Your website is up and running. It looks great. You already have plenty of content posted, and you plan to post more as the weeks and months go by. You have a contact form to gather leads. Your phone number is prominently displayed. Your social media accounts are connected. You’ve installed Google Analytics. You’ve even put some thought into targeting appropriate keywords.
It’s time to start attracting some eyeballs, right?
Not so fast.
Before you hit the ground running with your new (or old) website, it’s important to make sure your website is actually optimized for visitors and search engines. Otherwise, you might be trying to market a Ferrari without knowing you have a Pinto’s engine furiously idling under the shiny hood.
Here are 3 ways to check the effectiveness of your website with free online tools.
These free tools will score your website across many different metrics, which we will discuss below. The scores they spit back are easy to understand. If you don’t understand all the technical jargon for why your website may be scoring low, not to worry. We’ll guide you through the basics.
1. Test Your Website Speed (Google’s PageSpeed Insights) – Local Business Websites Should Be Really Fast
This is one of the most common problems local business websites have: they’re slow. According to a 2019 study by Portent, a website’s conversion rate drops by an average of 2.11% for every additional second of load time between 0-9 seconds.
The bottom line: in order for your website to be effective, it can’t be slow.
PageSpeed Insights is a valuable tool to measure and diagnose your website’s speed for the average visitor. It gives data for the current speed of both desktop and mobile versions of your website, and highlights areas where it can be improved.
What do you do with all that data, though?
Common problems (with fixes) for your website’s speed.
Unless they’ve hired a really, really good local business website design company, most small businesses will have some problems with their website’s speed. Let’s discuss some of these problems and some easy-to-implement solutions to them.
These files can be some of the largest on your website. Most times, websites are set up to load these first – even if they aren’t required to display the first thing you want your visitors to see. That’s a problem.
Luckily, there’s a pretty easy fix.
Caching plugins can do most of the heavy lifting to alleviate this issue. We use WP-Rocket on all of our websites, though you may want to consider the free version of WP Fastest Cache if you and your website designer are comfortable sacrificing some more in-depth configurations to save money. Whatever caching plugin you use, it needs to do these three things first and foremost:
Enabling a caching plugin and configuring these three options will likely speed your website up massively.
2. Enable Lazy-Loading
A good caching plugin will allow you to enable this option as well. Lazy-loading allows your website to only load images as they come into the view-port of your visitor’s browsing device. Without this, your website has to load every image as soon as your website is pulled up, increasing your “First contentful paint” and “Time to interactive” metrics – and that’s bad, especially for mobile devices.
3. Properly Size Images
Most website designers will use full-size pictures and serve them in specific sizes using CSS properties. This makes the image look crisp and clear whether it is the original size or scaled down to a smaller size. The problem? Your visitors’ browsers still have to load the full-size image every time.
Let’s take a look at an example.
Take a look at the container size underscored in red at the top. That’s the size your image is being served at. Now, take a look at the file size underscored in red below that. That’s the file size your server actually has to load. If you re-sized this image size to the largest container parameter, you would decrease the image size by more than 20%. That’s 20% fewer resources for your website to load.
You can check images on your own website by right-clicking them and choosing “Inspect Element.” This will show you the container size. If it’s smaller than the size of the actual image, you have a problem.
Website speed is important – now more than ever. Treat it as such.
Test your website. How quickly does it load? If you’re not happy with its current performance, how many leads might you be missing out on from frustrated visitors? The number may be higher than you think.
The bottom line: your website must be fast.
Before you send traffic to your website, make sure visitors don’t have to take too much time just to see it.
2. Test Your Website’s Mobile Usability & Indexing Status (Google’s Mobile Checker + Search Console)
This one is pretty easy. Is your website mobile-friendly? Generally, it either is or it isn’t, and Google will tell you which category you fall into. However, there are still some problems that might arise, and Google’s mobile checker doesn’t always make them apparent. That’s why you need Google’s Search Console.
Consider your mobile appearance first.
Did you know that in 2020, 61% of US visits to websites were made using a mobile device? The website game has changed; mobile is king. The problem? Most websites have been built for desktop visitors.
Start treating the mobile appearance of your website as the default one that people will see.
Here are five ways to consider the mobile usability of your website.
1. Avoid visual clutter.
Test your website on different screen resolutions, paying close attention to your visitors’ first impressions. You may need to reconfigure certain elements to better fit the mobile viewport, or even disable them from showing up on mobile devices all together.
2. Properly size text.
A common issue with mobile usability is the “text too small to read” error. Font sizes should be no less than 11pt for IOS devices and 14sp for Android.
3. Pay attention to clickable elements.
“Clickable elements too close together” is another common mobile issue. Ensure that each clickable element has a minimum of 10px space between them.
4. Avoid intense visual effects.
A fancy slide transition on a desktop screen may be jarring on a mobile viewport. You may decide to serve a static image to mobile visitors instead.
5. Don’t make people scroll.
You want your logo, phone number, address, and primary menu to be the very first thing viewers see.
Check your indexing status and other metrics with Search Console.
Google’s Search Console can give you a bevy of information about your website, the most important of which is your indexing status.
If a page on your website appears in Google’s search results, it’s indexed; if it doesn’t, it’s not. The “Pages” tab under “Index” will tell you which pages on your website are indexed and which are not, as well as some reasons for why that may be.
If you’re finding that many of your pages aren’t indexed in Google, it’s probably because you don’t have a sitemap submitted. Clicking one tab below, you’ll be able to submit a sitemap directly to Google. This will allow the search engine to better recognize new and old pages.
The bottom line: your indexing status is critical to your website’s visibility on search engines.
Mobile usability and indexing are critical to your website’s success.
How well does your website stack up? Use the above tools to find out. If you’re seeing errors, it’s critical they get addressed. Without great mobile usability and the ability for search engines like Google to show your website for common searches, the marketability of your website is severely diminished.
3. Validate Your Website’s SCHEMA Markup (schema.org) – It Defines Your Local Business’s Online Entity
Wait… you’re using SCHEMA markup, right? Test using the above link if you don’t know.
What even is SCHEMA markup? Let’s consider the definition that comes straight from the source:
“Most webmasters are familiar with HTML tags on their pages. Usually, HTML tags tell the browser how to display the information included in the tag. For example, <h1>Avatar</h1> tells the browser to display the text string “Avatar” in a heading 1 format. However, the HTML tag doesn’t give any information about what that text string means—“Avatar” could refer to the hugely successful 3D movie, or it could refer to a type of profile picture—and this can make it more difficult for search engines to intelligently display relevant content to a user.”
Still don’t fully understand? That’s okay. Here are some major takeaways:
- Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Yandex have been collaborating to create SCHEMA since 2011.
- SCHEMA helps search engines determine the context of a query.
- SCHEMA creates enhanced descriptions (rich snippets) which can appear in search results.
- SCHEMA markup can help better define your business details to Google.
Using SCHEMA markup in your local business website.
Most local businesses will gain the biggest benefit from using SCHEMA markup as a way to better define their business details online – their name, address, phone number, website, logo, and other social media profiles. All of these things make up your online entity. Using SCHEMA markup on your website allows you to tell Google explicitly what composes that online entity.
To be clear, SCHEMA isn’t something you’ll see on your website.
It is a script that’s only viewable by search engines.
Furthermore, there are many, many, many variations of SCHEMA markup.
However, if you’re a business that services local customers, here is a very good catch-all SCHEMA to use:
“name”: “Your Business Name”,
“caption”:”Your Business Name”},
“streetAddress”: “Your Street Address”,
“addressLocality”: “Your City”,
Obviously, you’ll need to enter your own business, website, logo, and social media account details. That code should go into the header of your website. Your website developer should be able to do that for you.
The bottom line: test your website for SCHEMA markup. If you don’t have it, use the one above.
Every local business website should be tested for these metrics.
While you may not see most of these things on the visual side of your website, search engines and other users notice them. They matter – not just a little, but a great deal. Use the resources above to test how your website currently stacks up. If you need some work on any of these key metrics, make it a priority to get that work done before you do anything else.
The effectiveness of your website and online visibility depends on it.