The goal of every website is simple: to attract high-quality traffic. And search engines are responsible for a huge chunk of that traffic.
However, many focus on the content quality and keywords optimization aspect while ignoring a very vital SEO factor: website optimization.
As an SEO ranking factor, optimized websites make you rank higher on search engines, offering you more visibility and subsequently higher traffic.
On the other hand, you have a lot to gain from direct traffic.
Website optimization is all about creating a rich user experience for your site visitors. The better the experience, the more users are likely to come back to your site and recommend it to others. This results, not only in higher Click-Through-Rates but also in higher conversion rates.
We have all visited that one annoying site with webpages not rendered properly, ugly designs, annoying pop-ups, etc. Sometimes, the actual content might be great but the poor website is a serious turnoff.
A couple of years back, Google started cracking down on such websites by releasing updates to its algorithms that prioritize website user experience more than ever.
Now, factors like ‘dwell time’ (the average time visitors spend on your site every session) and ‘bounce rate’ (the percentage of people that visit a page on your site and take no action before exiting) are important to Google in ranking websites.
In Google’s own words, “beyond simple keyword matching, we use aggregated and anonymized interaction data to assess whether search results are relevant to queries.”
Therefore, it is apparent that it is not enough to optimize your content for high-quality keywords alone, your website must also run very well.
Let’s dive into how you can adjust your website to make it run better and meet up with Google’s requirements to increase traffic.
Google’s Mobile-First update came into effect in July 2019. It bases the decision to focus more on mobile devices on the fact that more users access the internet via mobile devices than through any other means.
Therefore, there was a need to focus on mobile-optimized websites. In the fourth quarter of 2019, mobile internet access amounted to 52.6% of global internet usage.
Google has historically ranked web pages based on desktop versions of the pages. But because of the rise of smartphones and tablets (which means more mobile users), Google’s algorithm now prioritizes mobile versions of webpages.
How can you make sure that your website falls into place?
Use responsive web design
Responsive design makes your website adjust automatically and seamlessly according to the user’s browsing environment based on such factors as screen size, operating system, resolution, and orientation.
This eliminates the need for having multiple designs for one website; there is just one flexible template that responds to every user’s conditions.
Desktop ads are annoying enough. But they are terrible on mobile devices, which have smaller screens.
For example, you should not use pop-up ads that block the main content, or prestitial ads.
Besides, stuffing your content with ads makes for an irritating viewing experience for your visitors. The density of ads (the size of all ads compared to the main content) shouldn’t be over 30%.
When placing ads, always consider your mobile viewers. You can learn principles for ideal ads display on the Better Ads Standard guide.
Lots of ‘white space’
A secret of website design and content structure is in having a lot of blank space.
This doesn’t seem so ingenious at first. But imagine for a while I wrote this piece in a continuous form and with limited spaces; would it still be as legible as it is right now? Of course, no.
That’s why it’s better to chunk your content. Don’t be afraid to press the enter key as many times as is necessary.
Page Speed Optimization
Website performance (particularly speed) is an important metric to boost web traffic. This isn’t just because page speed is one of Google’s ranking factors, but even more importantly, because it is about retaining users.
Page speed refers to the time it takes a web page to load. This is an age of speed and no one has the time to wait for seconds for a page to load. Therefore, slow websites have higher bounce rates.
Page speed has been a Google ranking factor since 2010 but only focused on desktop searches. With the increase of mobile searches, Google started considering it for those in July 2018 and called it the ‘Speed Update’.
The aim of the update was to ‘punish’ the slowest loading websites. It’s even worse when such websites don’t have valuable content.
How do you then optimize your website to load faster?
It is a simple tool that analyzes URLs you enter into it. I particularly like it because it scores your site based on multiple page speed metrics.
Free tip: you can also use it to analyze your competitors’ websites and see how you measure up.
So, what are the actual page speed optimization techniques?
Images are large and can take up to 90% of a page’s size.
But a larger page size means slower loading time.
Some page speed platforms such as webpagetest.org can even give you a breakdown of the ratio of images to other content on the page.
Images also have their own advantages to SEO and the overall reading experience. So I (and anyone) would not advise you to do away with them.
What to do? Compress the images so they take less size.
There are many web image compression tools for this such as Tinypng and Caesium, or the WordPress plugin, WP Smush.
Leverage Browser Caching
Website loading involves rapid downloading and uploading of different items. If visitors to your site have to load the same data each time they open it, they would have a slower experience.
Instead, leverage browser caching to temporarily store some data on the users’ devices so that resources for subsequent visits are minimal, ensuring faster loading time.
Note, though, that regulations might require you to notify them of this.
Optimize your code
Remove useless and extraneous lines and characters in your codes to reduce the webpage file size. Each little space you offload increases the speed of your site.
Minimize the use of plugins.
Only use them when absolutely necessary, else they clog your website and ruin your visitor’s experience.
Other Website Optimization Tips
- Reduce ads display on your website. Apart from the fact that large display ads ruin the user experience, ads, in general, are annoying and are to be used minimally and placed strategically.
- Redesign your website so it levels up to modern standards. Believe me, wack designs are a turnoff for most users, even if you have great content.
- Using a secure website (https) makes users trust your site more (especially if you collect personal data in any way) and also boosts your rankings.
- Make sure your website loads correctly on multiple browsers. In fact, browser compatibility is one of Google’s ranking factors.
- Regularly audit your website to know which strategies are working and where you are lagging. Google Analytics is a free, great tool for this.
The key to optimizing your website is to have your audience in mind. Imagine that you were a visitor to your own website, how would you describe the experience? Seamless? Buggy? Just fair?
A mobile-friendly site naturally attracts direct traffic and also search engine traffic via higher rankings. The strategies I have explained here are guaranteed to boost your visibility and draw traffic to your website.