It’s one of the most common questions I get from new clients. What’s the first step in growing my online presence? Should I pay Google for keywords? Or hire someone to do keep my social media updated? Maybe update the design of my website? What about inbound marketing? While all of these ideas have merit, they are all secondary when it comes to internet marketing. The first thing I recommend is a site review.
Before you put money and effort into bringing visitors to your site you should make sure they will find it informative and user-friendly when they arrive. A typical website review provides insights on security, user experience and functionality along with actionable recommendations on how to optimize it.
Some of the main categories to look at are:
- Page Load Time
- Security Issues
- Coding Errors
- Display Issues
- Search Engine Optimization
Let’s take a deeper look at each area.
Page Load Time
Speed is your best salesperson. It’s a solid fact that every second you can save when loading the site translates into higher conversion rate.There are a lot of reasons your site could be slow loading. Using tools like Google Page Speed tester and GTmetrix helps developers pinpoint and correct them. Tip: Most of the issues I see are due to server settings. They can be fixed by your hosting company if you know what to ask for.
Every website should be protected by an SSL. They come free with any decent hosting plan, and Google will actually penalize your site for not having one. Try visiting your site by typing in http://youwebsite.com in the address bar. Does it automatically send you to https://yoursite.com (or https://www.yoursite.com)? If not you may have a problem with the way the site is set up.
Other security issues I’ve come across include outdated plugins and themes, which can open your site (and any other sites on a shared hosting account) to attacks.
Coding errors can make your website vulnerable to hacking. It slows down site speed and can break the layout and functionality of your site. The w3c validator is my go to tool for resolving code errors.
Google penalizes websites that aren’t responsive – meaning they don’t display nicely on browsers, tablets, and phones. You should also be aware of your audience. Small text, links positioned too close together to be easily clicked on small screens; these are all issues that will negatively impact user experience.
Possibly the most important step you can take before putting money into your online marketing is optimizing your website for search engines. This includes focusing on headings, navigation and content optimization. Consider that each step you take in optimization is worth much of the budget you would consider spending on Google or other online marketing. The long term benefits of SEO grow exponentially over time.