What Is Website Optimization?

Improve website performance with this easy-to-understand introduction to website optimization. Learn key tips, ideas, and tactics that will get results.

February 26, 2023

what is website optimization


A website requires maintenance for several reasons. For example, web pages may become slow to load or conflicts with applications (i.e., plugins) create technical issues. Other problems come as a result of routine updates to a site’s content and structure.

Website optimization is the process of correcting on- and off-page issues to improve your website. This includes adjustments to design elements, code, content, and function to ensure that it is easy to use, fast, and secure.

In this comprehensive guide, I will cover the basic of website optimization, including:

The difference between website optimization and conversion rate optimization

Three types of website users to consider when optimizing

Website optimization tips

What Is the Difference Between Website Optimization, Conversion Rate Optimization, and Search Engine Optimization?

There is some confusion about the difference between website optimization, conversion optimization, and search engine optimization.

As I wrote in the introduction to this post, the purpose of website optimization is to improve the performance of your site for search. Various tools, techniques, and industry rules of thumb are used to execute the process.

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) focuses on improving a website's design to increase the likelihood that visitors will take specific actions. Making a purchase, free trial signups, or signing up for an email list are examples of conversion actions.

The CRO includes multivariate testing and on-page tactics, such as strategically placing calls-to-action in high visibility locations, A/B testing, and off-page strategies, like targeted ads and link building.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of modifying a website’s content, code (i.e., meta descriptions and tags), and structure based on ranking factors and algorithms. SEO practices help a website gain visibility, generate leads, and drive sales. SEO techniques can help websites perform better in search engine results pages (SERPs), increase organic traffic, and address other critical aspects of website performance.

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Why Is Website Optimization Important?

There are several reasons why website optimization is important. Optimization efforts ultimately drive more visitors to a website from organic search results. It also improves the user experience, which is a primary ranking factor. A positive user experience is essential because it increases the average time users stay on a web page. The more time visitors spend on the site, the more likely they are to take some type of conversion action.

Website optimization can also help reduce marketing, advertising, and customer service costs.

Sites that perform well rank higher and attract more organic search traffic. Buyers from free traffic sources reduce average customer acquisition costs.

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 is a direct link between average time on the page and conversion rates.

It helps the site keep up with core algorithm updates. Given that algorithms are constantly being updated, it doesn't take long for a website to fall behind.

Sites that rank higher build more online brand and website authority.

Optimization prioritizes mobile-first indexing. This is a critical point because search engines stress the importance of developing a website for mobile users first, and other device types second.

Website Optimization for 3 Types of Website Users

Most brands think of their website only in terms of how it functions for human users in the target audience. But there are actually three types of website users:

  1. Target customers (humans)
  2. Web browsers (i.e., Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge)
  3. Search engines (i.e., Google, Bing, Yahoo)

Websites should be designed and optimized based on the requirements of each user listed above. This means that the site should be easy to navigate and understand while also considering the technical requirements of machines.

Onsite visitors (the target audience) only care about the features that help them use the website. For example, a site’s layout, load speed, font sizing, color use, and content organization contribute to the user experience. So, a site’s design should be clear, with a logical layout, easy navigation, and an intuitive page structure. Likewise, the content should be relevant with a layout that makes sections easy to scan. High-quality images should also add visual appeal and aid comprehension.

However, browsers need websites to be responsive, meaning that the site automatically adjusts its layout and design based on the user’s device type and screen size. This ensures that the website displays correctly at all times. File size is also critical, so compressing heavy images and scripts will make it easier for the browser to load the site.

Websites should also be designed using an SEO process. For example, proper meta tags, relevant keywords, and content for SEO performance are essential.

A Quick Overview of the Website Optimization Process

In this section, we will review the primary steps in website optimization. Given the depth and scope of performance factors, I will only address the most common techniques and issues.

1. Website Conversion Funnel

Many brands and web developers think of optimization as a technical process used to improve search results. And much of it is. However, the ultimate goal of web optimization is to generate interest in the brand and its products and services. So, optimization objectives should be based on building online authority and increasing conversions.

To improve a website’s ability to generate brand engagement and sales, marketers should use a conversion funnel model to develop the buyer journey. It is also helpful to use this model while optimizing to make sure the website has not drifted from its original conversion strategy.

A marketing or conversion funnel illustrates the path taken by a visitor as they interact with a website. It also helps marketing teams understand how to change funnel content to improve a site's conversion rates.

A website funnel consists of stages of the buyer journey and is like that of most marketing campaigns, illustrated in the image below.

A website funnel consists of stages of the buyer journey and is like that of most marketing campaigns, illustrated in the image below.

Website Conversion Funnel Example
IMAGE: Website Conversion Funnel Example

The first funnel stage is awareness (top of the funnel). In this initial stage, the website must grab the user’s attention, draw them in, and introduce the brand's product or service.

Website visitors are prompted to take an action in the awareness stage. 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 that generate engagement with the brand. The more people engage with a brand, the more likely they are to purchase its product.

Finally, a percentage 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. Companies should develop customer relationships in this stage to generate additional revenue via trial sign-ups, subscriptions, and repurchases.

Many businesses don't understand how the conversion funnel plays a role in optimization strategies. Yet the primary purpose of improving website performance is to increase conversion rates.

Optimizing a website funnel requires marketers to analyze the customer journey across each stage and touchpoint. Accurate buyer personas make this process much easier. Personas enable companies to understand their target audience's desires, which helps them create relevant content designed to reach each customer segment.

Brand Audit - Customer Persona Example
IMAGE: Customer Persona Example

It is also helpful to use a website optimization tool like Google Analytics to determine which landing pages and posts receive more traffic and engagement. Then, brands can leverage user insights from existing traffic to improve site structure, landing page content, and develop additional targeted keywords.

Here are examples of questions that will help you use a conversion strategy model to develop funnel content:


  • Is the brand’s unique selling proposition clearly implied or stated on the website?
  • What is the first step you want new visitors to take? Is this first-step call-to-action obvious and easy for users to find?
  • What information do you want first-time visitors to know about your brand? Can visitors access this information within one or two clicks?
  • Does the site have customer case studies and other content that builds brand authority?


  • Do you have an introductory offer? If so, is it converting at a satisfactory rate, or is it time for a new one?
  • Does the website have enough educational content for each target audience segment?


  • Is it easy to purchase the brand’s product or service via the website?
  • Is the payment portal easy to use?
  • Can customers use the website to access the right service personnel?

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2. Keyword Opportunities

Website optimization includes a step that involves identifying keyword opportunities. These are potential keyword phrases with adequate search volume that should be included in a site’s content and structure to increase traffic. Target keywords and terms will draw visitors via SERP results, which brings more customers to the brand.

Customer insights can help companies find basic keyword opportunities for on-page optimization. Using this data, brands can identify relevant keyword phrases across search platforms linked to customer interests and needs. This can be a challenging process, but is invaluable for organizations that want to maximize visibility and reach.

Advanced site audit tools like MOZ and SEMRush can help companies find new keywords. Google Keyword Planner is a free tool that you can use to discover the most popular terms related to your brand's product offers and optimize your website for search.

Once a marketing team has identified relevant keywords, they can prioritize them 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 that consumers might use. Analyzing competitor sites can also help you discover which terms they target successfully, which may provide new keyword opportunities as well.

MOZ Keyword research tool
IMAGE: MOZ Keyword Research Tool

3. Content Analysis

In this step, the brand should evaluate all of its website content to assess what modifications should be made, if any. To get started, teams must determine whether it would be beneficial to update or remove any existing content.

Tools like Google Analytics provide a company with website insights. The data shows marketing teams which website or landing pages attract the most organic traffic, 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 or eliminate pages that are no longer part of the company’s content strategy.

During a content analysis, it is also important to make sure references and external links are current and relevant. Sources often become outdated over time, or better references may become available.

The goal of content optimization is to make sure the website has well-written content for search engines. This means that web pages and blog posts should contain relevant keywords and topics to help on-page SEO. Marketing teams can use content analysis tools like Frase, Surfer SEO, Neuron Writer, and SEMRush for optimization. With these tools, the brand can produce quality content and improve already-ranking content so it will perform even better. Other writing tools, such as ProWritingAid and Grammarly, can help you optimize your content clarity and readability.

Surfer SEO Content Optimization Tool
IMAGE: Surfer SEO Content Optimization Tool

4. Assess the User Experience (UX)

The user experience (UX) refers to the overall design of a website and ease-of-use. Here are some crucial factors that contribute to a smoother experience:

  • Load speed
  • Layout for the mobile experience
  • Visual appeal
  • Content design
  • Page navigation

To optimize UX, developers should account for all scenarios that might take place while the visitor is on the site. Look for potential issues that might create problems while people use the site.

User feedback and reviews are valuable resources that can help brands understand user preferences and improve a website’s UX.

Auditing a website's user experience starts with understanding the needs of a customer and mapping out user intent (see website conversion funnel, above).

Identify any usability issues by observing how people interact with the website, specifically looking at navigation and page layout. Quantitative data, such as page loading times and click path analysis, will help companies identify common issues with site use.

Critical website accessibility issues should be another consideration. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has published guidelines for users with disabilities. So brands should be familiar with these standards and make sure their websites are compliant.

website accessibility checker
IMAGE: Website Accessibility Checker

Website session recordings can help companies map user behavior flow. Plerdy is a conversion rate optimization tool used to set up a heatmap on your brand's website.

A website heatmap is a data-driven visualization tool used to track user interactions on a webpage. Heatmaps record where users click, how they scroll a page, and the time spent on each page. This information shows designers how to increase conversions by optimizing content based on user activities.

plerdy heatmap tool
IMAGE: Plerdy heatmap tool

5. Technical Website Optimization

When most people think of website optimization, technical SEO issues come to mind. However, given the scope and depth of technical optimization, I will only provide examples of the most common potential issues and how to resolve them. Your web development team should be able to assist you with these issues.

Website Code

The complexity and size of website code plays an important role in performance. A website with clean, efficient code is much easier for search bots to crawl and index. Sites with bloated or poorly written code can cause slow page load times and lower rankings in SERPs.

To optimize code, reduce large image files, remove unnecessary scripts, minify HTML and CSS files, and 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.

Read this post to learn more about optimizing website code.


Metadata is a crucial factor for improving your website's presence in search engine results and includes:

  • Titles
  • Descriptions
  • Tags (i.e., h1, h2)
  • Alt image text
  • Body text (i.e., keyword density)

Proper metadata should contain keywords that apply to the topic of a page or post. This can be especially beneficial for shops trying to sell their products online through platforms like Google Shopping or Amazon. There are several SEO tools available to help improve metadata. SEMRush and SEObility are examples.

Slow Page Speed

Slow websites are frustrating. In fact, Google announced several years ago that a website's load speed is a crucial ranking factor. So, improving site speed can make an immediate impact in your website's performance.

Though load speed contributes to a site's overall user experience, speed optimization is a technical process. Fortunately, online tools are available to help developers identify issues that affect site speed. Pingdom Website Speed Test and Google's PageSpeed Insights are examples.

These optimization tools will 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
  • Code optimization tips (CSS, JavaScript, HTML)

Consider using a content delivery network (CDNs) like Cloudflare to load files from multiple locations.

Pingdom Website Speed Test
IMAGE: Pingdom Website Speed Test

Broken Links

Sometimes, links used for external websites or other pages break. This happens when the URL changes, a file is missing, or even when a domain expires. Internal links can also break when changes are made to a website's content structure.

To fix broken website 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 is no longer needed. Test all links that have been created recently to make sure they are working properly.


Website caching is storing site data on a local server. This reduces load speed when the same page is accessed multiple times. Caching can decrease bandwidth usage and improve response times, especially when multiple users are accessing the same page or content.

To set up website caching, you will need to install a plugin or module on the content management system being used. You should also fine-tune configuration settings to optimize caching. Cached files expirations and type of content to cache are examples. It is also essential to set up a process for regularly clearing your cache and flushing older cached files.

There are several website optimization tools that can help you identify areas that need caching. Google PageSpeed Insights and GT Metrix are examples of website optimization tools that you can use to audit your site for technical SEO issues.

Website Optimization Strategies to Boost Google Rankings

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?

Website optimization is crucial for brands that want to increase organic traffic levels and conversion rates. We recommend companies optimize their websites at least quarterly, though once per month is ideal.


If you have questions or need help with your website optimization efforts, please email me personally at [email protected].

Until next time,


Chris Fulmer

Chris Fulmer

Brand Strategist | Managing Director

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