Is Page Speed Important?

Not long ago I wrote an article on Page Speed. Since then, page speed has continued to climb in importance.  How Google’s algorithm for ranking pages works is the secret sauce that makes them who they are. But we do know that pages that load fast are moving up in importance in the algorithm.

So what can be done?

There are a few things you can do that can have a dramatic impact on your web page loading time.

  • Optimize your images. Nearly every site we test has images that can be better optimized for display on the web. Remember, more and more people are using mobile devices as their sole connection to the internet. So having big images will slow them down and often not display as well as images that are optimized for mobile.
  • Tell your site to use browser caching. While there are different ways of doing this from the technical – like manually editing your .htaccess file – to much simpler – like installing  a caching plugin, this one change can score you points with page speed and ultimately provide a better user experience.
  • Make sure you are displaying the proper size of images. Together with point # 1, you can become the ace of images by making sure that you are displaying an image at 300 pixels wide by 400 pixels tall, that your image is 300 pixels X 400 pixels. If you’re loading an image that is 600 X 800 and then displaying it at 300 X 400, you can get a 50% reduction by resizing that image. This is pretty easy to do. I sometimes do this in Windows using the Paint program and it can be done in seconds, not minutes.
  • Deliver your files with compression. Windows users will be familiar with zipped files. That is pretty much the same concept here. Telling your web server to deliver files using gzip usually improves your page speed a bit.

Why do you want to have a fast site? There are two main reasons. First comes the user experience. If people visiting your site are met with spinning icons as your page slowly loads, they’ll likely feel like they’re spinning their wheels and go elsewhere.  Second is search engines. Having a fast-loading web page is one of the “search signals”. A search signal is a factor that Google or other search engine uses to determine how to rank a page for different key words.  While it is but one of many signals, since it also fits with a better user experience, we HIGHLY recommend optimizing your site for speed using one of the tools in the previous article

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What is a Near Me Search and Why Should I Care?

You have all seen it. It is an integral part of search these days. You are out and about. You decide to look for a good place for lunch. Searching for “restaurants” works but if you want to be clear with your search, you can say “restaurants near me” and up comes the list. This is “near me” search and you need this for your listing.

While this makes a lot of sense for local sensitive places like restaurants, coffee shops or (my favorite) brew pubs, it is important for businesses all across the spectrum.

A mantra we often hear in business is “Shop Local” because by supporting local businesses we support local jobs. I know several people who will not go for coffee at Starbucks and will not have lunch at whatever the convenient big chain is. Instead they go out of their way to find the local coffee shop and independently owned restaurant to do business at.

In the same way people go out of their way to select the independent hair stylist, the local plumber, the local cpa and yes a local (or at least domestic) web design firm.

Still not convinced it matters to you? Let’s dig in a bit deeper. From 2014 to 2015 the traffic from “near me” searches doubled. At the same time, Google’s organic listings are LESS likely to have the magic 10 on the first page or results, opting instead for, on average, 8.5 listings. So being ranked 9 or 10 in the “organic” listings can bump you from the first page but being near where someone searches for you can pull your site or business up.

How do you optimize your local business listing for near me searches? Here is a high level overview of what you need to do:

  • Claim your business if you haven’t already: www.google.com/business for Google or www.bingplaces.com for Bing (we recommend avoiding the Yext and YP type services that will do this for you – you’ll pay a lot for an ongoing service that usually just needs done once)
  • Make sure your address is IDENTICAL everywhere – on Google and Bing, on your web site, on any other sites or groups that might list you. This leaves no room for ambiguity as to whether it is the same business or same address. No ambiguity is a very good thing when it comes to search.
  • Complete the business profile as much as you can. Put in your hours. Put in all of the information that is asked for, including photos. Make the images be real photos of you and your office and your team.
  • Encourage happy customers to give reviews for you. If you Google your business, you should see it on the right. From there your customer can click on Write a Review and tell the world how happy they are with you.
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Page Speed: How Fast is Your Site?

Does your site load on people’s computers quickly? If it doesn’t, does it matter?

The answers to those two questions are “It better be fast” and “It absolutely matters”.   There are two main reasons:

  1. User Interface. If users are waiting and watching the spinning circle or other indicators that the page is loading but it hasn’t finished, they leave.
  2. Google rewards fast web sites with better, higher rankings. Not just Google of course but since Google accounts for 75% of searches, we’ll just say “Google”.

So what can you do to tell if your site is fast? We have two answers for that as well:

  1. Google actually tells you how fast your site is and gives tips on how to make it faster. Visit https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ and enter your domain and see what Google says about your site.  It is a good idea to visit on a regular basis – monthly or quarterly to make sure that nothing has changed either on your site or how Google views your site.
  2. There is another great, free tool https://gtmetrix.com/ that lets you see the speed and uses several other tools to help you understand what is happening on your web page. One of the biggest issues we see with this tool is that images aren’t optimized well. The cool part of it is the tool provides you with the optimized version of the image in question. No more trying to guess what it means.

So take some time to check out your website today. Use both of the tools above to check not just the homepage but also other key pages on your site. Just because you get the home page to load quickly doesn’t automatically mean other pages will.

Just as I wrote this article I found that one of the plugins we were using had “gone rogue” and was lowering our score for page speed. That plugin is gone and we’re back to fast loading pages.

The tools will help you measure the speed and once the tools say your pages are loading fast, you can go back and work through your site from a customer perspective and verify that they are indeed going smoothly and quickly.

And of course, if you would like assistance in speeding up your page or pages, call us at 303-268-2245 ext 4 and we’ll get the ball rolling.

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Responsive Web Design: An Evolving Trend

Actually Responsive Web Design is not a trend of any kind – evolving or otherwise. It is a standard practice for web sites today.

The challenge the designers face is making their site look good on every device imaginable, from a 42 inch monitor to an iPad to a mobile phone like a Samsung 7 or the latest iPhone. That is a tall order.

There are several key things designers use, chief of which is the ViewPort meta tag to define what how the page should respond to different devices. But this article is not about the arcane things developers and designers do.

What do you – a business owner or manager need to know?

  • You shouldn’t have to ask for responsive design. It has been a few years since some of the basic rules were laid down. But still verify that a new or existing site is or will be responsive. And take Ronald Reagan’s advice – Trust but Verify. Use family and friend’s (or coworker’s) devices to view your site to make sure it looks right.
  • Responsive doesn’t just happen, it can be planned. For example, a restaurant web site may display its succulent fare on the front page and even have the menu right on the front page. But the mobile display should make location and phone number prominent. If you’re out and about and looking for a restaurant, you either want to know where it is or call to make reservations.
  • What happens to the menu? Believe it or not it is called a hamburger menu – it looks sort of like a bun on top of a burger on top of a bun. While it is fairly ubiquitous, tests show that instead of those three little lines, putting the word MENU in the same place in the same size gets far more clicks. I know what a navigation menu is. I might not know, or notice, those three little lines. Try it with your site and see what happens. The key is to be user-friendly.
  • Many sites (and business owners) are taking a mobile-first attitude. This turns on its head the idea of building a full desktop viewable site and then determining how it should look on mobile. First you design the site so it will rock the mobile look and then scale it up from there to determine how it will look on tablets and desktops.
  • A basic tenet of web design that has become even more important with the growth of responsive web design is to have a clean design that focuses the user on key actions. Remove all distractions from what the goal of your site is. If I have to stop to think about whether to click a link going to a vendor’s site or click the buy now button, you’ve probably lost a sale. So remove links or information that distract your visitors from moving deeper into the site or from doing business with you.

If you need assistance with your site – or know of someone who needs assistance – would you take the time to introduce us? We will make you look good by helping someone in need.

 

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Responsive Design is Now a Requirement

The way we interact with web sites continues to change at a startling pace. And the way web sites interact with us does too.

One big change coming very rapidly is mobile friendliness. Until now it has been a nicety. Some folks have chosen to implement it and others have chosen not to – feeling their sites are best viewed on desktop computers.

Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

Responsive design is the key term here. That means making your website look nice on a variety of devices. Notice how the look gets smaller and then on a phone instead of getting smaller, it actually changes.  That is what some organizations have said “Thanks, but no thanks” to.

Google is changing that. And they have even announced the day. Beginning April 21 of THIS YEAR they will begin to penalize sites that are not responsive or mobile-friendly. Yes, you read that right. If your site is not mobile-friendly, it will not rank as well as sites that are.

We have a new hosting client with over 6000 products shown on their web site. Google says none of the pages are mobile friendly. Now they will have to invest in a way to get all these products to be mobile friendly so they can continue to get the same great search results they have been getting.

If you have a site built partly or completely in Flash, forget about it. It is time to start work on your new site that will be search and mobile friendly.

If you are not sure if your site is mobile friendly or not, visit https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/ and enter a link to your site. Google will not only tell you if you pass or fail, but give you tips on how to fix or improve your site to make it more mobile friendly.

And then, if you need help, be sure to call EduCyber at 303 268-2245 ext 4!

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Mobile Goes Wild

As we monitor our customer’s sites we are seeing, understandably, a huge increase in traffic from mobile devices. What does that mean for your web site? What does that mean from a design perspective?

First it is important to understand that tablets (iPad, Kindle, Surface, and a variety of Android tablets) are considered mobile devices. So when we’re talking mobile devices, we’re talking everything from a BlackBerry (probably having the smallest screen) to the iPad and larger tablets.

It can be a nightmare trying to make things work across all these platforms. “it can’t be that bad.” You might be thinking. But you’re wrong. One of our sites has had over 350 mobile devices visit their site. 350.

Once upon a time we designed and tested our sites in three to five browsers and at least two different platforms (like Windows and Apple). Now the rules have changed.

If you are changing or updating your site, you’ll want to ask your web firm if your site will be mobile-friendly. But that phrase “mobile-friendly” can mean a lot of different things.

Here is what you should be aware of when planning for mobile:

  1. Often it is fine if your site simply appears small and can be pinched or unpinched to zoom in and out
  2. Navigation is different. If you have drop down menus on your site, test them on mobile. Often dropdowns work with a hover or mouseover. There isn’t a hover or mouseover on mobile.
  3. If you need a look substantially different from the desktop view for mobile devices, be prepared to spend more as you’ll essentially be designing two versions of your web site
  4. Make sure your web firm is using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) that detect browser version and can serve up the mobile changes for a mobile device
  5. Be prepared for additional changes in the way people interact with their mobile devices (and therefore your mobile-friendly website) over the next 18 months. The only constant in web site development is change.
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