**UPDATE** – InstaPage has been updated since the time of writing the below, however personally I kept the setup below.
Okay hands up, as a software developer I hate the idea of these codeless website builders. They produce un-optimised, SEO unfriendly, SLOW and buggy experiences often with a dire standard of code and a ridiculous on-going monthly cost.
Coding a website is not monetarily costly, for me, I have the relevant skills to code, design, optimise and secure a website myself. While getting a website up and running may not hit my physical wallet, to do anything properly takes an extraordinary amount of of time; something I have been trying to optimise in my life lately to find more time for projects. When you assign a cost to your time it really helps optimise the unnecessary parts (Twitter, Facebook and the like).
I left my inner techy shivering asking ‘what the hell are you thinking about’ and signed up for a website builder
The abbreviated background story
When someone I consider rather successful suggested to me that if I too wanted to build product and get traction I had to be able to verify ideas were going to be successful before committing time and money to them. Aka fail fast. So I left my inner techy shivering asking ‘what the hell are you thinking about’ and signed up for a website builder, or more particularly a landing page builder. After some very light research, I choose InstaPage. I will perhaps go into some detail in another blog about the product I built (https://www.motremind.co.uk), but basically the landing page just had to collect a email address and a couple of other little parts of data.
I signed up for the ~$33 dollars month to month plan, had the site built in 1 night and chucked some adds on AdWords to see the reaction. Surprisingly I did get some signups, so I spent the next couple of months building out the backend of the system, leaving the front end there collecting emails. When the backend and reminder system was finally built I set up a Twitter and Facebook account and prepared to announce to the world.
Before I did, I popped a support call into InstaPage as per their help centre article to enable SSL on my landing page. For those not in the know, $33 per month for hosting a trivial website is rather expensive, hence I had assumed after reading the help centre that of course SSL would be included in my plan and the support team would sort it out while I slept. In my haste to get officially going I announced to my friends my new product and invited them to like/follow the page of Twitter and Facebook. Big lesson learned I should have waited a day for the big reveal.
What no SSL, I am paying for this right?
I woke up the next morning with a reply to my support ticket telling me that SSL was a “Premium” feature (BTW no mention of this on the pricing page or I would have run for the hills months before). I jumped over to check out how many extra dollars they were trying to squeeze me for; my jaw hit the floor and rage built inside!. A minimum of $149 month to month ($127 if you want to give them the money upfront for a year) So $116 for SSL and a bunch of other features I would never use. Are they having a laugh? With projects like Let’s Encrypt offering free SSL Certs these days my inner techy is utterly appalled. These types of website builders are aimed at non-tech people not in the know, furthermore landing pages by their very nature are usually collecting some form of personal details, in my case this was only a email address…but still. I was taking some rather deserved flack from tech friends on Facebook by now for the lack of SSL.
What would I do if I developed the site from scratch?
Setting up SSL on InstaPage for Free while on a Basic plan
Well one thing is for sure, I was not stumping up that $116 extra dollars each month, my inner geek was livid by this point. I decided it was time to let the inner geek come back out and find a solution. What would geek me do if I was developing the site from scratch myself? Well with my security and performance hat on no professional external facing website I build is without Cloudflare unless there is a very good and specific reason. Usually I advise clients to stump up the cash and pay, but I was being cheap here – validating an idea. I jumped across to Cloudflare and checked out the features available on their free plan – more than adequate I thought. So here is how to do it:
Step 1: – Sign up for a Cloudflare account
Step 2: – Go to https://www.cloudflare.com/a/add-site and enter the URL of your InstaPage account.
Step 3: – Let Cloudflare work its magic to figure out the required settings to keep your site online (DNS for us geeks).
Step 4: – Find and Log into the portal your domain registrar (the people you purchased the domain name from) and update the “Name servers” to point them at CloudFlare.
Step 5: – Get a cup of tea and wait 10 min (24 hours max) and your domain should now be getting served by Cloudflare.
Step 6: – SEO optimise the SSL end point.
Technically the http and https version of your site is seen as two separate websites by Google and this can adversely effect your page rank as well as meaning people can still access the non secure version as well. Hence we want to redirect the http traffic to https. Our “Basic” InstaPage account does not let us get access to the code so doing traditional redirects is not going to work here. Cloudflare to the rescue again! Head back over to your CloudFlare account and select “Page Rules”. Set a rule to “Always use SSL” for “Http://Yourdomainname.com/*” (note the * at the end).
Step 7: – While we are at it, we might as well try and optimise some of the other downfalls of website builders, Page Speed. Google offers a free PageSpeed checker over here. You will likely find like I did that the page speed of your landing page is terrible, which is again bad for SEO. Hence add another Page Rule in Cloudflare to “Cache Everything” for “*.Yourdomain.com/*” (again note the *).
Step 8: – Re run the PageSpeed test and you will likely see a small improvement, unfortunately we will never make large gains without access to the code but a gain is a gain.
Any questions please do get in touch in the comments.