Industry Insights

Optimization Prime — Website Edition: Part 2 of 7

“Are you going to let it all happen again for something as useless as revenge?!” — Optimus Prime

Are you going to continue not converting for something as simple as neglecting to test?

The second of our seven-part optimization series—websites.

If you are an entrepreneur, web manager, marketer, or just generally involved in digital, then you know just how vital an optimized website is to attract traffic and convert your target audience. A properly optimized site will have several impacts, but one decisive result is appearing higher in search engine results pages (SERPS), which—as we all know—can be difficult to achieve depending on which ranking-factor is the flavor of the day.

Just over ten years ago, Google supposedly used around only 200 ranking factors to determine SERPs. Needless to say, a great deal has changed! Way back in its early years, Google typically rolled out and implemented a handful of updates to its algorithm. Fast forward to today, and we find that Google makes thousands of changes to its algorithm every year. Some modifications go unnoticed, but occasionally, Google implements major updates that significantly affect websites and SERPs. Some of the most impactful algorithm changes that Google has released include:

In spite of all of the reshaping and revisions, one thing has remained the same—you don’t need to worry about every ranking factor when it comes to website optimization.

What Is Website Optimization?
Website optimization is the process of using controlled experimentation to improve a website’s ability to drive business goals. The technique involves enhancing aspects of your site that contribute to traffic and conversions. Traffic can come from multiple sources such as SEO, paid search, paid social, organic social, and other sources. The conversions come from great marketing. Website optimization is based on a scientific method and follows the same principles used in conversion rate optimization—which we discuss in our third post next week!

Beyond this definition, it is hard to distinguish between all of the parts that make up website optimization because there are so many of them. This topic is so vast that it requires various skilled people in different roles to optimize a website effectively. Let’s look at the three core pillars:

Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a digital marketing practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results. It can also include sub-activities linked to the creation of website content based on keywords targeted in advance in the search engine of your choice. SEO has three foundational guiders that can help you boost your SERPs:

Website Content
The old cliché, “Content is King”, applies here since the content on your website is what drives your ranking. Ultimately, it is what Google ‘crawls’ and interprets in order to display your site in its results. More so than just quantity of content, creating quality content and resources allows you to engage your audience and sell your product, services, or both. Remember, the content of your site comes in many forms over blogs and content on your page is also visual (e.g., images, infographics, video) and must contain keywords. And do not forget to make it shareable! When your content is shared, Google interprets it as a positive sign. Along with your website’s design, content is the most crucial aspect of your site.

On-Page Optimization—The Basics:
  • Tags must be consistent and contain your targeted keywords.
  • The website must load quickly.
  • It must be responsive.
  • Must include HTTP Secure (HTTPS).
  • Well-organized site architecture that is consistent.
Links used to be the jet fuel for SEO; however, Google has slowly changed its algorithm. Yes, it is still a positive sign when several sites point to you, but it is more important to create shareable content that builds external links organically.

Technical Optimization
Slow sites equal no conversions. Your website’s technical performance is the driver and a crucial aspect of website optimization. Technical optimization has four foundational pillars that can help you boost your site:

Site Speed
Site speed is the most critical performance indicator of all. In fact, it is estimated that businesses risk losing traffic when a website takes over two-and-a-half to three seconds to load, and users will abandon a site after five seconds. By boosting your site’s speed, you reduce abandons and improve your SEO. Not sure what may cause your site to slow down? There are several great tools available that can audit your site quickly:

  Mobile and Tablets
About half of all global web traffic is mobile. It is imperative that your website is technically optimized and responsive to display on various mobile and tablet devices.

Page Errors
The 403 Forbidden error. The 404 Page Not Found error. Error pages. We all have encountered them. The issue is that when users come across them, they typically leave your website. Use a crawler to help you quickly and easily identify your website’s page errors and incorporate redirects. Some great tools (because we love our tools) include Screaming Frog or Botify.

Hosting Performance
Often there are times when you think your site might be causing the issues, so you search and search but find nothing. It’s likely your hosting provider. Check with your host and confirm your traffic isn’t exceeding your current hosting subscription or simply change your hosting provider for better performance.

Conversion and User Experience
A badly designed site is a poor performing site. User experience (UX) is a critical aspect of your website and is directly tied to your conversions. Businesses who improve the user experience naturally improve their conversion rate. Additionally, a good UX can increase customer loyalty. Using your analytics, gain crucial insights such as user-type (age, location, sex, etc.), bounce rate, conversion rate, and abandonment rate. Take it further by using tools and conduct:

  • User Session Recordings
  • Heatmaps
  • Surveys and user feedback
  • Visitor Segmentation
  • Advanced A/B testing
Website Optimization Process
As noted earlier, website optimization is a scientific method. Whether you are approaching a full website optimization or selecting one of the foundational pillars, follow these key steps:

Determine the Goal and Objective
Based on your business, you will want to optimize for different goals and objectives.

Determine the Under-Performing Points
Once you identify your goal, you need to determine the under-performing points that will help formulate a hypothesis for how these elements could be tested to improve conversion rates.

Create a List of Variables that Your Experiment Will Test
Implement your changes in variations and run as experiments as an A/B test.

Run the Experiment
Run the experiments using your variables and gather enough data to make your conclusions statistically significant.

Measure the Results, Draw the Conclusions, then Iterate
Based on the results, your experiment will confirm or deny whether or not the changes to the website element produced an improvement.

Ten Elements of Websites to Optimize
Not sure where to start with your website optimization? Here are ten elements you can optimize and test:

  • Your headline
  • Your key messages related to the company’s value proposition
  • Your visual media, like photography or a video
  • Your form length
  • Your display/location of case studies
  • Your placement of a call to action (CTA)
  • Your text styling text
  • Your website’s navigation
  • Your placement of social sharing
  • The mobile design

When seeking to optimize a site, people will often make the mistake of focusing on a single type of optimization. Look into the three pillars of website optimization, test, and experiment.
Join us for part three of our Optimization Prime series—Conversion Rates—next Tuesday, July 2, 2019.

Catch up with our Optimization Prime series:

Lynette Sawyer

Lynette Sawyer

Lynette Sawyer is a Web Project Manager for Falcon-Software, a digital web agency founded in 1994. For the last 13-years Lynette has been in various digital capacities and her expertise goes beyond Project Management. Lynette brings experience and knowledge in graphic design, marketing communications, project management, product management and engagement.

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