Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

Archive for the Google Category

Page Speed for Google Rankings and Conversions

Page Speed Affects Your Search Rankings and Conversions

Take a stopwatch to your page download speeds.

When it comes to your website slow speed kills rankings and conversions.

What is Page Speed?

Page speed refers to how quickly a page on your website downloads into a visitor’s browser or phone. It can be measured a few ways. Google and some other sources report a score for your speed on a scale of 0-100. Others display it in seconds.

You can measure page speed a few ways:

  • Time to First Byte (how long it takes for your browser to receive the first byte from the web server
  • Page Load Time (how long it takes to fully display the page)
  • Above the Fold Time (how long it takes to fully display as much as you can see without scrolling down)

However you measure it, faster is always better.

Page Speed and Google

I’ve written before about how a slow page speed can hurt your rankings in search results. Google has explicitly stated that how quickly a site loads into a browser is now a ranking factor. All other things being equal, a faster site will outrank a slower site.

Google  scores your site separately for download to a desktop/laptop computer and for a phone. It’s quite common for those to get very different download speed scores. And mobile speeds are usually slower than desktop speeds.

Mobile Speed is Increasingly Important

Google is moving toward a mobile-first index, which means that the information they know about your website comes from the mobile version of your site,  not the desktop version.  Those two may be the same for a responsive site, but some websites actually have differing amounts of information between the two, usually with the mobile speed being slower. Since Google is now focusing on the mobile version of your website, it stands to reason that the page speed it measures on a phone is more important than the speed it measures for a desktop/laptop computer.

Page Speed and Your Visitors

A visitor snoozes while waiting for a slow page to load.

Don’t test your visitors’ patience or put them to sleep with slow page speed.

There’s another equally important reason to pay attention to your download speed: visitors. We are all increasingly  stressed over time and as a result have less patience for watching a slow web page load in our computer. If your page is too slow, visitors may leave before the page ever loads for them. If they find you in search, become impatient and immediately go back to the search results to select something else, Google makes note of that as a black mark against your page. That will negatively affect your  rankings moving forward.

Needless to say, the more people who abandon your website, the fewer conversions (converting visitors to paying customers) you will see.

Compared to a page with a two-second page speed, one that takes six seconds can expect to lose 25% of its visitors to abandonment.

page speed related page abandonment percentages

Abandonment rates as a result of slow page speed

Several years ago, Forbes reported

A 1-second delay in page load time equals 11% fewer page views, a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction, and 7% loss in conversions.

Assessing Your Page Speed

There are several tools you can use to assess whether your page downloads quickly enough.

Each of these measures and scores differently. You’ll get the best idea of your page speed by running and evaluating all of them.

Fixing Your Page Speed

How to fix a slow page is beyond the scope of this discussion. It’s technical enough that most small business owners aren’t equipped to attempt it. This is something best left to your webmaster.

If you’d like an idea of what’s likely to be involved, the folks at Moz list the main factors at play in this overview.

Update 12/3/2019: I’ve just found a very nice overview of how to increase your page speed written by Anna Foster at Top 10 Website Hosting in the UK.

Update 12/30/2019:  Matthew Woodward in the UK has also written a helpful guide you may find useful. 6x Free Ways To Increase Website Speed (and search traffic!)

Update 7/21/2020: Now that mobile searches comprise more than half of all Google searches, your site’s mobile page speed is more important than ever. The folks at Hosting Ninja have a somewhat technical article, but if you’re struggling with slow loading of your site you might consider sharing this with your web designer. 10 Ways to Improve Mobile Page Speed

This is just one of many factors that affect your online visibility when people search for what you do. We can help with the full array of optimization factors. Contact us for a free SEO consultation.

How has your experience been, wrestling with your site speed issues? We’re interested in your perspective: please comment below.

Watch Out: Google’s Coming Rankings Killer!

Google’s testing a change that may destroy some site rankings

Google is creating a separate mobile index.Google has announced that they’re testing a big change in the index of websites they use for ranking search results. It may not affect most sites, but if your site is built a certain way it can really hurt your Google rankings.

The change is in recognition of the fact that more searches are now done on phones than from desktop/laptop computers.

The Google Index

Google’s index is a complicated copy of the content of every web page, which Google uses to tell what the page is all about so it knows what keyword searches the page is suitable for. Since desktop and mobile versions of websites may differ, Google has been using the desktop version of a website in it’s index.

However, for many websites, the mobile version may be quite different from the desktop version. The mobile version may actually be like a separate website with less or different content from the desktop version to accommodate the limits of a small cell phone screen.

What’s being tested is relying primarily on the mobile index

If a website has different versions for desktop and mobile, that constant may be quite different. Content that’s well optimized for a critical keyword on the desktop may not be well optimized for that keyword in the mobile version.

By default, Google has up until now relied primarily on the desktop version of a web site in its index. If a website has a desktop version and a mobile version, Google uses the desktop index to decide what searches to display a given web page for. Only if  a website exists solely in a mobile format does Google use the mobile version in its index.

Google wrote recently:

Google's G logo

To make our results more useful, we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile-first. Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results. Of course, while our index will be built from mobile documents, we’re going to continue to build a great search experience for all users, whether they come from mobile or desktop devices.

While it’s only under testing at the moment, we can reasonable expect this is the direction Google will be moving in going forward.

Will this hurt your rankings?

Maybe.

If your site is configured to have a separate mobile version with even slightly different content, you may be at risk. If your site is “responsive” then you’re probably safe.

Is your site “responsive”?

A responsive website is one that changes in appearance in response to the device that’s looking at it. Certain elements on a page may shift around to accommodate a different screen. So that site will look different on a tablet, a phone, and a laptop or desktop. But all the content remains the same.

Typically you can check this by changing the width of your browser window on your desktop. Make the window narrower and narrower until it’s roughly the shape of a phone screen. Does stuff change and move around?

If it does, you’re responsive. And you’re probably safe from this change.

If you’re not responsive …

You may need to check the mobile version of your site. Is it essentially identical in content to your desktop site? If so, you’re probably fine.

If it’s different,make sure it’s optimized as effectively for your important keywords as the desktop version. Otherwise you’re likely to suffer a drop in your rankings.

My recommendation:

If your site isn’t currently responsive, you should be planning to make it so. And don’t put it off until your 2018 budget year, but plan for it now.

Failing that, check out Google’s recommended actions here.

Your thoughts and observations are requested – please comment below.

 Need help with your optimization overall? At Rank Magic, we can fix that.

Have colleagues who need to be alerted to this? Please share it with the buttons on the left.

Google’s New Possum Algorithm Change

Is Google’s Possum helping you?

Google's G logoGoogle’s been reporting a surge in “near me” type searches, probably at least partly related to the increased use of mobile phones for search.

One of the problems centers around searches by town or city. If your business falls just outside the city limits, you were unlikely to show up in the Local Stack or the listings revealed when you click on “More Places” for searches focused on that city. People very close to you might find only listings within the city limits that are much farther away from them than you are.

We’ve been able to get good rankings in the organic listings for searches like this. But listings in the Local Stack and More Places have been very difficult if not impossible to achieve

Google's Possum algorithm change

Then Came Possum

Possum arrived on or about September 1. Search Engine Land calls this the most significant update since Google’s Pigeon update in 2014. And it seems to be doing wonders for those businesses just outside of the city limits. This is a good thing.

The physical location of the searcher is now more important than before in these searches as well. Normally that’s a good thing, especially for “near me” types of searches. However, a client of ours has headquarters in New Jersaey and a second location on the outskirts of Phoenix. While Arizonans searching for what they do in Phoenix find them in the Local Stack, if my client searchers from New Jersey they’re not there. Organic searches appear to be unaffected though.

Possum Helps … and then …

On the down side, when there are multiple companies in the same line of business with offices in the same building, it appears most of them get filtered out, leaving only one of them in the Local Stack results. It’s as if Google thinks they’re affiliated with one another, like multiple doctors in the same medical practice.

Search Engine Land is reporting significant fluctuations in behavior leading them to conclude that Google is still tuning up the Possum algorithm. We expect it to settle down soon.

What changes have you seen in your local rankings since September 1? Let us know in the comments below.

Will your colleagues be interested in this? You can share it with the buttons on the left.

Not showing up for local searches? Rank Magic can help.

Better Get Your Website Mobile Friendly Now

Google is creating a separate mobile index.Google will soon split its index of web pages into two separate ones: one for desktop and one for mobile.

And the mobile one will be primary: Google will be updating it frequently while they will update the desktop index less often. This is a reflection of the fact that more than half of all searches are done on phones now—and the ratio of phone to desktop searches is continuing to increase.

According to Gary Illyes, a Google webmaster trends analyst, Google will make the change “within  months” and will leave the desktop index somewhat less up-to-date than the mobile one.

So what does this actually mean?

The biggest impact of this is likely to be on websites that have separate mobile and desktop versions. The two website versions will be indexed and evaluated separately as if they’re different websites … because sometimes they are. Separate mobile pages are often optimized differently from desktop pages, so search rankings may differ dramatically depending on whether a customer searches for you from their desktop/laptop or their phone.

If your site is “responsive”, meaning your pages adjust how they display depending on the device looking at them, you ought to be okay since the content is always the same.

However, if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, your ranking penalty when customers search from their phones will get worse. Possibly much worse, though Google hasn’t actually claimed that yet.

Joost de Valk, who runs search engine firm Yoast.com and author of the highly recommended Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress, recently said this move makes sense.

I think in part it is about pushing people to change their sites to be responsive rather than having a separate desktop and mobile site. By saying that their mobile index is more important, it will push people to focus on their mobile sites.

This bears watching, but if you’re a little late in making your website responsive, now’s the time to get on the stick and do it.

Want to discuss how important this is for you? Call me.

Will your colleagues and friends want to know about this? Please share it with the buttons on the left.

 

 

How Do You Get Your New Website on Google?

Google’s the biggest, but …

Google, Yahoo & Bing logosDon’t ignore Bing and Yahoo! As of last month, Americans conducted 64% of their searches on Google, 22% on Bing, at 12% on Yahoo. That comes to 98% of all the searches done in the US, so there’s no need to worry about any other search engines. But don’t dismiss Bing and Yahoo. Even at only 12%, Yahoo handles more than 500 million searches a day in the US.

Fortunately, the things you need to do to get listed on Google are pretty much the same things that Yahoo and Bing need.

How do I submit my site to Google?

You don't need to submit your site to Google to show up and move up in rankings.You don’t. It’s worth repeating: you don’t need to submit your site to Google, Yahoo, Bing, or anywhere else. Submitting to search engines is kind of a scam from the past and a persistent myth. It’s not necessary as long as you have links to your website from other websites the search engines already know about. We explain that here.

6 Steps to Get on Google

  1. Figure out what keywords you need to be found for. These are the phrases your customers will use to find what you do or what you sell. Think in specifics. The best  keywords are probably not the one or two word basic searches like limousine. That’s too broad. Better would be limousine service in San Diego or car service to O’Hare airport.
  2. 6steps to get your brand new website on Google.Make sure your website is search engine friendly. That means your pages download quickly, your site works well on a phone, navigation is easy to follow, you have a sitemap the search engines can follow to get to all your pages, and so forth.
  3. Block search engine spiders until your site is ready for prime time. Important note: this applies only to brand new websites, not a redesign of an older website. You never want an existing site to become invisible to search engines.
  4. Create lots of content. Make your pages about specific, narrow topics. Focus them on the keywords you determined in step 1, and use logical variations on those phrases. If you do or sell more than one specific thing don’t try to cover all of it in one or two pages; flesh out your site with rich, engaging and helpful content.
  5. Keep creating content. Don’t feel you need to constantly tweak your pages or freshen them up, instead add new pages. The most natural way to do that is with a blog. Be sure your blog is on your domain and not hosted separately someplace like WordPress.com or Blogspot.com.
  6. Promote your content across the web. The easiest way to do this may be with social media: write posts on Facebook, tweet on Twitter, mention (and link to) your content on Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Each one of these gets the word out to a different population, and each adds a new link to your website.

Search Engine Journal has an excellent article on this topic with good explanations about each of these six steps.

That’s just the beginning …

These things will get your website into the indexes for Google, Yahoo & Bing, an essential first step to being found easily by customers. Once in the index, you should show up when people search for your keyword phrases. But if you’re showing up on page seven or eight, that’s probably not good enough. We have lots of ideas in this blog on how search engine optimization works to get you near the top of the rankings. If that’s a concern for you, this is a good place to start.

If you find you don’t have the time or inclination to do your own SEO, Rank Magic can help.

You can share this with friends & colleagues with the buttons on the left or the helpful tweet just above.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.