What Is Website Optimization? [Balancing UX and Performance]
Improve website performance with this easy-to-understand introduction to website optimization. Learn key tips, ideas, and tactics that will get results.
July 7, 2023
Do you want your company’s website to outperform competitors? Would you like to rank higher for relevant search terms so more customers will find your brand?
I’d wager the answer is yes.
Businesses invest thousands of dollars in their websites and SEO efforts. But most of them overlook a critical piece of the puzzle that keeps their site running at a high level. Because of this, many business websites are not as profitable as they could be.
Website optimization is a process used to turn your site into an asset that drives revenue. It’s also pivotal in positioning your website as a valuable customer service tool.
But fixing a few technical errors and hoping for the best isn’t enough. Website optimization is a strategic process that involves analyzing your audience, competitors, and website performance metrics. Then, you can use the analysis insights and other data to improve your site’s performance.
Your business invests a lot of time and money to get potential customers to your website. Optimization will help you design the best user experience possible. A positive user experience increases the chances that site visitors will stay on the page when they arrive.
So, to turn your site into a brand asset, consider investing in website optimization.
In this post, I’ll cover the basics of optimization, including:
The difference between website optimization, conversion rate optimization, and search engine optimization.
Three types of website users that are critical to your site’s performance.
The most essential website optimization strategies brands use to succeed in the online marketplace.
What Is Website Optimization? How Is It Different From Conversion Rate Optimization and Search Engine Optimization?
In the marketing world, the word optimization applies to a few different processes. They are:
- Website optimization
- Conversion optimization
- Search engine optimization
Before we go any further, I’d like to clarify the meanings of each.
The goal of website optimization is to improve a site’s performance on search engines. Developers and technicians use website optimization tools and techniques to execute the process.
Website optimization includes elements of conversion optimization and SEO. An optimization consultant can fix technical issues (i.e., page loading times and missing metadata), but can also help your site perform better on search engines and reach a wider audience online.
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) focuses on modifying a website’s design and content to increase the chances that visitors will take a desired action once they land on a page. The idea is to “convert” site visitors into a lead or paying customer. Signing up for a free trial or subscribing to an email list are examples of conversion actions.
CRO includes technical analysis and techniques such as multivariate testing. Successful conversion optimization also involves a lot of trial and error. On-page tactics, such as placing images or calls-to-action in high-visibility locations, are examples. Sometimes you must test web page locations several times before discovering the optimal layout.
CRO is a key strategy used to increase a website’s ROI. However, CRO isn’t just used for websites. These techniques can also improve paid ads, social media, and other marketing campaigns too.
Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to improving a website’s code (i.e., tags and meta descriptions), content, and structure to ensure better performance. These changes are based on search engine ranking factors. SEO helps a site gain online visibility and rank higher in search results (SERPs). A website with an SEO strategy will generate more organic traffic.
SEO is also used to fix technical issues that inhibit a website’s performance. Broken links, code errors, and large website image file sizes are examples.
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Why Is Website Optimization Important?
By now, you know how web optimization can benefit your site’s performance. But let’s dig a little deeper.
Did you know the top three websites in a search result (SERP) get over 54 percent of all the traffic for that search term?
And if you aren’t on page one of any search engine results, you probably won’t get any website visitors.
In today’s digital age, brands must have a strong online presence if they want to make an impact. If your website isn’t generating positive ROI, then it’s little more than a digital brochure.
Of course, creating a high-performing website begins at development. The optimization process becomes a necessity after you launch the site—and beyond.
Website optimization can also help reduce marketing, advertising, and customer service costs.
Better site performance makes it easier for the website to rank higher on search engines. That means you’ll spend less time and money on SEO tactics and content marketing.
Can you imagine spending thousands of dollars on paid search ads, only to lose potential buyers because your site is slow? Potential customers that come to a site from paid ads are more likely to stay if the site loads quickly. A slow website will lose visitors at a rate of approximately 4 percent per second. There’s a direct link between average time on the page and conversion rates.
There are other key benefits of website optimization efforts too.
High-performing sites rank in top search results and attract more organic search traffic. Buyers generated from free traffic sources reduce the average cost of customer acquisition.
Optimization can protect a site from massive traffic drops. Traffic levels often drop with search engine algorithm updates. Given that algorithms change constantly, it doesn’t take long for a website to fall behind.
Sites with high search rankings command more online brand and website authority.
It’s also important for your website to display properly on all device types, including desktops and mobile devices (tablets and mobile phones). Part of the website optimization process involves adjusting the layout so they site looks great on every screen size.
Optimize Your Website for 3 Types of Website Users
Most brands only think of how their website functions for human users in the target audience. But there are actually three types of website users:
- Target customers (humans)
- Web browsers (i.e., Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge)
- Search engines (i.e., Google, Bing, Yahoo)
We recommend designing and optimizing websites for each user type listed above.
People should like the way your site looks and be able to navigate it without issues. But your website should also meet the technical requirements of machines.
Humans only care about the features that help them use the website, such as the layout, fonts, and content. All these elements contribute to the user experience. The easier a site is to use, and the more enjoyable it is, the more likely people are to take an interest in what you offer.
But browsers such as Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge want websites to be responsive. This means the site automatically adjusts its layout based on the user’s device type and screen size. Developers make these adjustments, or the site will suffer from display errors. These display errors can even vary from one browser to another.
It’s also critical to make sure search engines can interpret your site’s content. Proper meta tags, relevant keywords, and content for SEO performance are essential. Be sure your site is free of technical errors to avoid search engine penalties.
The more optimized your site is for the three types of users listed above, the better it will perform in organic search results.
An Overview of the Website Optimization Process
In this section, I’ll share some of the most effective website optimization tips.
Note: the optimization process can be complex. I would have to write a book to discuss every possible technique. So, to keep it simple, I’ll only address the most common optimization areas in this post.
1. Website Conversion Funnel
Many companies see optimization as a technical process used to improve search results—much of it is. But, the ultimate goal of website optimization is to generate interest in the brand. So, any optimization objectives you set should support you website’s goals. Building online authority and increasing conversions are examples of goals.
Marketers can use a conversion funnel model to improve a website’s ability to generate engagement and sales. This model also helps you determine if the site still aligns with its original conversion strategy.
A conversion funnel illustrates the path taken by a visitor as they interact with a website. The funnel model helps marketing teams figure out how to improve conversion rates.
A website funnel consists of stages of the buyer's journey. The first funnel stage is awareness (top of the funnel). In this stage, the website must grab the user’s attention, draw them in, and introduce the brand’s product or service.
In the awareness stage, the goal is to get website visitors to take an action. When they do, they move to the engagement stage (middle of the funnel). Downloading a PDF or subscribing to an email list are examples of conversion goals in the awareness stage. The more people engage with a brand, the more likely they are to buy something.
An even smaller group of prospects in the engagement stage will buy the brand’s product or service. At this point, they move into the conversion stage (bottom of the funnel). These customers are now using the product or service. It’s critical for companies to deliver on their promises and develop strong customer relationships in this stage. Doing so is the best way to increase customer loyalty and retention over time.
To optimize a website funnel, you must plan the customer journey across all digital touchpoints. Buyer personas make this process much easier. Personas enable you to envision your customer—physically and emotionally. As a result, you can create relevant content designed to reach each customer segment.
A website optimization tool like Google Analytics shows you which landing pages and posts receive more traffic and engagement. Then, you can use this website data to improve site structure, landing page content, and develop targeted keywords.
2. Keyword Opportunities
Website optimization also helps you find new keyword opportunities. When customers search for a brand, they use certain words or phrases to find what they’re looking for. By discovering the terms the target audience uses, you can include them in your site’s content and metadata. This is a one way to get your website ranked for relevant search terms.
Customer insights help companies find basic keyword opportunities with adequate search volume and use them for on-page optimization. This data consists of search terms and phrases linked to customer interests and desires. The brand can also use these terms to improve the website’s on-page content quality. This can be a powerful way to increase reach and visibility.
Advanced site audit tools like Ahrefs and SEMRush can help companies find new keywords. Google Keyword Planner is a free tool. You can also use it to discover the most popular terms related to your brand’s offers.
Once a marketing team has identified relevant keywords, they can use them in several ways to target potential customers. Don’t be afraid to get creative with target keywords. Consider potential broad keywords, “long-tail” phrases, or other unique queries consumers might use. Analyzing competitor sites can also help you discover which terms they target, which may provide you with new keyword opportunities.
3. Content Analysis
In this step, the brand should check all its website content to assess whether any changes are in order. Your customers and search engines want high-quality content. This type of content is in-depth, educational, and authentic. Producing content also gives you an opportunity to show off your expertise.
First, you must decide if it would be beneficial to update or remove any existing content. Tools like Google Analytics provide website insights that reveal which landing pages attract the most organic traffic. It also shows you how much time people spend on each, and which pieces of content are the most popular. As a result, brands can update content to boost traffic. They may also choose to cut pages that are no longer part of the company’s content strategy or pages that aren’t getting traffic at all.
During a content analysis, it’s also important to check references and external links. Make sure all links are still current and relevant. Sources often become outdated over time, or better references may become available.
The goal of content optimization is to check its quality. This means the website’s content should be well written and contain relevant keywords to help on-page SEO. Content analysis tools can help your team check for quality. Examples of these tools are Frase, Surfer SEO, and NeuronWriter.
With these tools, a brand can produce professional SEO content and improve blog posts and pages that already rank so they perform even better. Other writing tools, such as ProWritingAid and Grammarly, help you with content clarity and readability.
4. Assess the User Experience (UX)
I’ve mentioned the user experience (UX) several times in this post. UX refers to the site’s design and how visitors interact with your website. Here are some crucial factors that contribute to a site’s UX:
- Load speed
- Layout for the mobile experience
- Visual appeal
- Content design
- Page navigation
To improve the user experience, developers should consider anything that they think might happen while a visitor is on a page. The goal is to consider potential issues that could create problems while people use the site. As an example, does the shopping cart work? Are visitors redirected to the proper page after they buy a product?
Customer feedback is one of the best ways to get ideas that will help you improve the user experience. Find out what they think when they go on your website and use what you learn to hone the site.
You must understand the customer’s needs and wants before you can audit a website’s user experience. Customer insights allow you to map out user intent (see website conversion funnel, above). User intent refers to why people are looking for something. Once you know what they want and why, you can develop effective messaging that increases conversions.
Website accessibility should be another area to cover during optimization. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has published guidelines for web users with disabilities. Brands should be familiar with these standards and make sure their sites are compliant.
Interpreting accessibility is complex. So, we recommend talking with your company’s attorney about meeting ADA guidelines.
Website session recordings can also help companies map user behavior flow. Heatmaps are an effective tool that can give you a 360-degree view of how web visitors engage with your website. Plerdy is a conversion rate optimization tool you can use to set up a heatmap on your website.
A heatmap is a visualization tool used to track visitor interactions on a webpage. Heatmaps record where users click, how they scroll over a page, and the time spent on each page. Your marketing team can use this data to increase conversions.
5. Technical SEO Optimization
When most people think of website optimization, technical SEO issues come to mind. Given the scope of technical SEO, I’m only providing examples of the most common potential issues here. Your web development team should be able to assist you with these.
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The complexity and size of website code play an important role in performance. A website with clean, efficient code is much easier for search bots to crawl and index. Bloated or poorly written code can cause slow website speed and lower rankings in SERPs.
Here are ways to optimize code:
- Reduce large image files
- Remove unnecessary scripts
- Minify HTML and CSS files
- Defer other scripts, if possible
You should also be sure that content is compressed for faster download times. Caching certain code snippets will also help reduce loading time.
Search engines use metadata to figure out what your website and page content is about. Metadata is key to improving your website’s rankings in search engine results. Here are some examples:
- Tags (i.e., h1, h2)
- Alt image text
- Body text (i.e., keyword density)
Proper metadata should contain keywords that apply to a page or post. This can be especially beneficial for e-commerce site and brands that sell their products on platforms like Google Shopping or Amazon. There are several SEO tools available to help improve metadata, such as SEMRush and SEObility.
Slow Page Speed
Slow websites are frustrating. In fact, Google announced several years ago that a website’s load speed is a primary ranking factor. Though Google has changed their view, site speed can still make an impact on your website’s performance.
Load speed optimization is a technical process. Fortunately, online SEO tools are available to help developers identify website speed issues. Pingdom Website Speed Test and Google’s PageSpeed Insights are examples.
These optimization tools check a website’s performance and make recommendations, such as:
- Image compression to reduce file size
- Browser caching to store static files
- Content optimization suggestions
Consider using a content delivery network (CDNs) like Cloudflare to load files from several locations. This improves page load speed and website security.
Sometimes, links used for external websites or other pages break. This happens when the URL address changes, a file is missing, or even when a domain expires. Internal links can also break when a website’s content structure changes.
To fix broken links, locate the link using a web analysis tool, such as Google Search Console or Ahrefs. Once you have identified the issue, you can decide to update the URL or delete it if it’s no longer needed. Test all recently created links to make sure they’re working.
Website caching stores site data on a local server. This reduces load speed when users access the same page multiple times. Caching can decrease bandwidth usage and improve response times.
To set up website caching, you can use a website plugin or module on your site’s content management system. You should also fine-tune configuration settings to optimize caching. Expirations and type of content to cache are examples. It’s also essential to set up a process for clearing your cache and flushing older cached files.
Learn about the website optimization strategies that can help you attain higher rankings on Google and tips to maximize your website's visibility.
How Often Should You Optimize Your Site?
We recommend optimizing websites at least quarterly, though once per month is ideal.
Improve Your Website's Performance on Search Engines and Increase Conversions
The problem with website errors is that they can be difficult to identify and fix, but they could cost you money. So, how can you eliminate errors, increase conversions, and cut costs?
The answer lies in website optimization services. The Brand Auditors specializes in identifying and fixing website errors that are costing you money. We can help you be sure your website is running at peak performance, maximizing conversions and revenue.
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