Page Speed and SEO

Page Speed and SEO

One aspect of Technical SEO to never overlook is page-loading speed. Many owners of growing websites struggle with page load times. As traffic increase they see website performance degrade. Keeping a website well optimised requires true knowledge and understanding of how the Internet works.

On the other side, your website performance affects not just the visibility of your business in the SERPS but also the user experience of your customers.

The average attention span online is getting shorter than ever. The simple truth is that if your website doesn’t load quickly, potential clients won’t hesitate to head to your competitors.

To help you start heading into direction ‘better website performance’ we asked three well experienced digital marketers to share their vision.

David Sayce Page Speed and SEO

David Sayce is a digital marketing consultant who helps businesses develop and implement effective marketing strategies that get real results.
Contact David to kick things off. This will be more fun than you think!


Q1. How do you describe your job in a few sentences for someone that knows nothing about SEO

I help businesses grow, using digital channels to increase sales and reach new customers. I help businesses to understand their (potential) customers and work out how best to be found by them within Google.

Q2. Why is website performance such a hot topic right now?

It’s a competitive market! While website performance has always been important it has sometimes been overlooked for a ‘flashy’ website with little thought on how SEO works. For a rather high percentage of my clients, it can be the competitive advantage, with a well-optimised site raising their visibility across organic search (and helping the performance of PPC). Of course, the best part is a well-performing site is a pleasure for the visitor! You often only get one chance to make a great impression, make it count!

Q3. What are some of your favourite (best-loved) tools for checking load times & locating problems in a website’s performance?

First I dive in there myself and get a feel for what is going on, how the site appears, ease of navigation, is it clear what I am supposed to be doing. My first point of call is often GTMetrix, quick and easy, I will often run a site through this a number of times during the initial stage of a project. Google Page Insights is also good to view, the simple scoring can be a useful guide for a client to better understand what is happening on the site. After that, I will normal dig into Google Analytics & Search Console to see what I can find out from there.

Q4. Give us some of your tips of how to decrease page load time.

Old School – Keep It Simple! for so many websites it is often about getting rid of bloat and optimising. One of my favourites is still the client who had uploaded all of their images straight from the photographer and resized in the CMS, the average image size was around 10mb, ouch! Check those page sizes! It is equally vital to get a good developer onboard and make sure the foundations of the website are running lean…. and then there is hosting if after all of that your hosting is unreliable or slow it is time to upgrade or more likely find a new host.

Q5. What are we going to see happen in the next few years in terms of web performance?

Ah, what does the future hold….? Well, I always like Darwin’s quote for this:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

SEO has evolved so much in the last 20 years (it was all so easy in the late 90’s). I think we are going to see smarter businesses become much more integrated, removing silos and dated ways of working. I think we are going to see Search Engines become much more relevant to personalised searches, perhaps to the point where they are guessing what we want next and offering suggestions. Perhaps the search engine of today will no longer exist and it will be more the omnipresent assistant (I like the idea of JARVIS from the Iron Man films).

Q6. Finally, is there something exciting that you or your company is working on in terms of web performance that you can tell us about?

Optimisation and integration are key to what I do, and that is what I continue to investigate, learn and test… no secret labs, or teams of MIT grads working on projects (unfortunately). Over the last 20 years, I have been trying to make the internet a little bit better and that is the plan for the next 20+. Always learning and passing on what I can.

 

Omi Sido Page Speed and SEO

My mission is to get your message out there to people and companies who need, want and are looking for what you have to offer. Massive fan of football and Chelsea FC.


Q1. How do you describe your job in a few sentences for someone that knows nothing about SEO

“Omi, so what exactly do you do?” This must be one of the most repeatedly asked questions I get. Very often I’d try and give a simple answer. Essentially find ways to increase your online presence on the web, help match your service/product to its correct market audience and be instrumental to improving lead volume or sales.
Sometimes people don’t get it so I would just say ‘ my job is to make your website more visible to search engines’.

Q2. Why is website performance such a hot topic right now?

Have you ever spent a long time waiting for a page to load? Websites that load slowly are a major annoyance for users. Many studies are showing that potential clients tend to leave a website if it loads slowly. This is not ideal especially if you are running an e-commerce website.

And then there is Google. Google is obsessed with page speed. In a bold move in 2010, the search giant announced that page speed may be included in their search ranking algorithm.

Many people have asked me the same question “ do page speed really matter to Google and why’. There is a very simple answer: Yes it does. It creates a better user experience.

It’s true that some aspects of page speed – such as a user’s locale and their internet connection speed – can’t be controlled, but the rest is all up to us. So there is no excuse of not optimising your website for speed. Something I have noticed over the years is that when optimising for speed I also tend to find issues not directly related to speed so optimising for speed is a great place to start in understanding your overall website performance.

Q3. What are some of your favourite (best-loved) tools for checking load times & locating problems in a website’s performance?

Tools I recommend: Checking your website’s page load speed is a simple task. There are hundreds of free online tools that can load your pages from different geographic locations and tell you exactly how long it took to download.

My starting point is always the PageSpeed Insights tool. From render-blocking JavaScript files to CSS in above-the-fold content, this tool will pinpoint most of the factors preventing your page from loading quickly.

My second stop is normally the Web Page Test tool. The cool thing about this tool is the option to select the location from which to run your test. This can be cleverly used to track how your speeds vary across the world. Another cool feature is the way the test is run. It’s divided into a first view and a repeat view. This helps to diagnose and understand what maybe be a 1st time DNS lookup delay. It is very important to understand when running tools like these that a first time DNS lookup will usually be slower. In case you are comparing total load times for your web pages it is sometimes better (and somehow logical) to run a test multiple times and in the end take an average of the results.

Q4. Give us some of your tips of how to decrease page load time.

I cannot really rank them as they are all important but I normally start with prioritising ‘visible content’ on the page.

First, let me answer the question what is visible content (often called ‘above the fold’). In simple words, this is the portion of your website that visitors see before they start scrolling.

Very often websites that look very fast to load are as large as slow websites. Very often those websites have made the effort to optimise the visible part of their website thus giving the impression that the site is loading instantaneously.

Some may call it cheating, but users love pages that load quickly and so does Google. In my experience, this is the quickest and the most effective task you can do to speed up your pages.

As recommended by Google there are two main strategies to “prioritise visible content”.

Structure your HTML in a way that loads the critical, above-the-fold content first.
Reduce the amount of data used by your resources.

I am going to translate those requirements into more understandable language.
To understand the first requirement we should start from ‘ground zero’ and look at how a browser loads a page.

  1. Browser finds your page and downloads the HTML.
  2. Browser looks (parses) through the HTML code.
  3. Browser runs into something it must load so browser stops parsing HTML
  4. Browser loads the external source.
  5. Browser goes back and continues parsing the HTML until it runs into another external source that needs loading.

The external source could be a Javascript file, an image or indeed a CSS file. It is quite obvious by now that for a page to load quickly all of those 3 elements should be modified. On the other side for the content above the fold to load quickly it should not rely on any external resources.

So for the three prime suspects my solution is:

  • HTML – make sure your content is loading before anything else even if you have to introduce separate divs just for the content ‘above the fold’.
  • CSS – either combine external CSS files or introduce an inline CSS block specific only to the loading page.
  • Javascript – postpone (defer) the loading of your Javascript files before the content is loaded. Note: This shouldn’t be done before some careful planning/thinking – as indeed the look of some elements on the page may depend on Javascript – but this is probably the best thing you can do to reduce your page load time.

Explaining the second requirement coming from Google is easy. To reduce the amount of data need to render your page you only have to minify your resources (HTML, Javascript, CSS). Minify is exactly what the name is suggesting – make your resources smaller. A tool I can recommend is the CSS Minifier.

The broader meaning of minifying your resources is deleting files that are not in use.

A good example would be a WordPress Theme. Normally they come in different colours. But just because you’ve chosen the red background it does not mean that the CSS file responsible for the green background is not loading. And what if the theme has a bigger background colour choice. I hope you get my point.

Q5. What are we going to see happen in the next few years in terms of web performance?

As we all know web browsing is shifting to mobile. More than ever people are looking for your products and services on their handheld devices. I can see a lot of companies still struggling with the idea of mobile-friendly web pages.

On the other side, many people say page speed has nothing to do with SEO. They are probably right as firstly the official position of Google about page speed and rankings are quite unclear and secondly, we can’t really measure the impact page speed has on the SERPs. I also see heavily bloated websites still ranking pretty well.

So if we are to combine the two statements above we may conclude that web performance is somehow not important.
Quite the opposite. Google started talking about mobile friendly pages being given a boost in the SERPs and if this was not enough they’ve also introduced the so-called AMP pages.

The AMP project is all about pages that load instantaneously. Although AMP is not yet a ranking factor I am expecting in the near future websites developed with AMP in mind to be given higher ranking than slower and unresponsive sites.
Therefore, the faster your page, the higher you rank and the more your content gets seen by your potential customers. It’s a win-win situation.

Q6. Finally, is there something exciting that you or your company is working on in terms of web performance that you can tell us about?

I am currently working for Daily Mail – the most visited news website in the world – so page speed for us is of a paramount importance. We have just introduced AMP for our most visited sections – news and showbiz – so I cannot wait to start analysing the results.
When it comes to news website Google is giving a special treatment to AMP pages by including them in the AMP news carousel on mobile. This is a massive change, as previously, all news stories were in a neat list. The images on these AMP headlines are more than four times larger than the other news article results. In short, the front page just got a lot tighter.

In my opinion if you care about mobile at all (and you should) it’s time to take the jump into AMP. There is a clear indication that Google is moving into direction faster web with AMP, so you need to get in now.

 

William Rock Page Speed and SEO

William Rock is a True Geek in every possible way. Having a vast skill set in digital marketing he is in the business of keeping companies SAFE ONLINE and helping them GROW their Internet Traffic into qualified leads.


Q1. How do you describe your job in a few sentences for someone that knows nothing about SEO

My Job Rocks, as I enjoy teaching those who wish to learn more about improving their business online and offline, and setup meetings every month to discuss the progress of the team as well improvements seen within analytics tools along with understanding the core of the company and helping to develop a voice for that business online … No Fluff Marketing 🙂

Q2. Why is website performance such a hot topic right now?

Website Performance has been a big deal ever since we learned how to build sites, however, it is getting a ton of attention these days. Especially since Google has developed free tools helping webmasters better understand load time of simple things such as Image Size, to evaluating your CSS and JS scripts. Keeping in mind that in the last few years we have seen more searchers using their smartphones we need to be concerned with user experience (UX) even more if we want them to engage with the company.

Q3. What are some of your favourite (best-loved) tools for checking load times & locating problems in a website’s performance?

I like to use a combo of different tools such as GTmetrix as well within Google Analytics you can get a ton of details at https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1205784?hl=en other tools I use would be SEMRush with a Site Audit looking to improve areas it also found to be problematic for user experience.

Q4. Give us some of your tips of how to decrease page load time.

Start with the basics first 🙂 Rome was not built in a day, so starting with the easy stuff first such as looking at your images and finding out the file size .. Many websites use tools to insert images into the web page however if you don’t start with a nice quality low file size you maybe increasing load time when not needed.

There are tools out there to help decrease the image size without losing too much quality and if you are going to use the image for a thumbnail resize it and save it as a thumbnail to upload vs. just uploading the larger image. Again this is just the basics, next run tools like GTmetrix and see what else you can improve 🙂

Q5. What are we going to see happen in the next few years in terms of web performance?

Technology is always improving, one thing will be more smartphones and depending on their data plans worldwide so if your website is full of large images and or takes to long to load, they may go repeat the query moving a possible interaction with them to a competitor. No one wants to eat up their data plan on your website 🙂 Make it fast, and optimise for performance.

Q6. Finally, is there something exciting that you or your company is working on in terms of web performance that you can tell us about?

We have always focused on improving as technology evolves, however, some clients don’t choose to always take the advice of us making those modifications since the tasks can involve a good amount of time and we have seen clients choose to do other improvements in content, video and or calls to action first then come back to the page speed topic again, all in all still getting the job done.

On-Page SEO Optimisation in the fashion industry

On-Page SEO Optimisation in the fashion industry

First, it is important to work closely with the development team. Fashion sites need a clear HTML structure and the right set of Meta tags. This point is crucial for the fashion brands online since most of their content is mainly graphics. Moreover, luxury brands try to stand out and use a lot of flash or animated content. Such websites, however, are destructive for Search Engine Optimisation. Every fashion SEO manager should have a look at their blank HTML code to identify if there is enough data to read for the web crawlers or spiders.

Since fashion brands use a lot of images a proper ‘image strategy’ has to be put in place.

Main points to consider when optimising your images for SEO.

Start by giving your images descriptives file names thus giving Google a good idea about what your images are about. To make it clear red-dress-spring-collection.jpg is a lot more informative than DC12944.jpg. Don’t forget that if Google cannot find relevant text on the page, they will use the image filename as a snippet in the search results.
Your second aim should be to ensure that everybody involved in the image upload understands the importance of good alt and title attributes for images.

<img title="image tooltip" src="image.jpg" alt="image description" />

<img title="Red Dress by Gucci Spring Collection 2016" src="gucci-red-dress.jpg" alt="Red" /> 

What are alt and title tags?

The alt text describes what’s on the image or in some cases the function of the image on a particular page. Each image on your pages should have an alt text. Google relies heavily on the alt text not just to determine what’s on the image but also to understand the topic of the surrounding text. But do not get carried away. You should not spam your keyword into every alt tag. You should have high quality and related images on your pages and it only makes sense to have the focus keywords in the alt text.

Tip: To make them easily found include both the full name and the product ID in the alt tag of your images.

You may ask: But what if an image does not have any purpose? Well, if you have images on your pages for purely design reasons they should be in your CSS and not in your HTML. If your development team can’t do anything about it give it an empty alt tag like this:

<img src="topbackground.png" alt="" />

Don’t know if you’ve noticed earlier but in the first example above I gave you the same alt and title tags so you can just hover to see them. You may think that the alt text is quite long but in fact, this is what your alt text should look like.

Last but not least make sure all your images have width and height. Web browsers can begin to render a page even before all the images are downloaded provided they know the dimensions of the non-replicable elements. This can greatly improve your page speed and your customer experience – two very important elements from an SEO point of view.

One element that not many people are talking about when it comes to e-commerce website is facet navigation for increased conversion and better rankings.

What is faceted (or filtered) navigation?

Faceted navigation is a design element that allows visitors to your website to select and search for attributes that are important to them, in other words, to filter a list of products down to the ones that match their needs.

For many e-commerce sites, facet navigation is vital. By helping your visitors to find what they are looking for the facet navigation helps greatly increase your conversion rate. On the other side, many SEO managers are blocking the filtered category pages (after called facets) thus not having the specific pages required to rank for many mid-tail terms (the keywords your consumer is typically searching for when in the consideration phase of his purchase journey).

In my experience, I see many small websites outranking industry giants only because they have better technical set up. Whether the blocking of the ‘facets’ solves the over-indexation issue I see many big websites ranking for ‘ red dress’ but not ‘evening red dress by Gucci’. Search engines are allowed to access the ‘red dress’ page, but not the ‘evening red dress by Gucci’ page or ‘red dress size 18’ page.

I am not going to go into details of how to your facet navigation should work but I will just mention the need of a proper keyword research. You should be able to identify all of the keyword phrases your customers may use and build crawlable category pages for those search terms.

Tip: Make sure the content on every filtered category page is changing in order to reflect the facets that are selected: as a bare minimum, this means the page title, meta description, and H1.

If your facet navigation is not set up properly you may run into some duplicate content issues (other factors like pagination can also increase the possibility of you having duplicate content present on your website).
Here are some best practices to fix them before they even happen.

Using Robots.txt to tackle duplicate content occurrences.

The robots.txt file gives you the power to control what pages search engine can access. Here is an example:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /*search

This wildcard will ask all search engines to ignore any URLs with the word ‘search’.

Tip: Look into your Google Analytics account to identify which version of the page receives the most traffic.

Parameter handling

Parameters are a very common cause of content duplication and they can be handed in the configuration section within Google Search Console. As parameters can get very complicated I would recommend consulting an expert before making any changes.

Canonical Tags.

The canonical tags are a line of code that tells search engines which page you would like to be indexed from a set of pages with identical content. They should be present on each version of the duplicated page and normally they look like:

Tip: To ensure there is no room for duplicate content on your website use a combination of the three methods mentioned above.

404 or 301 your old pages? Which is Best for SEO?

The question many website owners in the fashion industry ask me is ‘What to do when products run out of stock’.

For retailers in the fashion industry with constantly fluctuating inventory, it’s common to see tonnes of 404 euro pages for products or even product categories that are out of stock or no longer exist.
On closer inspection, 404 redirects can cause short-term and long-term damage to your SEO. Unlike 301 redirects, 404 utilise a new URL and will eventually register as a broken link which will affect how helpful (and functional) your website is to search engines. The more broken links your website has the less attractive it will be as a search result.

In my opinion, the best way to maintain SEO and keep the customer confusion to a minimum is to maintain the page but install a widget telling the visitors that the product is out of stock. Even better if you know when the product will be back in stock you can include a product restocking date (you can even prompt the user for an email address and provide an automatic alert when the product is restocked). Another good idea is to insert a widget showing similar products in order to keep the visitor on the website.

If the product in question is obsolete either 301 redirect to the newest model or if this is not an option redirect to the parent category displaying similar items.

Tip: Reuse URLs if you sell products where model number and specifications are not important.

The importance of keyword research.

When it comes to keywords start by analysing the keywords used by your competitors, to get inspiration for your own brand. Do not use keywords that are not related to fashion.
If you are in the fashion industry the most important thing to understand is that search engine’s most significant aspect is topical relevance.
To understand relevance please read Google Semantic Search by David Amerland or join the Google Semantic Search community where Teodora Petkova will bring you up to speed in no time.

Top 10 On-Site SEO optimization factors

Top 10 On-Site SEO optimization factors

To explain it in simple words on-page optimisation refers to the process of optimising one’s website for search engines as well as for the human visitors.

Why do I mention search engines?

Search engines assess web pages in a different way than human visitors. Naturally, search engines cannot see the design of a page or what you have to offer provides real value to your visitors. So a search engine can only judge a web page from a technical point of view.

With this mind here is my take on what are the most 10 top important on-site SEO factors.

In no particular order.

Keywords in the URLs, meta description, alt tags and header tags.

Let’s clarify straight away that I am not talking about keywords stuffing, but the process of building a solid content and website structure around given topic. Becoming an authority in a given (niche) topic is what every business should be aiming for in an overcrowded online world.

Short and keyword rich URLs.

Avoid what we call in the SEO world ‘ugly’ URLs like omisido.com/p=555 or very long URLs like omisido.com/oh-my-god-omi-is-such-a-nice-guy-and-i-like-hanging-with-him. There is this notion that keyword rich URLs are not as important anymore as they were once, but I can still see Google bolding keywords in , for now, or now stick to the system. Not to mention that remembering https://omisido.com/omisido/ is so much easier than https://omisido.com/?author=1.

Each page must have unique Page Title and Meta description.

Page Title (with h1) is probably one of the most important on-page elements.Your goal here should be to start each Page Title with your primary keyword. The closer the chosen keyword is to the beginning of the sentence the more weight it will have with search engines.

Keywords in the Page Title help your page rank better in the search engines.

SEO experts recommend that you should plan on 55 to 60 characters if you don’t want any words to be cut off. Bare in mind that the number of capital letters matters when it comes to characters count. Ok, sometimes you have to go beyond the 60 characters limit. Do you need a new a new SEO? Don’t overthink it. I can tell you from ranking experience that some words that get cut off still provide value for brands.

As I mention brands there is always this confusion whether to use the company name in page titles or not. If you ask me ‘Yes’ is my answer. Always. Using precious title character? Nah. This is a short term vision. Branding is my answer. And if you are too worried just stick your brand name in the end.

Outbound links analysis and creation

Probably one of the easiest SEO on – site tasks – outbound links. First, you help Google understand your page’s topic trough relevancy and second people may link back to you.

Optimised Header Tag for SEO

As I mentioned earlier h1 (usually called Header Tag) is one of the most important on – page SEO elements. I usually explain the importance of h1 to clients by comparing it to page titles of newspapers. When potential clients land on your web page the Header Tag is the first thing that gives them an idea of the content that is to follow. It is clear immediately that by optimising your Header Tags you are benefiting from search engines understanding your page better as well as visitors getting glued to your content.

Duplicate content removal

The words ‘duplicate content penalty’ strike fear in the heart of every marketer. Getting rid of duplicate content is a prime task of every on-page optimisation campaign. This task should include removing duplicate Title Tags and Meta Descriptions.

Boost your SEO by using Structured Markup

Nowadays no SEO on-site campaign can be completed without structured data markup. If you read my post “The Complete Guide to Rich Snippets and Structured Data for SEO” you will get a comprehensive understanding of the subject but in simple words if Google understands your website then you gonna rank better.

Analyse your backlink profile.

Monitoring your inbound links is a great way to understand who is taking an interest in your website and products you have to offer. While most SEO’s are focusing on great content links pointing at your website naturally are still the best way to increase your rankings. The better is your backlink profile, the better will be your domain authority. As we all know better domain authority always lead to better performance in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Sounds simple really, but it is not. Note: Check your inbound links regularly. If it looks like someone is trying to sabotage you, let Google know ASAP. And I mean As Soon As Possible.

Internal linking

Not everybody is talking about the importance of internal linking when it comes to SEO, but on the scale from one to ten your internal linking profile should probably get eight. The explanation is very simple: if your internal links are broken, if the bot crawling your website sees a lot of 404’s and 500 response codes it will not be able to index your pages. Your website should provide clear paths for spiders and for that matter human visitors to navigate your website and understand your content and website structure.

Proper internal linking is the only way to distribute page authority and ranking authority throughout your website. So do it wisely.

Let me give you some of the points I usually give to my clients:

  • First and most important – provide value for the visitor. Only use links that are natural to the reader.
  • Second use ‘follow’ links. I know some SEO’s recommend using ‘nofollow’ links in order to increase the link juice to a single page. This is a strategy of the past. In my opinion, when it comes to internal linking the link value should follow to and from internal pages and the idea of stopping it at one point is never good.
  • Last but not least try and find another relevant internal page rather than linking back to the Home page. Most home pages have lots of internal and external links pointing at them anyway so try and boost the PageRank of your internal pages.

Semantic search – the future of SEO

This article wouldn’t be written by me if I didn’t talk about Semantic search. The point I am making here is probably new to most of you, but including semantically related keywords in your content (also Page titles, meta descriptions and Header tags) is something that you should start considering seriously. LSI keywords is something Google consider seriously nowadays when determining a page’s relevancy and probably quality. I’m just gonna mention The Google PageRank here and give you a simple trick.

Write long articles (in my opinion and from my experience I call an article long when it have more than 1000 words but do not overthink this number) and there is a big chance that you will naturally include some LSI keywords in your content. But just to make sure you have them search for your main keyword in Google, then scroll down to the “Searches Related to…” area, copy and paste some of the words found there into your article. To learn more about Semantic Search either read Google Semantic Search by David Amerland or visit The Google Semantic Search Community where David Amerland himself with the help of Teodora Petkova will bring your knowledge up to speed in no time.

Conclusion:

Despite the numerous Google updates in recent years, the on-site SEO optimisation hasn’t changed much. It is still important and it still needs to be done. Yes, by all means ‘Content is King’ but even kings need to live in properly build castles and this is exactly what on-site SEO gives you. A properly build home for your content to live so it can attract and create more business for your company.

P.S. Elements that did not make it into my top 10 list but are still very important when it comes to on-site SEO optimisation: Meta Descriptions, Server Speed, XML sitemap, custom 404 Page, Social Media Integration, CDN (Content Delivery Network), Mobile responsiveness, Site speed.