While you’re working hard to attract more website visitors through content marketing, linkbuilding, organic SEO or Adwords, it could be that your website is undermining your potential successes.
We see this often as web developers. Beautiful websites with a good user experience, but with various imperfections that prevent you from reaching your goal in gaining more visitors.
These are 10 of the errors with technical performance and technical SEO we generally encounter during our projects when optimizing company websites - make sure you check off these points with your web developer:
Make sure your website is truly mobile friendly
The easiest way to do so is to have a website with a responsive design. A responsive website adapts to the device screen size of the visitor, whether it’s a desktop or smartphone, without making separate versions of the website (a desktop version and mobile website).
To ensure the fastest loading time for your mobile visitors, you don’t want them to load the high-resolution images for your desktop visitors. For web developers it’s possible to push smaller images to your mobile visitors without scripts or other code. By using the image element called SRCSET, your website can display different images based on a device’s screen size. Smaller images means faster loading time, faster loading time means higher rankings.
This same principle can also be implemented on the stylesheets and assets for your website. There is no need to load the styles and assets that aren’t needed for mobile visitors due to a smaller screen size and lesser bandwidth for downloading. Make sure that your web developer separates the stylesheets and assets based on the device’s screen size.
Search engines reward websites with a mobile-friendly experience above the ones who haven’t optimised it for mobile. Google even started experimenting with labelling websites with mobile friendly pages in the mobile search results. This is another way to stand out from your competitor’s websites in the search results.
Another latest development in mobile friendly websites is the increased use of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). AMP is an open-source format to load pages almost instantly. What AMP does is that it basically strips down your website to the essential elements for a quick loading time. Before using AMP, make sure to check it with your web developers, because it has some downsides you should consider. But the trend is very clear; mobile devices will become the dominant browsing device.
Load scripts from footer
Most scripts are quite extensive, so it takes a relatively long time to load - which you of course don’t want, because speed is everything.
Web browsers load your website from the ‘top to bottom’. Whenever the browser encounters a script, it will pause loading the rest of the webpage.
So make sure these scripts are moved to the bottom of your page source code, below the body content (the page you see as a visitor), so it will not pause the loading and rendering of your page.
Make sure your server has a quick response time
Every action your visitor performs, like clicking on a link and loading a new page, will generate requests.
These requests will be sent to your server and will basically join the queue. The server will go through the queue and handle your request. Of course this process takes time. You want this time to be as short as possible. Google wants your response time to be less than 200 milliseconds.
Now, the easiest way to make sure your website has a quick response time is to ensure you have good, quality hosting services for your website. Good hosting can improve your server response time and maximise the amount of requests it can handle at one time. So it’s wise to research if your hosting and web server are a match with your strategy and use of your website.
It’s also important to align your hosting with the amount of traffic and resources you have on your website. For example (and this is oversimplified): if a web server can take up to 50 requests per second, it can handle 5 visitors a page with 10 resources or 25 visitors a page with 2 resources. So be critical as possible with your web developer about how you use your resources. More traffic, more elements, means more requests.
In future updates, we will elaborate about this topic with information about caching, script optimization, gzip compression and script minifying. No worries, we’ll make sure it will be written in plain language.
Optimize loading time of images on your website
Quite often the images on your website are among the largest files your visitor needs to download before viewing your website. So the quicker your website delivers images, the better the visitor experience will be. It may sound odd, but distance is a factor on the internet. The internet still is a physical network with cables and datahouses. (Do you know sharks really like the taste of the internet?!)
The closer your files are to your visitor, the quicker they will receive it. A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a network of servers around the world. Hosting your media files on CDN will mean that the visitor will download your files from the nearest server. So serving your images from a CDN will speed up the loading time of images significantly.
In future updates we will sharemore about this subject, like lazy loading of images and using svg-files for your visual elements.
Secure your website through https
When surfing on the internet, you’re transmitting and receiving information between your computer and a website. HyperText Transfer Protocol, commonly know as the famous http, is the system that takes care of this. It’s only concern is to get the information from point A to point B, that’s it.
This is where HTTPS comes into play, with the ‘S’ standing for Secure. HTTPS makes use of SSL/TLS to encrypt the data being sent over the network, whereas conventional HTTP sends the data as-is. Meaning; it’s relatively easy, especially on public networks, to eavesdrop on you while you’re browsing, or even worse, when you are sending or viewing personal data.
SSL connections make use of so-called end-to-end encryption. The data you send and receive is encrypted during the whole transfer, which means that even if someone watches along with what you’re doing, he wouldn’t understand a bit due to proper encryption.
All secured URLs begin with https://. Modern browsers like Chrome en Firefox can actually give you this security; they will place a green lock in the address bar when all is well, and even put your company name in the address bar to let users know they’re communicating with you, and not someone else. Giving your users the trust that they’re communicating with the intended website might be the most important benefit of all. Trust in your brand or company with having a secured website translates into other business benefits.
Since Google started their HTTPS Everywhere campaign back in 2014 it started to become a bigger factor. Nowadays having your website on HTTPS can potentially improve your rankings in Google search results. The natural expectation is that non-secured websites will not be acceptable anymore. Already some web browsers are noticing their users are connecting via an insecure website when going to a HTTP website.
Still, only 0.1% of all the websites use SSL. So get ahead of the pack….!
Tell search engines not to index the same website separately
Both the websites on the http:// and https:// are considered as separate websites. Search engines will crawl and index the websites as separate websites.
Your web developer can easily take care of this with 301- redirects. A 301-redirect is a way to tell a search engine or web browser that the requested url isn’t there and that it can find the webpage on the given url, permanently. In particular, search engines will update their index memory and will only show the given preferred domain. Use 302-redirects when the moving of url is temporarily.
To make it more clear for the search engines, it’s wise to also set these preferred domains in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
Make use of the canonical url
The canonical url (rel=”canonical”) helps search engines define which webpage is the source when there are multiple pages with (almost) the same content.
Sometimes you have information available under multiple URLs. For example, the product information about your newest service can be accessible via it’s own page (example.com/new-service) and through an overview page (example.com/services/new- service).
In earlier times, it was possible to get penalties - such as, your website dropping in the rankings - for duplicate content. This isn’t the case anymore. Nowadays it still is clever to use the canonical url, because you help the search engines identify which page to index for their search results.
With the canonical url you make sure that your link equity is given to this one page (which means higher rankings), instead of the same link equity being spread across different versions of the same webpage (which means lower rankings).
Add structured data to your webpages
Search engines are robots. Robots like to know things are certain. So therefore it’s good to talk the same language with these robots.
This is where structured data comes into play. Structured Data gives you the possibility to provide additional information within your website to help search engines better understand your webpages. It basically tells the search engines what the content on the page means.
The way to do this is by adding Schema Markup to the source code of your webpages. Schema Markup is a data vocabulary that allows you to define all sorts of information like your company’s address, telephone number, official logo, social media accounts and preferred company description.
Search engines also use this structured data (markup) to create rich snippets in the search results. You know rich snippets as the search results which stand out by showing more than only a pagetitle, url and description. A rich snippet - an enhanced search result - can feature things like a small list of URLs, an image or reviews.
Avoid (unnecessary) redirect chains
A redirect chain sends a visitor from an url to another url, mostly through a 301-redirect, which points to another url and so on. It forces both the user and search engines to go through every redirect for getting to the end-point. Redirect chains are often collected over the years that a website is live, because of deleted webpages or altered URLs of webpages. As you can imagine this isn’t doing the page load time any good. Also the user experience isn’t great either.
Make sure you don’t have non- existing pages (404) on your website
Keep your website nice and tight without broken links or non-existing pages. Everybody dislikes it when they expect to visit a certain webpage which isn’t there anymore. Search engines will rank your website lower when there are many broken links and non-existing pages on your website.
Still, errors can occur. So make sure you have a custom 404-page for whenever the user encounters an error on your website. While you’re at it, grab the opportunity to turn an annoying moment in a positive encounter between your website and the visitor by making them laugh, like these companies do with a funny 404 error page.
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