and also establishing trust with users. Without the security between a user’s web browser and a website, information such as credit card numbers could be vulnerable to hackers when entered on an unsecured website. To enable HTTPS for your website, you will need to obtain a security certificate known as an SSL certificate.
What are SSL Certificates?
SSL certificates are security certificates that use encryption and authentication to secure connections between a users browser and a website through the secure protocol HTTPS. SSL certificates can be purchased from many hosting companies such as Comodo, Digicert and GlobalSign.
Why switch to HTTPS?
SSL certificates are not complicated to install, yet they provide a very reliable way of transmitting data securely. Switching to HTTPS is particularly valuable to organisations that rely on having high levels of security around online transactions that made on their websites (e-commerce), as well as those organisations that store or collect sensitive information through their websites. There is an even greater need for organisations to secure information and data since the introduction of the new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) on May 25th 2018, with potentially hefty penalties for non-compliance.
An additional if not crucial benefit for organisations considering making the switch to HTTPS, is the impact on their SEO. As Google views websites containing the HTTPS protocol favourably when ranking websites for search results. Users are now also increasingly wary of partying with their information or making purchases on websites perceived as not being secure. The secure nature of HTTPS can help build that trust.
Note: If you switch your website from HTTP to HTTPS, Google will treat this as a website move with a URL change. Which may temporarily affect some of your traffic numbers.
Changes to Google Maps API billing model
Effective from early June/July 2018, Google has made changes to their Google Maps API billing model and pricing structure. The following are key takeaways from Google’s own documentation relating to the billing updates and what they might mean for organisations using Google Maps on their websites;
Google Analytics / API Changes
- Billing now being enforced for all accounts and all projects must be associated with a billing account.
- Billing now based on monthly usage, determined at the end of each month.
- $200 free monthly credit.
- The following Maps/API calls are currently charged at $0.00; Mobile Native Static Maps (lite mode, in a Maps SDK for Android), Mobile Native Dynamic Maps (lite mode, in a Maps SDK for Android) & Embed (a simple embedded map with a marker).
|(Per 1,000 API Calls)|
|Embed Advanced||An advanced Maps Embed API request that uses Directions, Street View or Search mode.||
|Static Maps||A static map image returned from the Maps Static API.||
|Dynamic Maps||A dynamic map generated using the Google Maps API.||
|Static Street View||A static Street View returned from the Street View API.||
|Dynamic Street View||A dynamic Street View generated from the Street View API.||
For the majority of organisations that currently have a Google Map on their website, the pricing for ‘Dynamic Maps’ applies (highlighted). Whilst it will be a requirement for these organisations to create a Google Billing Account which contains a valid Credit Card, only websites with relatively high volumes of traffic are likely to exceed the current free allocation of monthly API Calls (Up to 28,000 loads for Dynamic Maps).
However, it should be noted that whilst the map is initially generated with just one call to the API, each additional element on the map (marker, custom controls, etc) will/may require individual calls to the API. So, organisations with a considerable number of Markers or custom controls (Filtering, Clustering, etc) will invariably use the free allocation of API Calls at a higher rate than those with a simple, basic map.
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