How to Optimise Websites for Performance
In large B2B and public sector organisations, many managers face similar problems when running their websites.
They have a high level view about what a high performance website should be like. But the intricacies of SEO techniques are not for them. Give them detailed explanations plain English that will support their decision making. Then enjoy having a hand in building and maintaining a high performing website for your customer.
What is a high performing website?
Websites that perform well:
• Meet the needs of the people using them
• Achieve the business goals for which they were created.
The trick is to make sure that the website is optimised to meet both needs. Every page should provide a core message that people can find and understand.
SEO Checklist – the Basics
Below are some SEO basics to work on when domain and page authority need improving to meet your company’s standards.
Web Optimisation is For Your Users
First and foremost, focus on what people need rather than what the organisation needs. At the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, the website’s primary users are its patients, next of kin, family, close friends and medical professionals. These users seek information about: symptoms, conditions, treatments, care, clinics, locations, facilities and consultants. The website is being optimised by putting them first and focusing relentlessly on helping them to achieve their needs.
Website Performance Measures
When a CEO asks about website performance, what is the most useful information to give them? Forage through the masses of statistics on Google Analytics and come up with nuggets that tell managers what targets have been met. Check the all-important tracking code, set up goals on the pages where your primary users complete tasks and you’re good to go. Avinash Kaushik provides expert help directly through the Google Analytics help pages.
Keyword Research for Search Engine Optimisation
SEO revolves around keywords so do your research. Some keyword research sources are:
• Documents and files already published that focus on your key services
• Your customer service team (at the Royal Liverpool Hospitals this is the Patient and Liaison Service Team) for questions frequently asked
• Internal search engine statistics
• Google Webmaster Tools
• Google Analytics
• Introduce your manager to http://suite.searchmetrics.com and show them comparisons between the links and keywords competitors are using.
Writing Optimised Web Content
An optimised web page contains a title tag, meta description, navigation links, tagged <H1> <H2> <H3> and images, headings, subheadings, hyperlinks within text and compelling copy.
The title tag position is real estate on a web page and the first word is given the most importance. Use 6 to 15 words, or up to 70 characters including spaces, and make it unique.
Meta Description Tag
Although not rated by search engines, this helps people find what’s relevant to them. Write a meta description of 150 (250 maximum) characters of informative copy, unique to that page. Including a benefit encourages click through.
Label images with descriptive alt text that makes it relevant for people using screenreader software. This will meet W3C accessibility standards too. For example: new-royal-phase1-floorplan. Not: DMC31002.
PDF and document files
Use primary keywords for PDF and DOC file titles. For example: medical-education-newsletter.pdf
URL and File Structure
Write unique URLs with primary keywords. For example: www.rlbuht.nhs.uk/vascular-surgery
Write one core message per page and cut anything superfluous.
Focus on the primary audience and the calls to action for each page.
Write the primary and secondary keywords in the first sentence of the first paragraph, two or three more times throughout the page and in the last sentence.
Page length should be between 200 and 400 words.
A good test: can your gran understand it?
Links hold everything together and are essential for rankings.
Write hyperlinks like this: More information on pain medicine
Not: Click here for more information on pain medicine.
Links within text are rated more highly than lists of links.
Are all links correct? Check broken ones using the W3C link checker tool.
Redirect – 301s – permanently moved pages to avoid ‘page not found’ (404) errors.
Page Loading Times
Pages should load in 2-3 seconds. Test using Pingdom to investigate slow loading times.
Use a W3C validator to check quality and highlight errors.
More Site Optimisation Checks – Beyond SEO
Site structure and the technical development of a website affects search engine ratings. Fix the above SEO basics then try some off-site optimisation for best results.
For more information, connect with me on twitter @sue_lister, on LinkedIn and Google+.