Make a New Year's Resolution and Update Your Website

New Year New Website
New Year New Website

Welcome to the new year, a time when we set resolutions to better ourselves. Maybe you need to set some resolutions for your website and business.

But how do you know what sort of resolutions to set and why?

Last year I made an intentional effort to grow this site's organic search profile. The results were amazing. They were not overnight, but by the end of the year I had back to back months with over 150,000 unique visitors even with the holidays.

Every month saw more visitors than the last.

Looking back to this time last year I recall excitement on days I had 500 or 1000 visitors. Now I am targeting my first 10000 visitors in a day.

Achieving this success took an intentional effort and discipline. I needed to determine what to fix, how to fix it and what would be 'success'.

When it comes to your website you may be wondering how can you identify key metrics to make your business more successful?

Once you identify these metrics what do you need to change in order to achieve them?

It does not matter if you want more traffic, more sales or more repeat/customer engagement, you need a quality website.

So today I am going to review 5 key areas you need to measure and improve to achieve your goals. Some of you will need to remodel your existing site, others should just create a brand-new website.

Not Mobile First

Google toggled their search index from desktop to mobile in 2018. This move was to keep up with the market. Back in 2013 the majority of web traffic originated on mobile devices. Today Google sees roughly 2/3s or more of their traffic on mobile devices.

This mobile first pattern means your website needs to provide a great experience on mobile devices, this means phones with smaller view ports.

But it is more than just applying some CSS media queries you need to rethink navigation, scrolling and your image strategy. You also want to make sure your website loads fast over 3G connections and average phones.

You can easily check your site's mobile capability right from Chrome using Lighthouse. This performance audit will exercise your site using mobile emulation and provide you a report, complete with scores and recommendations to improve.

The other tool I recommend is WebPageTest. A free online tool it provides a mountain of detailed performance data to help you identify everything wrong with your page's architecture.

Another tool you can run locally is WebHint. It is similar to Lighthouse, but focuses more on technical best practices.

You can use all three tools to create a thorough set of metrics to measure your site's technical and rendering quality.

Not Secure

In the past you may have thought HTTPS was only for banks, e-commerce and rich websites. This is no longer the case as TLS certificates are free thanks to services like Let's Encrypt.

Popular cloud providers like AWS, Microsoft and Google all have free certificates available when used with their CDN services. Most hosting providers and CDN services also provide free certificates for all sites.

This means there is no excuse for you to not use HTTPS by default on your site.

If you aren't sold yet, Google and Bing use HTTPS as a signal for organic search ranking. It is rare for me to see an insecure site in the top search results today.

Of course there is more to using HTTPS than just installing a certificate. You must:

  • Configure 301 redirects to the secure, canonical URL
  • Configure Google Search Console
  • Update internal resource links to HTTPS
  • Avoid external resources as much as possible
  • Verify 3rd party scripts and services are using HTTPS

A PWA upgrade can take a few minutes or a few days depending on how large or complex your site is. I recommend creating a plan for your site.

Beyond a more secure experience you are also unlocking more, modern platform functionality, like service workers, push notifications and service workers. Pretty much anything you want the web to do to be an equal or better platform than native is or will be gated behind HTTPS.

Do not wait any longer to make your site secure. If there is any recommendation in this article you implement, do this one first.

Not Fast

The average web page takes over 22 seconds to render today. This means most web pages are never realized by the consumer. They simply bounce back to the search results or search for a faster loading resource.

[users leave over time image]

This means you have a huge opportunity to wipe out your competition by ensuring your pages render in less than 5 seconds over 3G and average phones.

When you achieve the 5 second rule under those constraints your pages will render very fast over high speed connections and powerful desktops.

Again, I recommend Lighthouse and WebPageTest to test your site under these restrictive constraints.

Key areas to look for:

Performance tuning is an art and most developers do not understand how web pages load and are rendered. Make sure they are not focusing on time to first byte, which most do.

TTFB tells you how long the document takes to retrieve from the server and typically accounts for roughly 5% of the rendering time.

The primary metric you should focus on is time to first interaction. This is when the page fully renders and the user can now scroll the page or type data in a form.

When a page loads the browser uses a single thread. JavaScript, CSS and all other rendering activities are all executed through this thread, in a serial fashion. This means only one can be processed at a time.

JavaScript is your enemy because it is a blocking process. When you run WebPageTest or Lighthouse, look for what we call a 'giant yellow slug'. This is a golden rod color on the CPU chart. It indicates how much time was spent processing JavaScript.

If you see a lot of golden rod, then you need to evaluate your page's architecture.

Using synthetic tools like WebPageTest and Lighthouse to evaluate your page speed allows you to scale your testing across your site and quickly identify common causes for rendering bottlenecks.

Not all performance issues are created equal of course. I like to pick the easiest items to fix, with the best returns. Then I address the next most difficult items, and so on. Use these tools to find those issues to address.

No Organic Search Visibility

Did you know less than 6% of all websites have a Google search result in the top 100 for any keyword?

Chances are good you are not one of those lucky 6%. Or at best you have pages in the top 100 results, but not many. Worse, you have no top 10 results for any keyword you wish to rank.

I was there. I had let my organic search profile deteriorate over several years. I was lucky to get 1000 organic visitors per month a year ago.

Now, I had over 150,000 unique visitors in December 2018, a month with about 10 days dominated by major holidays.

So what did I do?

I got serious about organic search optimization early last year. It did not happen overnight, but grew each week.

2018 Love2Dev Traffic
2018 Love2Dev Traffic

There are many things I changed, especially around my content. I started writing articles and producing content based on what my target audience was seeking answers, not what I thought they wanted or should to read.

I invested in my SEO by subscribing to Ahrefs and creating a system for link building. I use Ahrefs to identify the best keywords to target by determining search volume, intent and what the competition looks like.

I then try to create better content than what is ranking.

I also cleaned up several technical SEO issues on my site, like adding canonical tags to each page.

At the moment I am working on optimizing a sales funnel to better convert the traffic coming to the site. Which means there is more to the equation than just getting traffic, you need to convert it into revenue to drive your business.

Not a Progressive Web App

If you thought I was not going to suggest upgrading to a Progressive Web App you were wrong 😎.

I think every website should be converted to a progressive web application because it increases your opportunity to engage and retain customers. If you comply with all the PWA best practices then you should be able to not only rank better in Google, but create a better website overall.

Look at progressive web applications as a new gold standard for website quality. Sure, you will use HTTPS (remember I recommended that earlier), have a valid web manifest to trigger the add to homescreen experience and a service worker to enable your site to work offline.

But the real magic happens when you really apply best practices to the site. The overall user experience improves, which means people will want to visit your site over the competition.

The web gets this bad rap that it deserves. But it deserves the rap not because it is not a great front-end platform, it’s because so many sites are poorly developed. Take advantage of that fact and make sure you have a superior online experience with a progressive web app.

Summary

Make your business new year's resolution to improve your website. A little effort can go a long way to increase your ability to attract new customers and leads. You can then convert them into customers.

Or maybe you need to improve your business applications. The concepts I shared today also apply to business applications. You can increase productivity and profit by speeding up your site and making it more usable.

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