You may be building a brand new website, or trying to wring performance out of a site that isn't getting you the results that you'd like.
Either way -- optimizing your site for search engines and visitor experience is obviously something that you have discovered is necessary if you want to get results.
The challenge is figuring out why it's important and what kind of results you can expect to achieve. Let's dig in and I'll show you.
Website Optimization Definition
Website Optimization is the process of making adjustments to your website -- some small, and some big -- that will improve your online presence.
When you optimize your site, you are:
- Making it easier for search engines to understand your pages.
- Doing things that will improve the experience that people have on your site.
- Optimizing your site across a variety of devices.
Some of the changes that you make will be more complex and will require someone with technical knowledge to help you. Other changes are simple and can typically be done by yourself within just a few minutes.
Impact on Search Rank
If a site doesn't perform well -- it won't rank well in a search result. A search engine's entire job is to scour the internet and find answers that are not only the right answer, but also ones that are the best possible answer.
Of course they are looking at how closely the web page in question matches the question asked. But, it's more than that.
The search bots are also looking to present the most enjoyable and relevant search result. To do this, they look at some technical aspects of the page like meta information, load times, images, videos, and headings.
They also look at how other people have reacted to the page when they showed it to them. Search bots track how much time you spend on a page after clicking over to it in a search result. If you bounce back to the search results quickly, then the page you clicked didn't answer your question clearly. That's why user experience is a key component to improving website optimization as well.
Technical Website Optimization
Technical Optimization is all about fixing the things "under the hood" that impact your site's overall performance. These behind the scenes factors have a pretty big impact on both search performance and user experience, so it's important that you understand them.
Page Load Times
Your website's page load time is simply how long it takes the page to load up completely after you visit it. When we're talking about speed, shaving off even a few seconds can make a big impact.
Your website's speed matters for two main reasons.
Lower Conversion Rates
Slow Site = Less Customers
Users are more likely to leave if your website is slow to load, and that will decrease your conversion rate.
If visitors have to wait on your page to load, they will leave. Studies show over and over again that there is a direct link between your page load times and conversion rates.
You literally have a few seconds to grab someone's attention. If you waste those precious moments on loading your pages, then you've lost a potential customer.
“Desktop pages that loaded in 2.7 seconds experienced a peak conversion rate of 12.8%. Pages that loaded 100 milliseconds slower - in other words, in 2.8 seconds - experienced a 2.4% decrease in conversion rate.” - Akamai Retail Report
Lower Search Rank
Slow Site = Lower Search Rank
We know that a faster website can improve your search ranking - but it's not clear how much of an impact it is.
Google has a very clear goal - to give the right search result to someone as quickly as possible.
As a business owner or marketer, the challenge that we have is Google doesn't share their algorithm with us. We have to run tests on sites and look for common factors on the ones that are ranking highest. We also have to look for clues in the things that Google does tell us when they publish news articles and updates to their algorithm.
One thing that we do know for sure is that Google monitors how users behave when they click a search result and land on a website. If they stay for several minutes, then it can make the assumption that the search result was a good one.
On the flip side of that, if they only stay for a few seconds before heading back over to the search results to click on another page, then search bots can assume the user didn't enjoy that result.
If multiple visitors hit your site and hop back quickly, then Google will make the assumption that your site is a bad site and stop sending people to it. If people aren't finding what they want, they would stop using Google. So it makes sense for them to cull you from the herd of good results.
After all -- would you keep using a service if it kept giving you the wrong thing?
How big of an impact site speed has on search results is still a guessing game, but numerous sources have drawn a noticeable correlation between search rank and site speed. Sites that load faster simply rank higher.
When we're talking about on-page SEO, we're talking about the things that you do on each individual page that helps it perform better.
If you do things correctly, then your site will perform better overall as each page starts to improve and rank higher.
Meta = Understanding
The meta information that your page contains help Google to more clearly understand the important aspects of your page.
The primary focus on meta information is to provide the Title Tags and Meta Descriptions. The meta title is what shows up on the browser tab when you have a web page open. It's also the title that you see listed in a search result.
The meta description is the brief description that shows up below your title in a search result. It's limited to 150 words. Your meta description is your place to entice the reader to click on your listing in a search result. It's important to make it informative and convincing.
Page Headers and Structure
Structured Layout = Easy to Read
How you structure your page is important. You want to use heading tags to build a structured layout so Google and visitors both know what is important.
Google reads through your site and looks at all of the text on each page. It picks up the meta information, but it also looks at the header elements on the page too.
When you write an article or page your site, higher-level headings are typically more important. For example, the title of this article uses an H1 heading element.
There will only ever be one H1 tag used on the page, and it typically is used for the title since that's what the article is all about.
After that, you use H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6 tags in decreasing order of importance.
Google and your website visitors both understand this logic. They read the words and know the importance of them.
Create Internal Links
Links = Relevance
Internal links leads you visitors and search engines through your site by connecting related and relevant pages.
When you're creating content for your blog and website pages, it's important that you add links between content. This helps your visitors more easily navigate around the site.
Google also follows these links to discover more content that you've written related to this topic.
If you're writing blog articles actively, then you should consider implementing a pillar page strategy. They apply this methodology of linking related content in a way that helps build you up as an authority on that topic.