The beginning of the year is as good a time as ever to review the current status of your website. From security and performance to searchability and compliance, there are many ways to improve your website beyond its visual appeal.
The goal of these improvements is to protect your website from any security risks, all the while improving the likelihood of generating leads and conversions to meet your goals.
Some of the best ways you can improve the performance of your website are the following:
- Optimize page speeds
- Utilize internal and external links
- Manage 404 Errors
- Structure content
- Stay up to date
Whether you are a seasoned web expert or not, don’t worry – we’re going to provide you with the ‘what’ and ‘why’ behind these improvements. In the end, some will require more technical skills, but gaining an understanding is the first step towards making improvements.
Optimize Page Speeds.
Page speed, or load speed, is the time it takes to fully display the content on a specific webpage.
According to HubSpot, best-in-class webpages should be interactive in less than 5.3 seconds. Any longer than this, you can expect to see a high number of bounces.
Slow page speeds are a major deterrent to visitors to your website. According to Google, most people will bounce from a page after 3 seconds if it doesn’t load on their phone. Per a study conducted by Unbound, nearly 70% of consumers admit that page speed influences their likeliness to buy. In today’s fast paced market of Amazon and TikTok, people do not enjoy waiting longer than expected, especially on their phones.
If your site speed is not optimized, your bounce rates will surge. When optimized, you will not only see a decrease in bounces, but an increase in conversions is also more likely.
How to Improve Page Speeds.
- Use Google Fonts instead of custom fonts
- Use responsive sizes for your images*
- Reduce the file size of images with an image compressor (or use .webp instead of .png / .jpg)
- Compress the code of your webpage to remove duplicate strings**
- Minify your pages code to remove unnecessary characters and comments***
*Responsive images are images that are intentionally sized for the device they will be viewed on, such as a desktop device and a mobile device. Saving out individually sized images will improve loading speeds.
**Compressing code is the process of replacing repetitive sequences of code with a reference that attaches the original sequence, thus reducing the size of your file without losing any data.
***Minification is the process of removing unnecessary characters, such as spaces, line breaks and commas in order to reduce the overall file size of the code without disrupting the functionality.
Google’s Lighthouse (shown above) is a popular tool for testing page speed data on Chrome.
Compression and minification can get rather technical and working alongside a web expert is recommended to implement best practices.
Utilize Internal & External Links.
Offering a user-friendly way to navigate your website’s content is crucial in building customer trust, satisfaction and ultimately, conversion.
However, a main navigation and footer shouldn’t be the only place where links exist on your website. Utilizing hyperlinks, breadcrumbs, and pagination are additional ways to make the customer journey more seamless.
Furthermore, having a healthy number of links, both internally and externally, offers a large boost to your website’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Whether you are highlighting a business partner, location or source, including a link to the reference is mutually beneficial.
Internal links, not to be confused with inbound links, are links that direct users to other areas of your website – these can be in your navigation, buttons, hyperlinks, images, etc. Inbound links, or referrals, are links that point to your site from other areas of the internet. External links, or outbound links, are links within your website that point to other areas of the internet.
Linking is an effective strategy, however, it comes with great responsibility…
The HTTP 404 Not Found status code indicates that the server cannot find the requested resource.
Having a 404 on your website is not a good look and when you build up an effective link strategy throughout your website, it is important to regularly run tests to ensure that all links are directed to their desired location and do not come up broken.
According to Impact, nearly 46% of 404 errors are caused by typos, email and expired bookmarks while only 17.5% are due to actual broken links on your website.
Essentially, this tells us that at some point 404s are inevitable, however, being proactive against 404 errors is heavily encouraged. While a 404 may not always be your fault, it is to your detriment.
According to the same article from Impact, only 23% of visitors that encounter a 404 page make a second attempt to find the missing page. If this number holds true, a 404 can be costly to your overall number of conversions.
Site structure refers to how you organize and display the content of your website.
Implementing a cohesive and legible layout for the content of your website is beneficial for a variety of reasons:
- Helps visitors navigate your website and content effectively
- H1s, sub-headers and lists help visitors read your content
- Spacing and layout guides the user experience of your website
- Consistent layouts and location of elements allows for scalability
Google uses site structure when crawling for information, therefore the more organized your content is, the easier it is for Google to locate it, which leads to a higher search ranking in turn.
Beyond SEO, organized content is useful for visitors. If it is organized well, they begin to understand the layout of your site and the consistency helps them navigate, interact and convert.
How to Improve the Structure of Your Site.
- Remove outdated content, or deprioritize it by removing links
- Develop categories for your content, organize them consistently
- Create internal links directing to your best, most prominent content
- Utilize H1s, sub-headers and lists to organize content on each page
Stay Up to Date.
Your website likely uses a handful of plugins to run successfully. It may also be built on a certain platform, like WordPress and hosted on another, such as SiteGround.
Each of these softwares require updates from time to time, some are small and some are large. Some are so large that they have the potential to break elements of your site. And some go so long without being updated that when they finally are, issues may arise.
Outdated plug-ins also give way to security risks for your site. If they go unchecked, your site can become a hotbed for hack attempts, spam and malware. Additionally, outdated plug-ins can negatively affect your site’s load speed (see above).
While updating plug-ins or hosting software may appear to be as easy as clicking the big, red update now button, it can often come with some technical needs, therefore, we advise working with a web developer whenever possible, especially if it is a bigger update.
At VSG, our development team is equipped and experienced when it comes to the ins and outs of all the issues and recommended solutions mentioned above. Over the years, our expertise in technology has allowed us to develop a service aimed directly at backend website improvements that improve performance, security and engagement.
Our solution for those looking to improve the overall health, accessibility and security of their website is Web Monitoring.
Now offered in four tiers – Basic, Plus, Pro and a new option tailored for E-Commerce – Web Monitoring is a recurring service conducted by our team that is structured to keep your website in pristine performance. Check out the different tiers below.
Ensure your website is secure & healthy with this base plan that focuses on informing you of key optimization areas to focus on. The monthly activities include the following activities:
- 1 Monthly Site Audit
- Broken Link Check
- Summary Report
With our Plus Plan the focus is on both Optimization & Security. We will provide you advanced support to improve the performance, safety and security of your site. These monthly deliverables include the following activities to meet your needs:
- Comprehensive Monthly Audit & Report
- Web Developer Analysis & Recommendations
- Software & Plugin Updates
- Hack & Malware Removal
- SSL Certificate to Protect Visitor Info
- Speed & Performance Tests
- A Dedicated Account Manager
This comprehensive plan focuses on Optimization, Security & Engagement. We will provide you comprehensive strategy, security and support along with key searchability insights.
- All the Plus Plan Offerings, in addition to:
- 2 Monthly Site Audits
- 1 Monthly SEO Report
- Suggestions and next steps for SEO improvement
- Social Media Report (optional)
This plan is structured to help businesses with large E-Commerce stores integrated into their website.
In addition to the offerings listed in the Plus Plan, we will also tackle the following store related activities:
- Cart Abandonment Reports
- Bounce Rate Assessment
- Search Console Checkup (to ensure your product pages are being indexed by Google)
- Monthly Test of Checkout Process *only possible with certain store platforms
If you are looking to secure your website, optimize its performance, and identify ways to increase engagement in the new year, we would love to talk to you about our Web Monitoring packages in order to discover the plan that best fits your needs.