SEO in the fast lane – Audit your site speed

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Marketers looking to improve time on site and other key performance metrics should consider running site audits to improve user experience.

People love fast things. Food, cars and technology sales have benefited when innovators took a step back and said it was time to pick up the pace. Information is no different, and companies will see better website performance when they deliver what people want sooner.

Site speed is an important but often overlooked metric when auditing a site’s performance. Gone are the days when people are willing to wait minutes for pages to fully render. Advances in network infrastructure and technology allow for exponentially faster load times when compared to site performance just a few years ago. Nowadays, if we have to wait one second longer to view a viral video or read a trending article, we get impatient and frustrated.

But why?

Users gauge a site’s speed by its relative performance, meaning they compare it to the average load times of other sites they visit. This means every company has an opportunity to enhance user experience (and get ahead of the competition) just by quickening load times.

According to a site speed study conducted by Microsoft, a delay of 250 milliseconds is all it takes to convince people to visit a site less often. This is a great example of how instant gratification has become standard on the web and explains why you must make sure your content, whether visual or text heavy, loads faster than your competition – even if just a millisecond quicker.

Speed doesn’t only impact user experience and traffic, it directly affects conversions. For every second of load time, conversion rates drop 7 percent.

Get fast!

Now that users expect instantaneous load times we need to learn how to give it to them. Here are some basic steps to make tackling site speed less daunting:

Before we get down to load times – run a basic site audit and make sure you don’t have any:

  1. Server errors
  2. Duplicate content
  3. Bad links
  4. Missing titles
  5. Meta descriptions

Speed contributes to higher conversion ratesYou can try Screaming Frog, free software for Windows, OS, and Ubuntu. Your first 500 crawls are free! Another good tool for site audits is the MOZ Crawl Test. Though a pro membership is required to use this tool.

Once your site has a good baseline health, it’s time to check the odometer and dive into the speed. The best tool I’ve found is GTmertix. It aggregates data from my two other favorite site speed tools: PageSpeeed and YSlow. It’s a free service that’s easy to understand.

When you enter your site’s URL and run a report, you’ll get an overview of your site, ranking the most important fixes from top to bottom. It has a tab for PageSpeed, YSlow recommendations as well as a Timeline and History.

You can then select each call to action by clicking and seeing what problems need to be fixed to improve load times. This tool is great because it explains technical issues in layman’s terms

Pro Tip: Focus on the pages that have a high bounce rate first. Typically, the pages that have the greatest bounce rate are the slowest.

Google recommends you focus on these 6 performance metrics:

Google claims that it doesn’t weigh a site’s speed heavily, but think of user experience; if visitors are dissatisfied the with length of time it takes for your site to load and you ranked number one, who do you think they are going to click on next?  

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Wilfred Hirst is a Boston-based experienced online marketing strategist who specializes in helping clients build their brand's search engine presence through content creation and site optimization. His passion for marketing and technology transcends the average work week, building his own network through entrepreneurial endeavors in the entertainment industry.
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