How many times have you clicked on a link in a list of search results only to sit there and watch the little circle spin on your browser tab? Like everyone else, you probably hit the back button and proceed to click the next link in the long list of results. The speed of a website is a very important aspect of SEO that gets overlooked far too often. It is important that site owners start to make page load time a priority when optimizing their sites.
But why is site-speed such a big part of SEO, you ask? What if your site was the first link that was clicked in search results like the one mentioned above. But the page didn’t load fast enough and the visitor left your site to try another. You just lost a potential conversion.
Setting high usability standards is a big part of SEO and site speed is an integral part in building a user-friendly website. Unfortunately, users are not very patient and getting your visitors to your pages as quickly as possible is something you should always be working on. The average visitor expects a page to load in 4 seconds or less; if not, most are willing to leave your site for a competitors.
Although usability is the main reason why I try to keep a site fast, a slow website can also affect your rankings as well. Studies have shown that when slower sites rank in search results, people actually use Google less. Not to mention the negative effects a slow site and server can have on your crawl rate as well.
What Slows Down Your Site?
There can be many contributing factors to a slow, bogged-down website. Anything from the type of hosting service you choose to the amount of code in your sites files. Below is a list of the major reasons why your site may be bogged down:
Large Images – Images that are too large or take too long to download is probably one of the biggest problems with site speed. Before inserting images into a webpage, they must first be resized and compressed to ensure a faster download time.
Server/Hosting Issues – The type of hosting and server your site is on can cause many issues. Shared servers can be fast at times and really slow at other times and in some cases a hosting/server package may not be adequate enough to handle a specific CMS you may be using for your site.
Too Many Ads – Ads are a great way to earn some extra cash but is it worth losing visitors because you’re site isn’t loading fast enough? If you have several ads on your site, try removing a couple and you will probably see instant results.
Uncompressed Text Files – Compressing text files on your server reduces the amount of bytes sent over the network and can really save on bandwidth use.
How to Test the Speed of Your Site
There are many great and free tools available for anyone to use to get a good look how fast a site really is and what may be slowing it down as well. Below are a couple of my favorites. And because all of them give slightly different reports, it is a good idea to run your site on all of them to see what problems one picked up that the others may have missed.
Google PageSpeed Insights – This one is my personal favorite. To use this tool, all you have to do is enter your URL into the field and click Analyze and in a few seconds you have a list of items that are slowing down your site organized in High, Medium and Low priority. You can even go further by clicking each item to find out how to fix each issue.
YSlow – This is another great tool that can be used to analyze the speed of your site. This one works a lot like a browser extension or add-on. Once installed you can run an analysis on any site you are currently on. After a few seconds of analysis, you will receive a letter grade for all elements pertaining to site speed and suggestions on how to fix them as well. But one thing that YSlow offers that PageSpeed does not is the use of some tools such as Smushit to achieve your optimization tasks.
Last night, I started reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (and subsequently developed a strong feeling of jealousy that our Marketing Coordinator, Danelsy Medrano, saw her present at last month’s Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce event). I’m not sure what captivated me more: Sandberg’s journey to becoming COO of Facebook (a dream job, as far as I’m concerned), or the fact that I can relate to her experiences and dilemmas as a woman and a leader. Regardless, I couldn’t put my Kindle down and I’m paying for it today (sorry, SMO team, for the yawning).
Her memoir/manifesto/however-you-want-to-categorize-it (or not categorize it) helps give women the tools they need to succeed in the workplace by encouraging them to “sit at the table,” raise their hands, and let their voices be loud enough to achieve their goals – to lean in, rather than lean back. Naturally, as I read, I found myself applying the lessons from the book to my own career goals. Then I realized Sandberg’s advice can be applied to the social media marketing campaigns that we manage every day.
Here are three ways business owners can stop missing opportunities by leaning in when it comes to social media marketing efforts.
Do Not Sit on the Side!
Social media networks and strategies are constantly evolving. In fact, simply keeping up with the latest marketing tactics in an ever-changing industry can seem like a challenge itself. Sitting on the side and missing opportunities to build a community around your brand and ultimately convert fans into customers based on the fact that it’s too challenging is not an option.
Sandberg would recommend pursuing a social media marketing plan because it’s a challenge (and not just because she’s Facebook’s COO). Whether you decide to do your own in-house social media marketing, or you hire an agency, just make sure you “sit at the table” rather than on the side.
As WebiMax’s Director of Social Media, I’ve noticed that there’s one thing that all of our most successful social media campaigns have in common: the client’s willingness to take risks. A “one size fits all” social media strategy doesn’t exist, so I’ve found that coming up with customized solutions based on each client’s unique marketing needs is the most effective way to increase their online visibility. If you want to maximize the ROI of your social media marketing efforts, you must be willing to take risks that, at times, push you outside of your comfort level.
“Pursue Goals with Gusto”
The first step in creating a successful social media campaign is to clearly define the objectives you want to achieve. But, Sandberg would say, it’s not enough to define these goals then quietly “lean back” and hope for the best. Instead, business owners need to take on more leadership. Pursuing business goals with gusto by becoming thought leaders not just Following them, starting relevant and engaging conversations not just participating in them, and generating the content that your audience craves are ways you can lean in to your social media campaign.
If you hire an agency to help you achieve your goals, it’s important to bring as much enthusiasm to the campaign as if you were performing it yourself. The more passionate you are about the products/services/information that you have to offer, the more successful your social media efforts will be.
Are you seeking challenges when it comes to your marketing efforts? Are you taking risks and pursuing your goals with gusto? Don’t let opportunity pass you by; lean in to online marketing to make your business dreams a reality.
It is essential for every business owner, no matter the size of your enterprise, to have some sort of web presence. While some small businesses just have a Facebook page, it’s more beneficial to actually have a new and dedicated site built to serve as your business’ home base. A .com registered in your name is ultimately more reliable than a single page owned by a social network.
Now that you’ve decided that what you need is a professional-grade website, it’s time to sit down and come up with some concepts. How do you want the site to look? What would you consider a conversion (do you sell things directly on the site or do you want people to fill out a contact form)? What do you want the site to do? As you brainstorm and look at other sites for ideas, it’s important to point out that when it comes to web design, there is often a gap between what you want and what you need.
For the purpose of SEO, you may need to cut back on some of the frills that you think look awesome on other sites but are actually doing a bit of harm with regard to search engine visibility. Here’s a good example of something you may be tempted to have but should avoid: the splash page.
A splash page is that first “welcome page” that many sites have for whatever reason. All that’s on there is a big image and a “click to enter” button. Often this page is made in Flash. If all you care about is aesthetic appeal, then okay, that’s fair. But since you’re running a business, you want the search engines to actually see your site.
Your homepage is your most crucial piece of real estate. It’s most likely the page that is going to rank highest in the search results. It is also the gateway by which both visitors and search engines will follow links to view what else your site has to offer. If your homepage URL is the splash page, you’re forfeiting the opportunity to rank for keywords and establish a solid link structure. Your homepage should have quality content and clean navigation.
These are just a few of the points you need to consider when designing a new site for your business. While launching a new site is exciting and can open up many new opportunities, it’s essential that you do things the right way to maximize the benefits.
Managing your brand on the Web is critical and even the strategies you employ to market your organization can influence your consumers. The evolution of SEO has made quality a priority and has also greatly reduced the success rate of “black hat” search engine optimization campaigns.
Why has Google cracked down on unethical tactics? While there are several definitive (and largely correct) answers to this question, the primary reason is often cited to be disruption of the user experience. Often times, strategies such as keyword stuffing or spun articles are an eyesore to users (and potential consumers) that may be looking for relevant and useful information.
Today, these not only impact rankings, but they can also lead to negative reviews and complaints from disappointed readers.
Online marketing firms such as WebiMax have weathered the Panda and Penguin updates and emphasize quality and originality when developing content. By applying our knowledge and philosophies to our client’s campaigns, we have avoided complaints related to low-quality content or other black hat tactics.
It is essential for every business to understand the importance of quality within digital marketing and that “cutting corners” can lead to serious reputation concerns. Designing an SEO campaign with a strong focus on proven “best practices” will help to protect your brand from damaging user-generated content and diminished revenue.
What are your thoughts on White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO? Give us your feedback in the comments below or send your Tweets to @WebiMax!
Let me ask you a question: How long would you read this blog post if it was written in one sentence – just a sprawling maze of stream of consciousness, statistics, industry jargon and analysis that led nowhere and had no real clear message or idea of whom the author was writing for? And even worse, there were no pictures!
I’m assuming not very far, so don’t worry, I’m not going to do that to you. However, in relation to that question, I will discuss one of the biggest issues I find when reviewing sites, both professionally and on my free time: disastrous web copy. Web copy can quickly welcome or deter potential customers, so it’s important to take your content seriously and invest your time and money in producing the best content available.
You might already be asking, what does good content even mean? To examine this question, it’s often advantageous to look to the past experts – for the purposes of this blog, I’ll use George Orwell. Although George Orwell never saw a computer or surfed the web, he knew how to effectively convey his message and deliver a good story to the reader. Besides his numerous novels and news features, Orwell’s greatest contribution to writing might be his essay for writers, “Politics and the English Language.”
In this, Orwell offers five rules that can certainly can and should apply to your own web writing. Let’s take a look at the original rules and then modernize them to make them relevant to your business or organization’s content.
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print: When Orwell wrote this, he was referring to dead metaphors, metaphors with meanings that differ from original intent. Writing with dead metaphors could confuse the reader who doesn’t have knowledge of the intended meaning of the metaphor. In regard to web copy, make sure to use examples and allusions that are universally known, so the correct message is conveyed to the reader.
- Never use a long word when a short one will do: Knowing seven syllable words is great for the SATs and dinner parties, but it will do you little good in regard to web copy. The general rule of thumb is to write web copy at an eighth grade level. While the actual sophistication of the diction used will depend on the target audience and industry served, you should try and make your copy understandable to the general public.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, cut it out: A long piece of copy can be intimidating to a visitor of your page. Remember your consternation when I posed that question about writing this entire blog post in one sentence? While you do want enough content on the page for search engines to crawl your site, you don’t want to overwhelm the reader with content, so they’re exhausted. Format matters here too. Using shorter sentences, lists instead of paragraphs and playing around with bolding and fonts can make your content more approachable.
- Never use the passive when you can use the active: Passive voice often sounds awkward to the reader. When describing your products, philosophy and anything else related to your business or organization, try to structure it in a way that sounds sensible and correct to the reader. Not sure how to do this yourself? Read it out loud. If you’re reading your own writing or copy that you commissioned from a professional SEO and you’re stumbling a lot or need to backtrack, something is wrong.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent: This fits in line with the second rule. For example, let’s say you have a home improvement e-commerce website. If your copy is inundated with technical terms and construction industry jargon, you might confuse or intimidate some visitors who are unfamiliar with the terms. While not always possible, if you can simplify your web copy, do so to attract a larger audience.
Of course, George Orwell follows this up with a sixth rule that says these rules can be broken to avoid bad writing, but these rules go to show that good writing is good writing at any age. Use Orwell’s rules in your own web copy or hire those who know how to get the correct message and branding you want for your business or organization.
I hope you brought a few extra cookies to the lunch table, because with the way SEO is evolving, you’re going to need to make some new friends – and those friends are Twitter and Pinterest.
I’ve been SEO writing for several years, and the increasing overlap of the two circles in the Venn diagram of “content” and “social media” is the biggest change to which I’ve had to adapt. Now, there’s scarcely a time when I’m in the process of writing or posting a blog post, article, infographic, or what-have-you and I don’t visit one of these social media platforms. This is not to say that there isn’t a place in the SEO world for Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Yelp!, and the rest of the gang, because those provide a whole new slew of optimization opportunities. I’ve simply found that these two are a) largely accessible to content writers of any level of experience and/or expertise, and b) the ones that make it super easy to pigeonhole your audience.
Let’s delve further into how the writing and social media departments of SEO overlap, shall we?
When deciding on a blog topic, we know how important it is to choose a title that’s attention-grabbing. One way to go about that is to make sure it’s current and relevant. We’re a culture of short attention spans – we’re so connected that there are constantly a million different things competing for readers’ attention, and that’s why you need to be strategic if you’re one of those competitors. For this reason, you want to make friends with Twitter and, more importantly, its ‘Trending’ and ‘Discover’ tabs. Twitter is your inside source, letting you know what people are talking about right now – it lets you know what already has people’s attention, so all you have to do is stay on-topic so social media users can’t resist a click.
Keep in mind that hashtags are the best thing to happen to social sharing since sliced bread. Once you’ve posted your blog post or infographic, tweet it and slap one of those trending hashtags on it. Just like that, you’re automatically visible to the millions of people browsing that hashtag.
People go to Pinterest for ideas. You’ve got ideas, don’t you? Otherwise, you wouldn’t be writing that article or blog post. The best way to make use of Pinterest is to be creative: write a lively how-to blog post, or create an infographic with wild and interesting facts. (Another helpful tip from me to you: try not to get sucked in in the process.)
Once you create a pin of your post and post it to the relevant category, the nature of Pinterest does the rest of the work for you. You never know when something might go viral – I once pinned a blog post on bridal showers, and it got over 800 re-pins.
On the flip-side, if you don’t have ideas, you can be one of those people who uses Pinterest for just that reason. Go to the relevant category and see what’s getting the most pins – what are people interested in right now? On my feed right now, I can tell you that an article on how to make an all-natural slug repellent (yum) has tons of re-pins. It makes sense, it’s springtime and this is a current issue. Play off the seasonal idea since that seems to be working.
As I said before, one could easily make the argument for other social platforms and their usefulness, but based on my experience, these have the fewest limitations for both resources and sharing. They require the lowest level of craftiness (and don’t ask for any money, which is always a plus) for making what you share visible to a large audience, and it’s easiest to search for what’s popular on any given topic.
How does your content socialize? Comment and let me know, or drop me a line at email@example.com.