By Mike Quinn, president, Yellow Bridge Interactive (YBI).
Web pages and websites are getting bigger and becoming more complex every day. But when a website does not load quickly, it affects visitors’ behavior, which leads to decreases in sales conversions and revenue.
A website can slow down for a number of reasons, including low server memory, competing resources or data influx. If a web server is slow, it will hinder the website’s performance. Likewise, a site receiving a great deal of traffic can also slow down load times or disrupt a visitor’s experience entirely. Navigation, site design, images and apps can also affect how quickly and effectively a website is displayed.
Bottom line: Your website’s speed can be the difference between generating revenue and not generating revenue.
You should not stop monitoring a website’s performance. Monitoring your site should be part of your daily web design workflow. Check home page load time, checkout process load time, and conversion rates at regular intervals.
Web Performance Makes a Difference in Sales
Don’t think a couple of seconds can make a difference? Think again. According to Jupiter Research (which has since been acquired by Forrester), the average online shopper in 2006 expected a web page to load in four seconds. Today, those same shoppers expect web pages to load in two. Poor web performance is one of the biggest reasons people are dissatisfied when shopping online. People who experience performance issues will abandon a site or switch to a competitor. Because page load time is important to web browsers, even Google GOOG +0.1% has begun factoring site speed into their algorithm when ranking websites.
Responsive Web Design Also Affects Web Performance
Website visitors expect the same type of experience on their mobile device as they do on their computers.
So now, not only do you have to think about how a website performs in various computer web browsers, you also have to think about optimizing a website for the many types of mobile devices. This is where responsive web design comes into play. Responsive web design (RWD) involves creating a site that adjusts depending on what type of device is doing the viewing. The text can be scaled down, to offer only the main text and images.
It’s important to note, though, that just because a site has responsive web design and looks good on a certain device, it does not necessarily mean that it will load faster. And just because it loads faster on a mobile device, does not mean a visitor or customer will stay on it longer.
Three Ways to Optimize Your Website
- Get a dedicated server. One way to improve performance is to move to a faster server or get a dedicated server. Although it may cost more, being on a slow server can cost you even more in sales long term.
- Compress images and text. Another way to improve website performance and speed up page load times is to compress images and text. A server does not have to send out as much data this way. Some hosting providers automatically compress websites, and there are a number of tools you can use to test whether or not it is compressed. Most sites are image heavy, so if you want to optimize an image without losing visual quality, you can use a tool like Yahoo YHOO +0.17%’s Smush.it. For web graphics, use GIFs or PNGs rather than JPGs.
Just like a physical store needs organizing, websites need cleaning. When it comes to page-load optimization, every kilobyte counts. Web performance is a critical part of a customer’s experience. Don’t put optimizing a website’s loading time on the back burner, as it can be detrimental to loyal readers or repeat business.
For over a decade, Mike Quinn has been active in website design and development. After completing formal training in multimedia technologies in 2002, he became a founding member of a Pittsburgh based design company, Yellow Bridge Interactive (YBI). YBI’s focus is creating SEO-friendly websites that utilize the latest design and programming techniques.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
If you have a product you’re really proud of, it should speak for itself. But when it comes down to it, you still need to get customers on your website in the first place — especially if you’re running an e-commerce operation.
We asked a panel of 13 successful entrepreneurs to share their best advice for generating high-quality, organic search traffic to their business websites. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Focus on the Long Tail
If you are a new site, it can be difficult to go after popular keywords right away. I find it better to write many quality articles on very specific keywords than to go after the ones with more search traffic. A great benefit of staying focused with long-tail key terms is that they usually convert better, as well. To help with this, I recommend a tool called HitTail, which drives targeted search visitors to your website by focusing on the most promising organic keywords in your existing traffic.
2. Stick Around
The longer you are in business and producing quality online content, the more likely you are to pop up in search results for all related keywords. Starting a blog or churning out a bunch of articles is all fine and good, but keeping those activities going for years as opposed to months (or weeks) makes a huge difference.
3. Optimize Your Articles
There are three main ingredients to a successfully optimized web page or article: your meta title, description and keywords. This is such a simple thing to fill out when you’re publishing a piece of content on your site, so take the time to do it each time, and you’ll start to rank for your keywords much faster.
4. Don’t Forget About (Ethical) Link Building
Keyword-embedded links are the foundation of off-page search engine optimization. The best part is that links can be free. Just ask vendors, partners, press, clients, your alma mater and any other credible source that you interact with to embed hyperlinked keywords back to your site for the terms that you are targeting. If the referring source has a high page rank, you should see a pop in your rankings in less than two months of them being published.
5. Use Google’s Keyword Tool
Use Google’s Keyword Tool to find long-tail keywords that are not as competitive, then structure some content around those. If you are in a competitive niche, this is a way you can start building up some small recurring traffic and engage your users.
6. Provide Amazing Value to Your Readers
When it comes to increasing organic search, content marketing through blogging or guest posts is the fastest way to build great traffic. However, content marketing is a quality game and not a quantity game. If you have horrible content, people won’t bother reading it or sharing it, which is basically the entire point of building a company blog. Therefore, when I write content, I constantly ask myself if I would take ten minutes out of my day to read it and if I’d share it with others. If you wouldn’t do either of those things, then you really need to look at your content strategy again.
7. Don’t Try to Outsmart Google
Gaming Google’s system might work temporarily, but it is not a good strategy for the long haul. To increase organic search traffic, produce top-notch content that’s relevant to what your users might be searching. Check the Google Keyword Tool to make sure you’re using the correct terminology that the general public is using when they’re searching.
8. Think of SEO as an Opportunity to Create Value
SEO isn’t a game. At least it’s not a game that you’ll win in the long run if you think of it as a game. Create content that readers find valuable and Google will deem search-worthy. Visitors are more likely to share content that they enjoyed reading and will stay on your site longer, while bloggers and the media might use your site as a reference, which means more organic links.
9. Decrease Bounce Rate
If there is one thing search engines hate, it is a high bounce rate. Check your keywords for this, and optimize those pages to reduce your bounce rate. Search engines will love you for it.
10. Produce Quality Content
Search engines are rewarding people and companies who are getting high-quality, consistent content coming from them. Things such as author rank are going to have a big effect on organic search results. Put a plan in place to not only create content to publish online, but also to be able to maximize the value of the content so that it is properly distributed across social channels and has a chance to go viral.
11. Create a Company Blog to Increase SEO Traffic
SEO is king in organic search traffic. The more popular search terms within your niche that you include on your website, the more searches will organically lead to your site. But including too much text on the main pages of your site can do more harm than good, which makes it difficult for consumers to find the information they want. Instead of overwriting the copy on your homepage, about page and product pages, start a separate blog for additional SEO work. Use the blog to write about your niche, whether it’s construction, beauty or entertainment. Try to do keyword research to find out which phrases are trending in your industry and include them in the blog posts. As long as your blog has a highly visible link back to the main page of the website, the blog will increase your visibility.
12. Leverage Industry Experts
Everyone likes opining as an expert. You’ll be surprised how easily you can convince industry leaders to contribute guest posts to your own blog. They will likely have their own readerships, and those people will become familiar with your brand. The experts are also likely to produce great written content that will be of great interest to your existing users.
13. Create a Community
Increasing Google traffic is all about answering questions your community finds important. You need to become the authority in your niche. Have your community ask you questions, and you’ll be well on your way to providing high-quality, valuable and useful content. That’s what Google cares about. When you provide answers to your community’s questions, Google will rank your site well for many keyword terms you wouldn’t have been able to think of on your own. You create loyalty in your community and rank well in Google at the same time. That’s a win-win.
Image: Robert Scoble