As website data analytics have become more refined, experts have honed in on three factors that can help propel a website’s success:
- high performance speed;
- mobile optimization; and
- search engine optimization
Successful implementation of these three components can form the technical core of a strong website. In this post, I will define them in greater detail and suggest ways to improve your site.
High Performance Speed
Performance speed boils down to a simple question, “how fast will a specific page load?” Ideal page load speeds hover around 1.5-2 seconds, while the average load speed is 3.4 seconds, indicating that a significant number of websites are lagging behind in page performance. Load speeds are important for one logical reason: people are impatient. In fact, 40% of web users expect load times less than 3 seconds. Page performance should be a major consideration for everyone looking to retain traffic on their sites.
One reason websites can be slow is page size: slow or heavy pages are typically full of uncompressed images. To resolve this problem, the site manager simply needs to export each image on the site, compress it, and re-import the compressed version, making sure to delete the large, uncompressed image.
Another cause for clunkiness is a lack of render blocking: Render blocking is needed when your browser is loading a webpage and encounters an external script (a third-party service on the page). The script has to make a request and load that specific content before your browser can begin loading any other content on the page. Resolve this issue by de-prioritizing 3rd party scripts that aren’t critical to load after your core site content.
Mobile optimization refers to your site’s responsiveness on a smartphone. Research indicates that mobile content consumption is surpassing desktop/laptop content consumption and continues to grow. It is imperative that you build your site to respond well to mobile traffic. You can get a gauge on your site’s mobile responsiveness by running it through Google’s mobile friendly test.
To optimize mobile responsiveness, we recommend using a responsive web design configuration (RWD). RWD runs the same HTML code on the URL across devices (desktop/laptop, smartphone, and all other devices). The code responds to your platform and adjusts the dimensions accordingly.
RWD also improves your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Google’s SEO team explains how:
- Makes it easier for users to share and link to your content with a single URL.
- Helps Google’s algorithms accurately assign indexing properties to the page rather than needing to signal the existence of corresponding desktop/mobile pages.
- Requires less engineering time to maintain multiple pages for the same content.
- Requires no redirection for users to have a device-optimized view, which reduces load time. Also, user agent-based redirection is error-prone and can degrade your site’s user experience (see Pitfalls when detecting user agents” section for details).
- Saves resources when Googlebot crawls your site. For responsive web design pages, a single Googlebot user agent only needs to crawl your page once, rather than crawling multiple times with different Googlebot user agents to retrieve all versions of the content. This improvement in crawling efficiency can indirectly help Google index more of your site’s content and keep it appropriately fresh.
Search Engine Optimization “Must Haves”
Often overlooked, de-prioritized, and misunderstood, SEO is critical to the success of your website. While SEO can be tricky–there are specialists who devote their lives to understanding the finer points of webpage searchability–there are some SEO basics every website must employ.
Even when your site’s content looks great, your pages load well, and your site is mobile-friendly, if you aren’t ranking on search engines, your efforts will be in vain. While SEO is easiest to accomplish when building a site from scratch, all sites should work to stay current on SEO best practices.
Because there is a lot of debate over certain aspects of SEO (whether or not sitemaps are important, for example), I will stick with the concrete “must-haves,” the aspects of your site that need to be corrected immediately. These are:
- Page titles: Page titles are an absolute necessity, they appear in search results and Google assets are directly tied to their search engine algorithm. We recommend you keep your page titles at or around 60 characters (although Google measures characters in pixels).
- Headings: Your largest, top-of-the-page headings (H1 tags) bolster the keywords you will have inserted in your page title. Google’s crawlers will notice that your H1 tags have the same keywords as your page titles and score your page higher as a result.
- Meta descriptions: A meta description is the 2-3 lines of text you see under the page title in a search result. The purpose of a meta description is to properly describe the content of the listed webpage. While Google does not place a lot of importance on meta descriptions, searchers typically decide whether to click on a page based on how it is described in this. Meta descriptions should be limited to around 150 characters (or else your sentence will trail off with elipses).
How to use this Information
Five years ago, you may have been able to get away with discounting one, two, or all of these factors. Today, our expectations and interactions with webpages have changed considerably. Here are some facts underscoring the importance of each factor:
- Google states that in some industries (such as e-commerce), acceptable page load time is under two seconds
- Internet engagement on mobile has grown from 12% of total internet usage to 51%.
- 75% of all searchers never scroll past the first page that features only the top ten listings
Making changes focused on improving page performance, mobile optimization and search engine optimization will significantly increase traffic and user experience on your site, helping keep your business ahead of the competitors.