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In part 3 of our 4-part series on technical SEO audits, we’re going to visit website design.

From a big-picture perspective, Google’s trying to place websites that users like at the top of its search rankings. Google already does that far better than any other search engine out there, and the company’s worth more than $355 billion, so you can bet they’re going to do everything possible to stay on top and not become the next Yahoo.

Websites with attractive designs that load fast get lots of love from searchers, so page load speed and bounce rate have become prominent ranking factors. Google has also endorsed responsive design as a SEO best practice, so it’s very important to optimize your site’s load speed.

Here are some of the more important factors that affect how fast your web pages load:

  1. Compress All Your Pictures

It’s fine to use 1 picture on your web page. That increases your visitor’s engagement and the time they stay on the page. On your services pages, you should use no more than 1-2 pictures. With your blog articles, you can use 2-3, or even more if it makes sense. But, pictures take the longest to load, and especially so if they’re large files. Compressing them means you reduce their quality so they load faster. It’s possible to compress their size 60-75% without noticeably (to the naked eye) reducing their quality.

  1. Combine Images with CSS Sprites

Sorry, we do have to go into the geek speak here! If you have many images on your page you must have loaded, this causes your PC to make multiple trips to the server. That slows page speed a bunch. Sprites combine all the background images on a page into one single image, noticeably decreasing page load speed.

  1. Using Browser Caching for Your Website

In the digital world, “caching” refers to storing a copy of a page for a defined period of time. That page is then served, rather than the most recent version of the page.

So, rather than having to take more time and load the newest version of a page, your user gets a cached version. Most web pages, especially for SMBs, don’t change that often. And, you can set this up so the program managing the caching checks the page for any updates every week or so and serves up the new version.

WordPress has a number of plugins that make this process simple.

  1. Check Your Navigation’s Structure

Web users expect small/local business sites to all follow a general format. You should have a Home, Services, About, Blog, and Contact sections on your website. The “Services” section should highlight all your major services. You might also have a “Locations Served” section as well.

Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Unfortunately, many sites don’t follow this format and try to get creative. That frustrates your visitors and costs you business. This behavior gets reflected in your “bounce rate” in your analytics. This number shows the percentage of visitors who view just one page on your website and leave right away.

The web design stuff, clearly, gets a little more technical. But, you have to pay attention to it so you stay on top of the search rankings. And again, this is all fairly high-level. A technical SEO audit goes into much more depth.

 

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