From ProBlogger SEO expert Jim Stewart of Bloggers SEO
Last year the Australian retailer Booktopia gave a presentation where they shared that speeding up their page load times by 1 second, equated to an extra $600,000 on the bottom line.
Today, speed matters. Turning your blog into a highly optimised, relevant, platform takes time. Fortunately, SEO has shortened the distance between blog owner and reader. In 2017, users will ‘reject’ websites that don’t stack up, speed-wise. While acceptable load page times range from .5 seconds to four seconds, most support a 1.5-second load time for continuous success.
Today’s top 20 websites have lead times under this at less than one second, and they’re only getting faster. So, how can you make your site rank higher, perform faster, and remain popular? SEO, still, is the answer. It’s also an incredibly reliable one.
Speed and SEO: What’s the Connection?
The Googlebot crawls sites independently, judging their worth based upon several factors. Of these factors, site speed is the easiest to control. Speed, itself, is derived from the time it takes between site clicks and views. If your website is fully optimised, it’ll take only half of a second to load. Google research suggests that pages can lose as much as 40 percent of traffic when they take over three seconds to load; a powerful SEO option is unbeatable. Simply put; you need to clear your database—and often. Having a fast database will speed up the site. There are many quality WordPress database cleaners available. I recommend the rvg database optimiser plugin that is a simple ‘One-click’ WordPress database cleaner and optimiser that assists you in crucial tasks such as deleting old posts, optimising database tables, and creating optional log-files.
How Can You Measure Speed?
Because speed is an all-important website factor, it’s important to check it often. You can use Google PageSpeed Insights, entering your page’s URL to check its response speed. Once it’s been analysed, you’ll be presented with a page report. This report assesses your page and delivers a rating out of 100, taking into account factors such as user experience, and makes suggestions for faster speeds. Each recommendation is clickable, linking you to additional advice. You can also use Google Search Console’s Crawl Stats report. Under crawl stats, you will see a green line graph. This is the average speed it takes the Googlebot to download a page. Try to get this under an average of 500ms.
Once you have your SEO plan, optimised the database, and have created a speed benchmark, you should further boost your site’s speed by making sure you have a good workflow for optimising images. So many blogs upload huge images when they don’t need to. Make sure the images you upload have a resolution no larger than what they need to be displayed. I have seen thumbnail images on a webpage that were huge files just because they were not re-sized before upload. With images, you can also use compression plugins such as WP Smush that will compress the files once you have uploaded them.
There are many ways of optimising your page’s speed. That said, few come close to the power of hosting your WordPress site with WP Engine. They offer today’s best-in-class customer service, which is vital to website upkeep. WP Engine is built on EverCache, an architecture that creates reliable, scalable sites. Remember: Your site’s visitors are an impatient bunch. If your site loads slowly, they’ll seek business elsewhere. The EverCache platform helps sites run up to six times faster, using effective front-end technology. All WP Engine users benefit from the enterprise-grade software capable of continuously improving a website.
A Step Above the Rest
Note: We’re hearing a lot of very good things about WPEngine if you’re looking for hosting of an established site with more traffic (or want to position yourself for that in the future). They are more expensive but, as WordPress specialists, they are doing some great things for bloggers. Use ProBlogger's partner link and you’ll get 2 months free when you sign up for an annual plan.
WP Engine is also designed for completely scalable WordPress hosting. Its proprietary, front-end build operates upon a slew of carefully designed rules. Each rule is continuously checked for maximum performance, so you don’t need to worry about outdated solutions. Offering one of the best caching mechanisms available, WP Engine also reduces server load. Really, it’s a win-win situation in terms of boosting speed. By being instantly accessible while handling high concurrent traffic numbers, WP Engine isn’t only one of the fastest-working options around—it’s one of the most reliable.
At the end of the day, your website’s speed will determine its memorability, popularity, and use. Forty seven percent of consumers, in fact, expect a web page to load in under two seconds.
Here’s something you should have known by now –
There are a number of aspects of a given web page that influence search engine rankings. And by optimizing these aspects (namely, on-page SEO), you will get higher rankings on search engines.
Some of these factors which comprise on-page optimization include:
- writing great content which fills a need, and making it linkable
- having a catchy page title with your top keyword in it
- creating a URL which accurately reflects the hierarchy of your website
- using your image alt text to help search engines understand your content better
These are considered the fundamental factors of on-page SEO optimization, but they are by no means the only things you can do to improve your website’s rankings with search engines.
In this post, I will talk about three on-page optimizations, proven by case studies and SEO experiments, which will create an immediate impact on how well your site gets ranked on search engines – in particularly, Google.
1. Better click-through-rate, better search rankings
SEO is never a pure-science subject in my opinion. However, it has been possible to guesstimate what Google wants, by considering patents it has submitted in recent years, and by experimenting with various factors for their effect on rankings.
One of the known on-page factors, proven by Rand Fishkin’s study, is your page click-through-rate on Google search results (I call it Search CTR). Search CTR is a percentage that identifies how often people view your page on search engine, and then actually click on it to see more.
According to Rand’s experiment, when Google sees that the CTR for a given page is higher than normal, it assigns it a higher ranking.
From this, it stands to reason that one great way to boost your site rankings would be to improve your CTR on the search results page. Some ways you can go about that include the following approaches:
Optimize your page title for more clicks
There are some very specific things you can do to optimize your title, for example, including the current month or year in your title.
You can also experiment with Google Adwords or Facebook Advertising to see which version of your title works best and appeals most to your target audience. For instance, titles using the phrase “step-by-step” or “how-to” usually have greater appeal than the mere mention of how to do something in my experience.
Shorter, more concise titles also lead to better CTR and higher rankings, according to a study conducted by Etsy, and those which performed the best were titles that included only the target search keyword phrase.
Include schema markup on your site
Schema markup gives meaning to your data. It helps search engines to understand your data better and display your data differently on their search results. Hence, more users’ attention and (hopefully) clicks.
Put ‘breadcrumbs’ in your blog
Breadcrumbs help users navigate back to the main topic, and to locate themselves in whatever blog they’re reading, and have been explicitly stressed by Google as important to the overall user experience.
2. Broken links and 404-errors
Broken links and 404 errors signal Google two things –
- Your site is poorly maintained.
- Google users are more likely to bump into broken pages.
In result, Google assumes your website is simply not being maintained to a high standard, and users would be better served by another site which has high quality content.
In an actual case history of a site clean-up published in Blizzard Press, a comprehensive site improvement was undertaken. The clean-up initiative repaired more than 1,000 broken images, setup more than 100 301-redirects, corrected dozens of broken internal links, and tracked more than 280 keyword phrases for effectiveness.
As a result of the corrections made, the client’s website climbed more than 1,700 places in the search rankings.
Not only was this an astonishing climb for the website, but it all happened within the space of one week!
This should serve as proof positive that timely correction of navigation issues can have an immediate and profound effect on the ranking of your website.
404 errors and broken links are easily fixed, so such problems should be avoided.
In the case of a wrong URL, simply correct the address. If the target page no longer exists, a 301-redirect can be used to point to a page with similar content. To determine whether or not your site has such errors embedded in its pages, a site-crawling tool such as Screaming Frog SEO Spider or SEM Rush can be used.
3. Get mobile-optimized
In April of 2015, Google rolled out an update which boosted the rankings of mobile-friendly websites. This gave preference to sites having high-quality content for mobile devices, without the need to zoom, scroll, or otherwise re-position their screens for readability. This was of course in deference to the fact that the usage of mobile devices and smartphones were being used so much for web browsing.
Within 18 months, Google was prepared to roll out another update, this one making their primary indexing and evaluation centered on the mobile website’s characteristics rather than the desktop version of the same website. While not ignoring the desktop website, focus was then centered squarely on the kind of user experience provided to owners of mobile devices instead.
It is not at all surprising therefore, that a number of case studies have confirmed the fact that optimized mobile site presentation now has a direct correlation to being ranked higher in search engine results. When my site’s (WHSR) new mobile-friendly site design went live on December last year, search traffic surged for more than 20% (in particular, our host review index page – which took us more than three weeks to create such a big mobile-friendly table).
Google Mobile-Friendly Update Study #1
One study conducted by Stone Temple was particularly telling, because it captured rankings information for thousands of websites before and after Google’s update. As might be expected, 46% of sites considered non-mobile friendly slipped down in the rankings, and more than 30% of those which were considered mobile-friendly rose in the rankings. The rise for mobile-friendly sites would have been much more dramatic, except for the fact that many of the sites tracked were already ranked #1 in their specific area of interest.
Google Mobile-Friendly Update Study #2
In a second case study involving retail company Offspring, a major re-design of their website was undertaken to provide users with a responsive website.
Previously the company had no mobile-friendly presentation, and it had become painfully obvious that Offspring was missing out on a huge sector of the consuming public.
After wading through all the expected trials and tribulations of such a massive project, the results were even more impressive than company officials had hoped for.
Within three months of the new mobile-friendly site launch, first-page visibility had increased almost 78%. In addition, the Google site usability score jumped from 60 to 100, the company had a 103% increase in mobile revenue, and there was a 15% increase in their mobile conversion rate.
It’s no exaggeration to say that getting mobile-optimized is not really an option anymore, it’s a requirement. If your site isn’t optimized for mobile traffic, you’re missing out on the largest segment of Internet traffic. To find out just how mobile-friendly your website is, use this handy tool: https://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com/.
All you have to do is plug in your site URL, and Google will evaluate everything about your site. Then you’ll be provided with a percentage figure on its mobile friendliness, its mobile speed, and its desktop speed. You will also have the option to request a free report which details how those figures were arrived at, and some recommendations on what you can do to improve your scores.
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