- What Makes Page Speed Important to Your Site?
- Case Study: Digital Search Group’s UK Website
- Results and Conclusion
Aside from having an effective SEO campaign, another thing that you might focus on when working on a site is having an appealing web design. But, one of the things that most site owners overlook is page speed. What’s the point of having a high ranking site and an appealing design if your site takes too much time to load? Your site’s visitors are sure to lose their interest when browsing your site because of it.
When you talk about page speed, it is simply the measurement of how fast your site’s content loads. So, when you talk about page optimisation, your page speed is also one of the things that you should be working on. It is one of the factors that can contribute to having a higher ranking and a profitable site.
- Page speed helps increase your site’s ranking on SERPs. Google has indicated that one of the signals being utilised by its algorithm in ranking pages is the site speed. Slow page speed means that search engines can only crawl fewer pages with the given crawl budget. and given that there are only a few pages on your site that were crawled, it could have a negative effect on how your site is indexed.
- Slow page speed will decrease your site’s bounce rate. Bounce rate pertains to the percentage of visitors to your site who click the back button or close the window after having only visited one page. When a person clicks on a link going to your site and it takes a few more seconds for your page to load, they will lose interest in continuing to browse your site. They will just click the “Back” button and look through your competitors’ sites rather than wasting time on your site that takes time to load. Google tracks the traffic of the site and if Google measures that most of the traffic of the site leaves within 5 seconds then it won’t keep that site on the first page of SERPs anymore. There may be a lot of sites on the first page of SERPs but it’s not a guarantee that they are all good if most of their visitors leave within 5 seconds of viewing one page. It would be safe to say that these sites are not that good.
- Faster page speed increases conversion rate. When your site visitors deal with your slow-loading pages, you are sure to slowly lose potential clients as well. It is really beneficial for your business to have a site that loads fast. It will make your visitors happy and keep their interest to browse on the other pages of your site. In a study done by Strange Loop, they have found that having just a second delay of loading your site’s content can cost your business 7 percent of its sales. For those who are in the online shopping industry, most people will not complete their purchase when a site takes time to load.
- Happy visitors. Having happy visitors could potentially turn into happy clients. If you want more people to browse your site and purchase your product or contact you regarding your services, you should put effort into making your site load faster. If visitors will have to deal with a site that seems to take forever to load, they will not hesitate to go to another site. Faster page speed will improve user experience. This is important especially for first time visitors as we all know that first impressions last. So, if first time site visitors have to wait for your site’s content to load, their impression is not going to be positive. The next time your site appears on the search Results, there is a possibility that they might not click on it again as they already have the impression that the site takes too much time to load.
Case Study: Digital Search Group’s UK Website
For this discussion, we will be working on Digital Search Group’s UK‘s site.
Before optimising a site, you have to check the status of the site as this will help you in evaluating how much work should be done to it.
In this case, we will see the status of Digital Search Group’s site.
Google PageSpeed Insights
This tool is part of the Google Webmaster Tools. You can access it by logging in to your Google Webmaster Tools account and choosing the website that you want to work on.
Mobile Results: In accordance to Google’s standards, having 85 points or more is a good indication that your site is working well. The site’s mobile speed is just 72 points out of 100.
Desktop Results: The site’s Desktop Results is 82 points out of 100. The site needs a few improvements.
Pingdom monitors the uptime and downtime of websites helping you in keeping track of its performance.
There are nine main steps that can help in improving the page speed of WordPress sites.
1. Backup your site
Before doing major changes to your site, making a backup of it is really important. You can backup your site easily by installing the ‘Backup’ plugin. Backup is a free backup and restoration tool that you can take advantage of.
It is important to create a backup of your site because it helps you easily restore the previous version should you make mistakes or any drastic changes that could ruin your site. Restoring it to its previous version is probably better than doing it all over again from scratch.
2. Create a good site foundation
When you talk about a site’s foundation, you are dealing with the web hosting provider as well as the theme of your WordPress site.
When it comes to having a web hosting provider for your site, make sure that you choose one that’s reliable. You can take advantage of the different web hosting plans from different providers. Choose a plan that will fit with your needs and preferences.
You can go with a shared hosting provider. Shared hosting usually costs between 3 to 9 USD per month. So, it’s actually cheaper than other hosting plans. But, remember that there are hundreds of sites that will be sharing that server so resources will also be shared.
Virtual private servers are also available. They are like virtual machines that come with an internet hosting service. In a virtual private server, there is an allocated amount of CPU and RAM for every site. It could cost 15 to 60 USD per month. The price is based on the speed of its CPU and the capacity of its RAM.
Another option is to take advantage of a dedicated server. Each site will be assigned to each server. and, the best thing about this is that the entire server will be yours so there’ll be no sharing of resources. This web hosting can cost between 100 and 500 USD each month.
Use Cyfe (that supports Pingdom) to archive my downtime reports and analyze them over time. Cyfe Pingdom widgets includes and archives the following metrics to measure your website performance:
- Status Overview
- Status Check
- Performance Overview
- Response Time
- Alert Log
- Outage Log
- Test Result Log
- + You can create multiple widgets for multiple domains to monitor the performance of multiple sites on one dashboard:
When you’re already confident with the web hosting provider you’ve chosen, choose a good WordPress theme for your site. It is best if you will refrain from using WordPress themes that are heavy on images as it can consume bandwidth and would take time to load.
Do not forget to test them for coding errors. Use the tools (Google PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom) check the load speed of the newly applied theme. The load speed should at least be 2 seconds and below. For Google PageSpeed Insights, make sure that the site, using the new theme, receives a score of 85 points or higher.
Page Speed tool will show you which elements of your page actually slow your site down.
3. Optimise your site’s images
Most of the time, high resolution images take time to load, affecting your page speed.
To optimise your site’s images, you can install the WP Smush plugin which works great in reducing image files to boost SEO which in return can significantly improve your site’s performance.
When uploading images, make sure that you choose the correct image file type. When the image is rich in colours and has no transparency, use JPEGs for it. GIFs fit images with flat colours. If you’ll add flat coloured images with transparency, save that as PNG8 files. When your image has transparency and is rich with colours, use PNG24 as its format.
Most of the time, site owners make use of JPEGs and PNGs as file types for their images. For images of people and things, save it as JPEGs. and, for images you prefer to be seen clearly like charts and screenshots, save these images as PNGs.
If you are going to add high resolution images to your site, you should be aware that it could consume bandwidth. By lazy loading such images, it will not just save bandwidth but will also make your site load faster. To do that, you can install the BJ Lazy Load plugin.
Aside than lazy loading your site’s images, you can also lessen the number of banner/slider images in your site. Besides, not all people will be able to see all the images in the slideshow. They will focus more on the products or services that you are offering. As you can see in the illustration below, the slider of the site has been reduced into 3 images only.
If you want to have quality images, you can look for large resolution images and reduce it into a smaller size, if possible. This will create a better quality for images rather than using a small resolution image and over-enlarging it. Doing that will just make the images appear pixelated and will not look good especially in the eyes of your site visitors.
To further reduce the file size of the images, you can take advantage of CSS image sprites. Image sprites are basically a collection of images that are combined into a single image. Usually, these are done for smaller images. In combining these images, it doesn’t mean that it will look like a single overlapping image, but rather will be aligned in a way that they won’t overlap.
Image sprites are helpful as your site doesn’t need to load multiple images in one time. With image sprites, you only have to load a single image for multiple parts of your site. and, with the use of CSS, you can specify which part of the image you want to show.
4. Minifying your site’s code files
In the example, its normal CSS file is 16KB in size; after it was minified, it has been reduced to 6.6 KB only and it functions the same as the previous CSS file. It’s like asking for fewer things and receiving more from what you’ve asked.
Take note: Before you decide to minify such files, make sure to check if it’s compatible. It’s important to make sure that it won’t ruin your codes and make your site malfunction. Other than that, be certain that you can still understand the workflow of your code in case you will be making changes to it in the future.
5. Leverage browser caching of your WordPress site
Browser caching means saving some of your site’s files into the site visitor’s browser. If they visit your site for the first time, it may take time to load but when they revisit the site, it will load faster.
When you leverage browser caching, the amount of files that the browser will be downloading becomes lesser so fewer requests will be made to the server. In return, this will increase page load speed. You can install the W3 Fastest Cache Plugin for this step.
6. Delete plugins and WP themes that are not used
Keeping unused plugins and WP themes will just take up too much space. It is best to deactivate and delete unused plugins that you’ve been keeping for a long time.
To check that, go to the admin dashboard of your site. Go to ‘Plugins’ and click on ‘Installed Plugins’. Check the plugins that you’ve installed on your WordPress site. If these plugins are of no use, deactivate and delete them.
If you’re going to install new plugins, make sure that you will be choosing those that are frequently updated and were given positive ratings and reviews. Check the ‘Last Updated’ section to see if the plugin has been updated recently.
If some plugins are slow, it is best to delete them and replace them with faster versions. To easily check your plugins’ performance, you can install the P3 Performance Profiler Plugin. The P3 Performance Profiler plugin can create a performance report of your site like a detailed graph and a chart on the plugin runtime.
With regards to the WP themes, if you are still keeping those that are not in use, it is best to delete them. In the admin dashboard of your WordPress site, go to ‘Appearance’ and click ‘Themes’. You may have a number of themes that are still installed. Check it and delete them to free up some space.
7. Use appropriate social media buttons
Placing your social media buttons in the right place makes it easier for users to share content from your site.
Social media has been very important when it comes to digital marketing. and, there’s no doubt that one of the best ways to have content shared in social media and other online platforms is by adding social buttons on your site.
8. Optimise your site’s database
Optimising your site’s database takes time as you still have to do queries in order to clean it up. If you want to do that easily, you can install the WP-Optimize plugin.
With the plugin, you can optimise the database without the need for manual queries. It will remove spam comments, post revisions, and other unimportant stuff that takes too much space in the database. You can also schedule it so it will automatically run, making it easier to optimise your database on a regular basis.
And, always bear in mind to back up your database before you start with the optimisation process. It’s best to keep a backup than regret it afterward by the time your database is already ruined.
9. Perform other necessary optimisations
You can check your server and remove any unnecessary files. You can go to the File Manager of your web host or to the FTP client and see if there are any unnecessary files that can be deleted.
If you checked your site and it still loads slow, maybe it’s because of the number of posts appearing in the home page. It is best to decrease the number of posts as loading all of that content can just consume bandwidth taking more time before all the content appears.
Updating your plugins and WordPress into the latest version will also be helpful. Updating it means you are applying the latest improvements to the site and plugins. There are some updates which will add more features on your site.
When you sign in to your WordPress admin dashboard, you can check the ‘Updates’ section so that you will know if you already have the updated version of WordPress for your site. For the plugins, go to the ‘Plugins’ section where you will see a list of plugins installed in your site. From there, you can check if there are some plugins that needs to be updated.
Once you’re done applying such changes, make sure to double check the entire website. Make sure that you will be checking all the pages and test its functionalities. If you have found errors, take note of it so that you won’t miss anything by the time you’ll be fixing it.
After the site has been optimised, you can check its performance using the tools.
For our sample, we will be checking the performance of Digital Search Group’s UK site after we’ve optimised it.
As you can see, with a page size of 1.3 MB, the load time of the site is now 1.43 seconds. This means that the changes implemented on the site have greatly contributed to improving its page load speed.
GOOGLE PAGESPEED INSIGHTS Results
As you can see, there isn’t much to be changed now compared to before. As you continues fixing these aspects, the site’s page load speed will also continue to improve.
The steps as discussed in the case study are the steps that you can do in order to optimise your site’s page load speed. Making sure that pages of your site will load faster will surely improve your site’s SEO performance.
A site that takes time to load will only give visitors a bad impression and lead them to visiting another site instead. A site that loads fast gives visitors a good experience leaving them feeling satisfied. And when you have satisfied visitors, there’s a high chance for them to convert into satisfied clients.
Keep your place on the first page of SERPs by optimising your site regularly and not only will you increase your brand’s awareness, you will also gain more profits for your company.
The world of SEO seems to be constantly in flux. With each Google algorithm change comes an existential crisis for the industry, although hopefully we are over the worst excess of that era and the present zeitgeist is one which is likely to be around for a while. Link building is the bread and butter of good SEO work, but is something that people often mess up. Below is a handy guide to how to make sure your link building is top quality.
Definition of link building
Building high-quality links is an arduous job that requires high quality content, website partners and well-optimized keywords. Hyperlinks direct traffic from other sites to your own and are used to navigate around the web. Google uses crawl data to assess which links register most for key terms and uses this to position its search result rankings. Therefore, good linksmanship is an essential part of the SEO trade.
The importance of link building
Search engines need links to determine rankings and to identify the new kids on the block that need to be ranked. Google published a short videowhich breaks things down pretty nicely. While search engines identify key terms on a site, they also look to external sites to see how many are linking back to the original site. Google provides weight to different sites and getting a link on a clean, well- respected site is going to do you a lot of good when it comes to ranking. That’s why time needs to be spent on ensuring that links are getting built in the right places.
When you link to relevant and high quality sites that has been crawled by spiders and has made a correlation to your website, there will be a great possibility that Google will consider your site a prime candidate to appear on Page 1 on Search Engine Ranking Pages (SERPs)
The anatomy of a hyperlink
A handy article I read recently provided a great breakdown of how the link building process works and how Google reads it in order to rank a site. This is basic stuff, but it’s good to know how the nuts and bolts of the process works.
- Anchor. This comes at the start of the hyperlink and lets Google know that link tag is about to follow that is going to need to be ranked.
- Link Referral location. This is the link address which you click on to take you to wherever you need to go on the information superhighway.
- Visible/anchor text of the link. This is the text that users see on a page that guides them to a link. Think the ‘contact us’ phraseology as an example of this.
- Link tag closing lets Google know that the anchor is at an end.
Weighting of thematic clusters of ranking factors in Google
A number of different factors affect Google rankings and there is a good breakdown of that here. The algorithms are ever more complex, but quality is the key to Google search success these days. What this means has been discussed in-depth elsewhere.
However, finding quality partners that fit with your brand and that Google considers as ‘clean’ certainly helps, as well as ensuring that what you produce is informative and can generate organic traffic that is linked to from a variety of places is certainly the main factor affecting rankings.
Benefits of link building to your business
To rank well, there is no substitute for high-quality links to high-quality content. However, there are more than just SEO benefits to consider when building links. There are a number of intangibles that can help any business. One of these is that of building up business contacts that can reciprocate. By borrowing, partnering and generally working together, there are benefits to both sides in the short and long term.
The key thing to remember though, as I have stated multiple times already, is quality. Once you find a potential partner they need to find what you do worthwhile in order to encourage their audience to give you a chance. Quality content is key to quality partnerships and the rankings follow.
Social Media is always there to help
While it is still debatable as to the true impact of social media with SEO rankings, there are still many who insists that Social Media does add to the organic success of a website even if it is not directly obvious.
But, it is widely accepted that there is a relationship between SEO and Social Media. Some experts think that by appearing and being mentioned on a post in a social media site like Facebook can be a ranking factor. Even without a hyperlink, just by having your brand appear in a site is a signal to Google. Here we see the effectiveness of Social Media in giving your product an increase in brand awareness and promote more social mentions and conversations about your brand. Think of it like a snowball effect as its signals grow.
Lastly, believe it or not, Social Media can increase your website’s traffic which is a big factor in rankings. The most popular items we see in Facebook are informative and interesting content, funny or tragic videos, intriguing blog posts and other compelling content. You could get higher rankings especially when users read your entire blog post or watch the whole video before moving on to another site. This is measured by search engines: bounce rate, new visits, return visits, pages per visit and time spent on a website. The more engaged a user is measured, the higher the ranking could be.
People listen to advice from people that they like and trust. In the digital age, often the people that are most trusted are those who we have never physically met. Think of your favourite tech or hotel review blog and how invaluable their advice is. I, for one, would not dare to buy a new device without first checking with tech radar to see how it measures up against the competition and if it is worth spending a premium to upgrade.
Bloggers blog about every topic under the sun and bring with them a cachet and built-in audience that, if handled correctly, can be tapped into by the use of content outreach. Content outreach is the process of finding a partner outside of your business through whom you can get your message out to the public. By choosing the correct outreach partners, you can increase your profile and credibility by borrowing theirs, but charm is key.
Many established and wanna-be established brands seek to identify marketing partners, but a major fault is finding a partner who is a less than ideal fit. For the big boys, money can sway opinion; but for those of us who are working with limited resources, research and finesse are required to build relevant, mutually-respectful and beneficial partnerships that can succeed. Below are some tips on identifying and partnering with content outreach partners.
Identify your brand
Know your company’s strengths and what your differentials are, or at least what you would like them to be. Think through who your target audience is. Are you marketing a mass market product that is going to be adored by all? Unless you are selling ice cream, the answer is probably no. What’s your niche market? Are there any obvious blogs that you know catering to that market? Are you confident in your product or service? If not, this is the stage to start becoming confident about it. If you do not believe in what you are offering, how are you going to be able to convince others of the value of your offering?
Get to searching
The first thing that you need to do is identify a blog that is likely to have an audience which is interested in your product. To give a ridiculous example, there’s no point hooking up with a vegetarian website to try to promote your new range of livestock burgers. The importance of research cannot be understated. Once you’ve identified what your brand means and who your likely audience are going to be, get to Twitter and Google and try and find out where they go and who they respect. Scribble down any names that seem relevant so that you can come back to them later. At this stage you are looking for breadth rather than depth in your searches. Brandi offers some tips here on what to look out for when thinking about which bloggers to reach out to.
Once you’ve identified the key mavens in your field, dig into their lives. Find out about the blogger, they are people just like you and usually with a great passion for the often thankless task of writing. If they’re hosting a blog then they probably have a public Facebook and/or Twitter page. Follow them and learn about what makes them tick, what are their interest, what piques their attention and what causes meltdowns. This information is going to be invaluable at the next stage.
Houston, We Have Contact
Once you know what colour socks your target wears each Wednesday, it is time to get in touch. This is where your personality needs to come into force. People do business with people they like and you are asking for a fairly big favour. You want this person to put their own credibility on the line to help you out. This stage is essentially a sales pitch, yet it is unlikely that money is going to change hands. Reciprocity and synergy are the key words here. How can the two individuals who are interacting benefit each other, where is there crossover and how does this person pointing people in your direction benefit him/her? These are things you need to have ready in advance, although you do not need to jump straight in with the pitch.
By all means take some time to engage in chit chat, build up a friendship and it doesn’t have to be a fake one. If your audience is the same then there is a good chance you have shared professional interests, if nothing else. Seek advice and consult over an issue which makes the other person feel like the voice of authority. Show them that you respect them and let things grow organically from there. It shouldn’t feel forced.
If you believe in your brand and know your audience then there is a logical symbiosis to the promotion of your product. Should you be a company that makes something, send it over and let the blogger try it out. They’ll appreciate the gift and if you believe in your product, then you are going to get a good review, too. For other services you can point to records of success, or even offer a free sample, perhaps some web development services if you are a web developer, for example.
Other means of contact
While emails, Twitter conversations and Facebook messages are the easiest way to get in touch, they may not be the most beneficial. There is very little that is better than a face-to-face meeting for building lasting relationships. Brian Zeng offers some useful tips here on alternative ways to make contact with the bloggers you have targeted and these are golden. Find out what functions they are attending, networking events, etc. I am not saying you should stalk them, but an accidental meet up and bonding over canapés is a great way to build a lasting relationship. Here’s a post about the relationship between Brand and Blog and how you can maximise this tie-up.
Some examples of successful outreach
Of course, paid content is guaranteed to get eyeballs, but they may be wasted. Sponsored Buzzfeed lists have drawn some attention recently, and this is definitely an example of one way to guarantee a big audience. However, a cost benefit analysis may well show that there are cheaper and more creative ways to reach your audience that focus on the human to human connection that is essential to content outreach.
A benefit of doing this outreach method is boosting your brand and services by being mentioned in your partners’ websites. One good example of outreach is to write about informative and creative ways to promote your niche and product. This should appear on your blog.
Char-Broil – The Outdoor Cook’s Favourite
One of the major outreach success stories is that of Char-Broil. They partnered with the best of the bunch when it comes to outdoor cooking bloggers and these partners get access to products to review, mention and even get to write blog posts on the Char-Broil site. The relationship is fully synergized as both sides get extra content and exposure. This is the very model of the reciprocal content outreach partnership. Char-Broil do pay some of these bloggers, but the process of identifying the best fit really is the key takeaway message from the Char-Broil example. Methodical and targeted, partnerships developed organically.
Going Further with Ford
Ford’s approach shows great confidence in their product and is the model for open engagement with the public. While a newspaper advert telling us about the latest Ford may capture some attention, it’s a passive experience and one in which suspicions may be running high due to the public’s increased advertising literacy and awareness of when they are clearly being sold to. The content outreach approach blends advertising with social media and Ford encourage their content outreach partners to be as critical as possible with full transparency.
The approach puts everything out in the open and comes across as a more sincere and authentic form of engaging with the public. Ford also gets to really see how people feel about its products and make changes to their approach moving forward. Again, finding key mavens is important and ensuring that your bloggers are professional and of sufficient quality is a must, but the Ford model shows the kind of transparency that is becoming more expected with consumers in the digital age.
Micro-Level Love for the Smaller brands
My wife loves shopping. I don’t. Online shopping then makes us both happy. She gets to experience the shopping and I don’t have to leave the house. Either way my pockets hurt anyway. I started to notice recently that my wife likes to buy from independent retailers who run their businesses through Facebook. I have no idea about their legal position on taxes, etc., but that’s not my concern here. It is clear that at this micro-level that there is a desire to get the name of the vendor out to the biggest possible audience, often by having somebody with some existing kudos showing them some love through a ‘like’. The best option would be to have a celebrity customer, but if not then a positive review from a well-respected blog would do the job just as well. As you have hopefully garnered by this point, relationships are key and partnering with those who have an interest in your product as well as a ready-made audience for you to tap into works, even if you are a tiny fish.
Getting up close and personal
Relationships are key to success in business. No man is an island, but that doesn’t mean that all archipelagos are even. There are no short cuts to success, but there is little substitute for methodical research. You must know your product and understand why others will be interested in consuming it.
Once this is done, think about your favourite blogs and what makes them successful. You may be lucky and find that the perfect partner is already somebody you subscribe to and have a relationship with. If not, get to finding out who fits best and target them. You don’t want to have too many partners, but a few well-positioned bloggers with decent readership and kudos are going to help you out an awful lot.
An example of how you could reach out by email is shown here. This email style has been successful in establishing a relationship with a blogger. It comes out natural but most importantly, it comes out as personally as it can get.
My name is Denise Connors and I am a big fan of your blog ukstylishblogs.com because I also love everything about fashion and trends. I follow you in Facebook, Twitter (@janestyles) and Google+.
I love reading your Facebook posts about the latest style trends and retweeting your Twitter posts. I just recently read your blog “How to be Stylish Without Really Trying” and it definitely made me a fan. I see a lot of similarities with our tastes in fashion and couture.
I’d like to know if you accept contributions from fans of your blog. I am willing to contribute wholesome and creative content relating to fashion trends.
At the contact stage you need to sell without selling. Partnering up should seem like the most natural thing in the world for your outreach partner to be doing, but you also will need to incentivise things somewhat, either with samples, reciprocal marketing or advice. Take your time considering your approach. There is no universal piece of advice on this, but being polite and charming never hurt in any walk of life. After that, hopefully you’re good to go and both parties can thrive.
Remember, there are thousands of other companies like yours, having the same ideas as yours, doing the exact same processes as yours. Make yourself stand out by focussing on the essential element – the personal element.