Simple Errors that Scare Buyers

Maintaining a website takes effort. This is especially true if you use SSL because it can scare people if not configured correctly. However, I was a bit surprised to see a certificate error this morning from My initial thought was they are a well known retailer so maybe this was an outlier case. Even so, no prospect likes to see the words “your connection is not private” or “unsafe”.

The episode started when I was reading my email and there was an ad on the right side for the HP Stream that caught my eye.

ad for HP Stream

I clicked the ad thinking it would take me to either a HP site or Microsoft Store. There was nothing in the ad that made me think I would be going to Instead, I got this surprise. You may click the image to see a larger image.

Best Buy SSL error
SSL and safety warning

It wasn’t until I looked at the URL that I noticed I would be going to BestBuy. Moreover, I was confused to see “Lenova Ideapad” in the URL. The last thing any company wants is to pay for ads that dead end like this. Essentially, you’re paying to scare your own customers.

This also got me thinking about the HTTP headers and what was being returned. I was curious as I didn’t know if there were a way to monitor these type of errors. I know from experience if you set up an ad with Google AdWords and use a URL that returns a 404, they will stop the ad and send you an email. I’m guessing Microsoft does something similar. But, this wasn’t a 404 error.

I copied the URL from my browser and popped it into URI Valet. This a nice service that shows header info. In the screen snap below, you’ll see some interesting items. To start, I’m immediately getting a 301 or permanent redirect. I’m also shown a teaser for employment opportunities.

URI Valet header check

The good news is I couldn’t get the same error if I tried to order something online. That SSL certificate didn’t provide any warnings. And then it hit me when I looked at the next sequence of HTTP headers after the X-Employment tag. The URI tool probably ignores the browser warning and proceeds. If I removed the “s” I got to a Lenovo product page. This would probably be the same page I would see if I proceeded to click through and ignore the browser security warning.

Good BestBuy ad

Final Thoughts

I think there were several errors made here. While I’ve commented that SSL ads complexity so do ad campaigns. While trying to produce the same ad again, I clicked and went through to a Microsoft Store site. This is probably some sort of rotating ad campaign that involves multiple sites. Who knows it might be a joint deal with Microsoft offering Office 365 Personal as a promotion.

Bottom line, I think this was an error by whomever set up the PPC campaign. I’m guessing, https instead of http on various landing pages.
For those of you who do use PPC, here are some suggestions,

  • Check to make sure people don’t see browser security notices.
  • Take people to the correct landing page. The ad copy/image should match what the user see on the landing page.
  • If you’re going to ad an X-Employment line to your pages, make sure the link works.

Tip: A kind reader pointed me to this Search Engine Land post which mentions a script that could help advertisers using Google AdWords. I haven’t tested this but it looks like you could add error messages as well.