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Whenever someone asks me “What do you do?” it really is a loaded question because understanding what I do requires just a little understanding of SEO and how SEO works.

More often than not I find myself answering like this, “I work for a local Internet Marketing company that specializes in Search Engine Optimization”. Then I follow it up with “Essentially, it’s like an advertising company for websites.”

I am always prepared to get a puzzled face that may recognize the term ‘SEO’ but not have any clue as to what SEO is, what it means or how it works. I must also be prepared to explain in more detail exactly what is SEO. This is usually how the conversation might play out:

Me: The whole point of SEO or Search Engine Optimization, is to improve your web pages and make sure that they meet and adhere to the search engine guidelines so that your website can be found at the top search engine results pages (SERPs).

Person: But how does SEO work? What does it mean to “optimize your site”?

Me: What search engine optimization does is …

“Improve your web pages and make them better, more useful
and more effective for everyone including the people who visit your site
and for the search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing.”

In other words, search engine optimization helps both the search engines and the visitors.

Person: Oh, you mean like you get the website at the top of the page?

Me: Yes but it’s a little more complicated than just “getting” it there. Websites don’t just magically appear at the top by following a secret formula or paying a fee to Google. There’s much more to it …

Most times, they’ve heard enough but sometimes the person is intrigued and wants to hear more. The rest of the conversation might be summarized below.

Understanding How SEO Helps the Search Engines

Search engine optimization works by making sure your web pages meet the search engine guidelines and become more relevant. SEO helps the search engines to:

  • Find your web pages easier
  • Review your web pages faster
  • Better understand what your website is all about
  • So they can Index your web pages properly (add your pages to their database)
  • Rate your web pages more favorably
  • And list your web pages near the top of the search engine results so people can find you easier

In summary, search engine optimization works to help your web pages:

  1. Be Found
  2. Be Understood
  3. Be Indexed
  4. Be Rated Properly
  5. And Be Visible to people who are searching

Understanding How SEO Helps Your Visitors

Optimizing your web pages to make them as good as possible will help your website perform better in the search engines, which in turn, puts you in front of the very people who are searching for what you have to offer.

Search engine optimization works to help visitors find your website faster and easier plus your website will:

  • Be more relevant for the terms people use to find your website
  • Be easier to navigate
  • Help visitors find what they came looking for faster
  • Help visitors make better decisions (sooner) about what you have to offer
  • Help convert visitors into customers

In summary, search engine optimization will help visitors to:

  1. Find your site faster
  2. Understand your offerings
  3. Make better decisions about what they want
  4. Convert sooner

Understanding How Search Engine Optimization Works

While you may not know how to do SEO, there are many ways to optimize your web pages to make them as good as possible for searchers and for the search engines.

During search engine optimization, improvement changes can be made to any of the following (plus much more) to help improve your web pages and your page performance.

So in answer to the question, “How does SEO work?” here are some of the many places SEO helps to make improvements to your website:

  • Web Page Content
    – Body Text Content
    – Keyword Usage
    – Page Titles
    – Sub-Headings
    – Link Text
    – Images
    – Meta Data (Meta Titles, Descriptions, Alt Text)
    – Content Management Systems (CMS)
    – E-commerce Systems (shopping carts)
  • Source Code
  • In-Bound Linking
  • Page Loading Times
  • Image Sizing
  • Site Structure/Architecture
  • Site Navigation
  • Social Media/Videos
  • Server Setup
  • Hosting
  • Performance Analytics

Learn More About How Search Engine Optimization Works

By the end of the conversation I usually like to look at the big picture again; In marketing, the primary goal is to get your message out to as many potential customers as possible so they will buy your product or services.

Online marketing can be very powerful because no other marketing medium has the potential to reach as many potential customers 24/7 as do the search engines. And search engines like Google simply want to give their searchers the best, most relevant pages that they think will match what is being searched for.

The purpose of doing search engine optimization then, is to try and do just that: Provide the best, most relevant pages for the keyword term that was searched on.

Still looking for more answers? Visit our detailed explanation of “What is Search Engine Optimization” or contact our Search Engine Optimization Consultants.

What We Can Learn from New Mobile Page Speed Insights

Mobile benchmarks are changing rapidly.

According to an article on Think With Google titled Find Out How You Stack Up To New Industry Benchmarks for Mobile Page Speed, the average loading time for a mobile page is 22 seconds.

This is an outrageous number considering that 53% of mobile visitors to your site won’t stick around unless your page loads in under 3 seconds.

Somehow, most websites are missing the “3 second” mark!

In this article, we will talk about what you can do to improve your mobile page load times, and also briefly indicate areas over which you have no control whatsoever. Let’s get started!

1. Optimize for Mobile Speed or Risk High Bounce Rates and Low Conversions.

Web traffic from mobile is more than half of overall web traffic. In their study, Google analyzed over 900,000 mobile landing pages from 126 countries. Results were not surprising but were also not impressive.

Over 70% of mobile pages took over 10 seconds to load completely. That included all visual content from above and below the fold.

Google used a deep neural network (which had 90% prediction accuracy) and was modeled on the nervous system and brain of a human. As page load times increase proportionately from 1 – 7 seconds, probable visitor bounce rates increased by 113%.

If the quantity of page elements increases from 400 – 6,000, conversion probability drops by 95%. Moreover, there were other interesting revelations.

2. Page size correlates with page speed.

Of the pages that were examined the following stats were revealed:

  • 70% of pages were over 1MB in size
  • 36% of pages were over 2MB in size
  • 12% of pages were over 4 MB in size

A 1.49MB page takes 7 seconds to load over a fast 3G connection according to Google.

Customers are already long gone before the page has even completely presented itself. One site totaled out at 16MB. You do not stand a chance of impressing a mobile visitor with such slow download speed.

3. Improve mobile benchmarks by reducing content and images, where possible.

  1. Compress your site content and images. For more than 30% of pages examined, a decrease in page size of 250KB could occur after compression.
  2. Examine your site design and determine if a less intense image strategy overall could improve your page load speed.
  3. Review your article content and ascertain the feasibility of reducing article imagery or minimizing content.
  4. Contemplate splitting some articles in two. This strategy might expedite mobile access. It also presents double the ranking opportunity.
  5. Remove what is not absolutely necessary from site pages. Slideshows can be a resource and speed hog, as are image galleries.

4. Accept that there are some mobile benchmarks over which you have no control.

No one can know the wireless connection speed a site visitor might be experiencing. A site that loaded in under 2 seconds at home over WiFi might take 7 seconds or more depending on their mobile carrier due to network constraints, network traffic, disruption of communication equipment, areas of coverage, and the list goes on.

Essentially, you can optimize your site until the cows are all safely in the barn, but it’s the points between your server and the phone to which your site data is being served that ultimately make the difference.

Key Takeaways for Mobile Page Speed Benchmarks

  1. Be as careful as you can about the creation of your mobile pages, decreasing sizes wherever possible.
  2. Use the Google Mobile Page Speed Checker to evaluate your own website.
  3. Keep a close eye on your mobile website page speed over time to make sure it stays as fast as possible.

For specific information about optimizing your website for mobile, chat with one of our experts at 1st on the List. We’ve been around longer than Google, and have some unique insights on optimizing for mobile.

Call us now at 1-888-262-6687!

Be sure to check out our additional articles about Page Speed and Site Performance:

Website speed matters. In fact it is one of our main priorities when helping our clients optimize their websites. Site speed affects how well your website ranks, how much traffic you get from the Search Engines and how your visitors engage on the website. Ultimately, a slow website speed can cost you a lot of money.

Remember that before a page can load there are a number of steps that must be completed:

  1. Person types the URL into their web browser (Chrome, Safari, etc).
  2. Web browser performers an SSL handshake.
  3. Web browser connects to the server.
  4. Web browser sends data to the server.
  5. Web browser waits to receive data from the server.
  6. Web browser receives data from the server.
  7. Web browser loads data on your computer screen.

A slow down can occur at any step. Often the problem arises from not one but several issues. Here are a few main areas that commonly cause slow website load times:

[checklist]

  • Your site server and host is slow to respond.
  • Image and video files are too large.
  • Complex coding issues can be a nightmare for website slowdowns
  • Archived content could be hiding several problems
  • A combination of these and other problems could be the cause.

[/checklist]

The slow load problems could be buried beneath several issues that have built up through time and page revisions.

If you are running into site speed problems contact us! Our site speed experts can help you pinpoint the reasons for site speed problems and provide recommendations on how to fix each problem.

Watch our Site Speed Slideshow to learn more or call us at 1-888-262-6687.

Every day we work with bloggers, marketing coordinators and receptionists who are all tasked with the job of keeping their company’s website current and updated.

This may involve updating website pages, adding new products, blogging about events and even running social media. While they have an intimate knowledge of their brand and products as well as excellent writing skills and aesthetic prowess there are still some simple SEO tweaks to be made to further improve the website and user experience.

That’s why we’ve put together this quick article with 5 simple tips for better SEO to make your work stand out and get even more visibility. It’s these simple SEO tweaks you can integrate into your work to help you get ahead!

Write Unique and Interesting Titles, Descriptions and URLs

Many website platforms such as WordPress use dashboards that make it easy to add a new page – much like working in a Word Document. However, when you add a new page the Meta Title and Meta Descriptions are often auto-generated based on a template. This is ok but you could do better! What do we mean?

The Title and Description tag is what gets shown in Search Results most of the time. It is crucial to make this unique and interesting in order to get searchers to click on your website rather than a competitor’s website.

Title: Make it interesting, capture the searcher’s attention and make sure it includes the main keyword or topic of the page.

Description: Describe what the page is about and benefits the person will get by visiting the page. You should also take the opportunity to add your brand name, city (if you are local) and your phone number.

URL: Many websites will create a URL for your page based on the Title, especially in WordPress. You can easily override this before you publish the page to make the URL more concise and reflective of what is on the page.

The problem with using auto-generated meta tags is that they don’t give the best first impression to the public and don’t usually give the Search Engine the information to base a query referral on. Based on your experience with using the Internet what type of Search Results do you tend to click on?

In our article on Local Optimization we give tips for writing awesome Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions.

Write Search Engine and Reader Friendly Content

When writing a new page or blog post pick one central theme or idea and make sure you incorporate that theme (or the “keyword”) naturally throughout the text. Try using some of these SEO content writing tips:

  • Use different variations of the keyword in the text and even go to Google Search, start typing your keyword and use their AutoSuggest feature to see what other related topics come up.
  • Try to incorporate the keyword into the heading and at the beginning of the text, as well as your meta title and description, as outlined in #1 above.
  • As you write optimized content don’t forget about your reader. Write for the customer in customer lingo but refer back to proper industry standard for credibility.
  • When writing new content or if using industry references or instructions, write in your own words and check that you have not copied any content. Try using a tool like Copyscape.

For more tips on writing great content check out our Guide to Writing Search Engine Friendly Content and Keyword Insights page.

Don’t upload just any image – take the time to prepare the image.

Image files take up a huge amount of space and time! Bytes slow down your load time. Here’s what we suggest:

  1. Rename each image file to describe what it is. The camera assigned JPG name does no one any good – even you when looking for just the right picture. Search engines can better understand images based on a file name.
  2. Crop and resize images to fit your layout. Avoid any stretching or shrinking that can make your site look unprofessional.
  3. Compress before loading the image to your website. The less bytes the faster your site will load.
  4. Don’t forget to add the Alt Tag, which is what is shown when the image is broken or won’t load. Image alt tags also help Search Engines understand the image.

For a detailed how-to on image file set up, check out our Optimization Image Tips.

Keep your website running fast.

A slow site can annoy your visitors to the point of abandonment! Slow websites also take longer for the Search Engines to crawl, acting as an inhibitor to all of your pages being properly viewed and indexed.

If your site takes more than 2 seconds to load, you are probably losing potential sales! You need to improve your site load time as soon as possible. Check your speed with our helpful tools or find out more about improving site speed here.

There are many factors that can be causing the slow load times. Here are three:

  1. We just mentioned images affect site speed and how you need to decrease image file size for optimization.
  2. Check your site for JavaScript. It does slow down load times. Try to find alternatives.
  3. Sometimes it’s simply an inadequate service provider. Check for a new host provider that can handle your content delivery.

Finally, get trained help when you need it.

1st on the List has a great Resources section on our site that is sure to guide you in many of the areas you need. And there are thousands of other SEO resource sites out there too.

However, sometimes it just takes a bit of coaching to get through the coding and uploading and writing and updating to make a difference. That’s where we come in. If you are having problems larger than you can handle, we can offer you several options:

  1. We can provide SEO training for your staff members responsible for keeping your website updated.
  2. We can perform a SEO Site Audit to determine just what is missing on your site.
  3. We can provide an SEO quote for the cost of ongoing SEO on your website.

For an initial consultation to determine your needs call us at 1-888-262-6687 or just drop us a note at contact@1stonthelist.ca.

Limelight Networks recently published a study called “The State of User Experience” which explored attitudes towards website performance. You may find the key findings interesting.

Visitors aren’t willing to wait for websites to load.

When asked how long are you willing to wait for a website to load before you get frustrated and leave the site, the medium time falls around 3 seconds according to this study.

  • Less than 1 second 1.67%
  • 1-3 seconds 18.92%
  • 3-5 seconds 38.62%
  • 5+ seconds 40.79%

Visitors will buy from a competitor if the page takes too long to load.

Nearly 40% of visitors said they will leave your website and go to your competitor’s website to complete their purchase if your site is too slow.

Tablets, iPhones and Android Phones are among most popular mobile devices.

Combined these three type of devices make up 83% of mobile use. Surprisingly 14% of people say they don’t use a mobile device to access the Internet.

Performance expectations for mobile are on the rise.

Yes, 44% of respondents say they are willing to wait longer for a page to load on a mobile device. However, another 41% say they expect mobile devices to load equally fast.

Visitors are impartial to your website making recommendations based on previous visits.

Nearly 40% of visitors say, “No, I don’t want a website to remember that I’ve come before and make recommendations based on my previous visits.” Another 25% are impartial saying they don’t know or don’t care.

Limelight’s Key Takeaways

  1. Performance is key to a great web experience.
  2. Consumer web use is increasingly mobile.
  3. The value of web experience personalization remains to be seen.

How fast does your website load? How is your mobile experience? You can check both of these factors using our SEO Tools or give us a call at 1-888-262-6687 for a personalized consultation of what your website needs to provide the best visitor experience possible.

2 seconds.

One-miss-is-sip-pi, two-miss-is-sip-pi.

That is the tolerable wait time for a website to load.

A recent study by SearchMetrics.com analyzed websites ranking on the first three pages of results and found that on average, the Top 5 websites ranked loaded in less than 1.2 seconds and the Top 30 websites loaded in less than 1.3 seconds…. well below the 2 second rule of thumb.

This is why we put a lot of effort into helping our clients make their websites faster – there is a direct correlation between fast websites and rankings, traffic, conversions, purchases and profit.

In our newest Slideshare Presentation we share all the details and the studies that prove these claims. Check it out! And when you are finished, be sure to check your website speed in the link provided at the end of the presentation and then give us a call at 1-888-262-6687 or email us to get started on website speed optimization.

Website speed is all the rage today.

Did you know that in 2014 Site Speed was voted one of the top search ranking factors?

Site speed contributes to a better user experience overall and hundreds of businesses are finding that as they make their website faster they get better rankings, more traffic, higher conversion rates and ultimately more sales.

Here are 6 of the best free website speed test tools you can use to evaluate your website speed.

As you use these tools remember that the rule of thumb is a page should load in less than 2 seconds. Websites that rank in Top 30 positions load in less than 1.3 second mark (SearchMetrics.com).

Tools.Pingdom.com

Use this tool to run a full page test to find the load time of each page. This website speed test helps you analyze your page and find where slow bottlenecks occur. The tool also gives you the page load time, page size an overall grade out of 100 plus how fast your webpage is in comparison to all tested websites.

pingdom-site-speed-results

Webpagetest.org

A favorite of our website auditors this free tool to test site speed gives you a score for both the first view and for the repeat view. It tells you how long it takes for the first byte to load, how long it takes to start rendering and the time, number of requests and bytes required for the page to fully load. The tool also gives you a letter grade for a number of speed factors including progressive JPEGs, cache static content, keep-alive content and compress transfer.

webpagetestorg-results

Pagespeed Insights by Google

Google’s tool to hep you make your web pages fast on all devices gives you a page speed score for both desktop and mobile platforms plus a number of recommendations to increase your page speed.

pagespeed-insights-results

Google Analytics

If you have Google Analytics set up to track your website traffic you can also see website speed for pages at specific points in time. Select Behavior from the left navigation and choose Site Speed Overview.

analytics-site-speed-results

Google Webmaster Tools

If you have Webmaster Tools set up for your website you can also see your average website speed over the last three months. Look for the average speed and any major spikes in load time, which can suggest server issues. Select Crawl from the left navigation and choose Crawl Stats.

webmaster-tools-page-speed-results

YSlow.org

This add-on available for most browsers grades your web page and offers suggestions to improve the page performance. It’s a great way to quickly test speed on any webpage you may visit and is great for competitor analysis too!

Is it time to make your website faster? Our Website Auditors are skilled at finding what is slowing your website down and providing prioritized lists of how to gradually improve your website speed. After all, Amazon found that a one second slow down could cost them $1.6 billion in sales each year.

What is your slow website costing you?

Contact us today for more information about website speed and what we can do for you or visit our Site Speed Optimization page for more details.

Search Engine Optimization is all the rage today and it seems that every marketing firm and marketing department attempts to do some justice to “search engine optimizing” websites. A lot has happened in the background since the advent of Yahoo Search in 1995 to speed up search engine processing time, to understand search queries and to improve the user experience on the internet.

The purpose of this article is to briefly discuss the purpose of search engine optimization and six factors search engines use when evaluating your website and determining where it should rank.

The Quick Explanation of Search Engine Optimization

SEO is the optimization of your website to meet Search Engine standards and to be the best answer for relevant searches. What many website developers fail to understand is that there is much more to a website’s success than simply “looking good”.

Remember that the Search Engines are not humans and cannot actually see your website as a visitor would. In order to account for this the Search Engines use between 200 and 300 different factors or rules in their algorithm to try to predict how a visitor will react to the website. The more factors your site meets the better its visibility in search results. How you rank is a cumulative score of these factors; the more SEO factors you address the better your website will rank.

When a person sits at their computer, phone or tablet and types in a question or search, the Search Engines rely on its algorithm to determine the website or webpages that best answer the query.

So what are some of the factors that determine the websites with the “best answer” to the search?

#1 – Fast loading website pages

Search Engines know that people are impatient and do not want to wait more than a couple seconds for a website page to load. Websites with slow loading pages are usually abandoned in search of a faster and better website. Search Engines know this and display the fast websites first.

#2 – Viewable on all types of devices

A website’s content and images must be viewable over multiple devices including desktops, tablets and mobile phones. Again, the Search Engines know that people are browsing the web from various types of devices and expect a website to perform well based on the type of device it is viewed on. Are your images displaying too large on a small mobile screen, is your text too small to read on a mobile phone or is your navigation “finger friendly”?

#3 – Images supported by alt tags and content

Unfortunately, a picture isn’t worth a thousand words to a Search Engine as Search Engines can’t visually see and interpret a picture as we humans can. Search Engines look for other factors such as image alt tags and additional content on the webpage as clues to the picture. A website needs to find a good balance between images used to evoke emotion with a visitor and content used to support the image with the Search Engines.

#4 – Clear purpose and value offer

A recent study by Dianna Huff and KoMarketing  found that 83% of buyers are annoyed by lack of message on a website. Search Engines are equally put off by no clear message or branding on a website. The Search Engines want to know exactly what it is you offer visitors and why it is more valuable than what other websites may offer. Learn more about measuring your Mobile Website Usability.

#5 – Physical location of your business and hosting

The Search Engines recognize that for many search queries a locally based website provides the best results. This why the Search Engines include your business address and where your website is hosted as SEO factors.  These factors reinforce your commitment to your service area.

# 6 – Proper technical website architecture

Because the Search Engines have to crawl your website before they can evaluate and rank it, it makes sense that several SEO factors have to do with how easy it is to access and evaluate a website. These factors include valid and clean HTML code and proper HTTP response codes. An SEO Site Audit will help you assess the backend of your website and if the Search Engines can actually access the information on your website.

What else does SEO Do?

SEO works to address as many of the other 200+ SEO factors in order to improve your visibility in search results and increase traffic to your website.

SEO also works to improve the health and profitability of the website. By conducting site audits, SEO consultants can report what technical issues need to be updated and addressed, what keywords and phrases are drawing visitors and what ones are not and what platforms are drawing traffic.

By conducting analytics, SEO consultants can develop an ongoing plan to emphasize sales and services you want to move, develop platform enhancements to get your site seen and followed, and working content that draws and hold visitors.

For a basic Site Audit to see how well your website adheres to these search engine optimization factors take our free Instant SEO Evaluation or contact our SEO consultants at 1-888-262-6687 for a complimentary phone consultation.

Interested in all the Search Engine Optimization Factors?
Check out the SEO Periodic Table by SearchEngineLand.