Back in the day, just having a website put you ahead of your competitors. Now, though, your website is a potential money pit. If it’s not converting, you have some work to do. Your first consideration should be traffic — and that inevitably involves Google.
Google’s ever-changing search algorithm is notoriously complex. (Moz, the industry authority on SEO, has outlined up to 150 ranking factors in its annual report.) Those who crack the code, though, are handsomely rewarded: Ranking first on Page 1 earns you an average click-thru rate of 30 percent, whereas position 10 receives a paltry 1 percent.1
SEO work for your website is never “done.” However, there are a number of steps you can take today to begin optimizing your website. Here’s where to start:
Test your website speed.
When it comes to page speed, each second counts. How slow is slow? Nearly half of web users expect a site to load in two seconds or less.2 One in four will abandon a website that takes longer than four seconds to load.3
Google offers two free tools for checking your website’s speed: PageSpeed Insights and Mobile-Friendly Test. These should be your first stop in your quest to optimize your website. They point out your website’s weak spots and offer instructions for fixing each issue. Visit them now and test your home page.
As you tackle these issues and increase speed, your conversion rate stands to skyrocket. Intuit saw the following results from their initial efforts to decrease page load time:4
- + 3 percent conversions for every second reduced from 15 seconds to 7 seconds
- + 2 percent conversions for every second reduced from seconds 7 to 5
- + 1 percent conversions for every second reduced from seconds 4 to 2
If you’ve addressed your page performance but still have a slow load time, it’s time to go server side. You’ll likely need to upgrade your hosting plan and/or switch providers.
Adopt a mobile-first attitude.
Late last fall, mobile internet usage surpassed that of desktop for the first time.5 Both Google and Facebook have warned website owners that they need to optimize for mobile … unless, of course, they’d like to see their traffic plummet.
Website speed is one of two major factors behind mobile performance, so refer to the previous section on how to assess it. Facebook’s definition of mobile optimization is primarily speed-based, so focus on those changes first.
The other is user experience, or UX. Yes, aesthetics matter — but it’s about so much more than pretty pictures and a pleasing color palette. You need your website to be easy to navigate, operate and understand using a mobile device, specifically. The industry term for this is being “mobile-responsive,” but there’s a slew of components under the mobile UX umbrella.
Ask your website developer to audit your mobile site. If he or she stares at you blankly, start by evaluating these aspects: fluid grids, flexible images and media queries. Also, beware of features that work well on desktop but hinder mobile viewing (e.g., too many annoying pop-up forms).
Follow SEO best practices to guide Google.
Along with the technical aspects discussed above, there are some important on-page SEO factors to consider. These include the title tag, URL and image alt text, for starters, all of which should clearly communicate the purpose of the given web page. What does this look like? They should be hyper-relevant, provide unique content and use the same language your audience does. This makes it easier for Google to crawl your website and assess what you have to offer accurately. Also be sure you’ve submitted your sitemap.
Your link structure is another factor, and backlinks, external links and internal links all need to be incorporated into your strategy. If you’re building links unnaturally, Google will dock you, so a diverse link profile is more critical than ever. As for external links, link out to authoritative websites in your industry. They likely have a high domain authority, which will signal to Google that you aim to share valuable, informative content with your audience.
Finally, that leaves internal links. These provide Google with context and demonstrate your depth of knowledge about a topic. Request that your website admin complete a scan for broken links as part of your maintenance program to ensure you aren’t sending your audience (and Google) to the dreaded 404 page.
Prioritize website content to earn trust.
If your content offers little value, your audience’s behavior will reflect it. They’ll spend just a few seconds on a page and click off, leaving you with a high bounce rate and a low average session duration and pages per session. This tells Google you haven’t answered the reader’s question; since Google’s aim is to find each searcher’s desired information, you’re toast.
Avoid non-original content, keyword stuffing and generic keywords. Those tactics may have worked 10 years ago. No more. There’s no skirting around the fact that content — creating it, delivering it and updating it — is the main challenge of any SEO program today. (Yes, the gnawing cliché that content is king still holds true.)
You can’t overhaul your website’s content in one day. A content marketing initiative will take six months to a year before gaining traction. But … you certainly can revamp your strategy right now. That can take many forms, but deciding to rewrite the copy of your service pages and adding a regularly updated blog would be an excellent start.
Chaffey, Dave. “Comparison of Google clickthrough rates by position.” Smart Insights. 29 Sept. 2016. http://bit.ly/2fr7gmK.↩
Work, Sean. “How Loading Time Affects Your Bottom Line.” Kissmetrics. http://bit.ly/2fs0xsQ.↩
Price, Arwen. “Web Performance Impacts Conversion Rates.” LoadStorm. 9 April 2014. http://bit.ly/2fsd3sg.↩
Hoffman, Billy. “How to Improve Your Conversion Rates with a Faster Website.” Moz. 21 Nov. 2013. http://bit.ly/2fqGsCY.↩
Heisler, Yoni. “Mobile internet usage surpasses desktop usage for the first time in history.” BGR. 2 Nov. 2016. http://bit.ly/2fqhN1A.↩