When it comes to digital marketing, a quality website is one of the most important investments you need to make.
In a time when over half of all the people on the planet are online, it pays to establish a strong digital foothold. Moreover, everything digital ties back to your domain—from your ads on Google to your brand’s activity on social media.
But more than setting up a website that looks clean and comes with all the right functions and leads magnets, your website needs to perform.
Website performance is the unsung hero (or villain) of a business’ online activity. Research from Google suggests that the gap from one second to five seconds in page load speed can cause a 90% increase in bounce rate --meaning your visitors are only half as likely to view or do anything meaningful on your website.
Source: Think With Google
To make sure you’re getting the most out of your investment in a site, here are a few strategic steps you can take to increase your website performance and upgrade your site’s user experience.
Boosting Website Performance
However you choose to build your site, it’s important to be efficient when creating pages that add value to your visitors. There are dozens of features that a website can hold: CTAs, dynamic forms, videos, images, and the list goes on. Since a device’s capacity (and note that most people are on mobile) to store and process data is limited, be sure to mind the following:
● Shrink and compress your images. Large images can slow down page speed without adding that much to the quality of your visuals. You shrink them for free using any number of tools online.
● Use sprites. Put simply, CSS sprites make it so that your visitors’ devices only need to load a single image, shown in parts, instead of loading separate ones. In the image below, each button (whether highlighted or not) displays part of a single image file.
Source: Tutorial Republic
● Optimize your code. This trick is a bit more technical, so you’re probably best relying on a seasoned developer to make sure it’s done right. “Minify” your site’s resources by removing unnecessary lines of code to shrink your page size and improve its speed.
When a device loads a web page, it touches base with a server to request for the files that make up the page’s contents, much like sending interns to do some shopping for you. The longer the shopping list (i.e. the list of files to load) and the harder the goods are to transfer (i.e. the larger the files), the longer it’ll take to get the job done (i.e. quicker page load time).
There are ways to make this process faster. We’ve already mentioned downsizing your images and making your requests more efficient through the use of sprites, but here are a few more technical tips to ease the burden on your visitors’ devices:
● Merge your CSS files. It might be easier for you or your developer to work with multiple CSS files, but your page load speed will suffer for the convenience. Merge your CSS files as efficiently as possible to reduce the strain on your visitors’ devices.
Browser caching is the process of storing parts of a website’s data on a device’s local browser (think Chrome or Firefox) for easier retrieval during later visits.
You absolutely should tap into browser caching, and configure your site to make it easier for repeat visitors to browse your pages and return once they’ve proceeded further down your marketing funnel.
As you devise new versions of your website and the changes pile on, it can be easy to fall into the trap of setting up a series of redirects to save time. When a visitor’s browser follows a link to an outdated or “dead” page, 301 redirects can forward them to the most relevant version. It’s a convenient and SEO-friendly option.
The trouble comes when you’ve gone through six or seven versions, each linking to the other in a chain of redirects: v1 links to v2, which redirects to v3 and so on. This can hurt your web performance.
Be diligent and set your older links to direct traffic straight to the current version.
Boosting Mobile Performance
Responsive web design is the practice of creating web pages that shift dynamically when viewed on the desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. With responsive design, you can create a site that adapts to your visitors instead of building whole websites to cater to users across devices, or worse, building a single layout for your site without a care for visitors on smaller devices.
Go for responsive design if you want to stand a chance at catering to a wide market.
The lynchpin of responsive design has to be the viewport meta tag: a snippet of code that tells your browser that the page must be scaled to fit the viewer’s screen. There are other programming features to consider, so take a look at Google’s guide to responsive design for more comprehensive instructions.
Boosting SEO Performance
The last dimension of your website performance is how well you rank on today’s popular search engines. You’ve built the content and packaged it well --now it’s time to bring in the traffic.
It would wildly difficult for search engines to rank the relevance of content without some level of organization at work. Software like Google and Bing rely on your page titles, meta descriptions, and headers to give them an idea of what your web pages are trying to say.
1. Page Titles
There’s a one-to-one correspondence between the text that appears on the top of your browser when viewing a page and the title of that page on a search engine results page (SERP).
The major search engines reference page titles as a matter of the first course when determining the relevance of a web page. For the best SEO results, make sure that your page titles contain the search terms you’re trying to rank for.
Not only does this make it easier for your site to hit the coveted top rank on a results page, but it also makes your most valuable leads more likely to recognize the search term they used and choose your page as their go-to resource at the moment.
2. Meta Descriptions
The short write-up underneath your page title on a search results page is called a meta description. As you might have guessed, it’s a description of your webpage that helps both the search engine and its users understand what kind of content you’re hosting.
Keep your meta descriptions brief and engaging, and make sure to include your target keywords as early in the text as possible, ideally at the beginning of the paragraph. As a rule of thumb, try to keep your meta description between 50 and 300 words.
The folks at Google have learned that an organized web page is a well-designed web page. Since they’re in the business of connecting people to the best pages on the internet, Google rewards well-structured sites with higher rankings.
Headers keep your content organized while informing search engines of the subject matter of your landing pages and articles.
Use the H1 tag for the titles of web pages (ex. “Our Services”, “Contact Us”), and for the main title on pages like blog articles or other self-contained pieces of content (like we did at the start of this page).
Use H2 tags for any important subheaders that divide your pages or content into sections. On this article, we’ve used H2 for each section of tips.
Finally, you have the option to use H3 tags and further for any subsections that occur on your pages. This isn’t quite as necessary or impactful when it comes to SEO, but it can’t hurt your chances if you follow a logical pattern for inserting subheaders.
Planning stellar content is only half the battle when it comes to creating a website. Any digital marketing expert will tell you that the technical side of web development matters greatly and that your website performance can spell the difference between a life-changing investment and a monumental waste of cash.
Follow these tips for improving the performance of your site and its pages, and see the difference for yourself.