Part 2 in key concepts in selecting the right digital marketing partner
By Meredith Dunn
Meredith is a BECK Digital enthusiast with a weak spot for business planning, full cycle digital marketing and killer content.
Is Your Digital Marketing Agency's Technology Hurting Your SEO?
This post is part 2 in the series 8 Questions to Ask Your Digital Agency.
Your website performance is directly tied to your agency’s understanding and implementation of website technology. If you’re not seeing a return on your SEO (search engine optimization) investment, your digital agency may be to blame.
Even when well-designed, the wrong backend technology for a website can have serious impacts on overall site performance and speed, which has a ripple effect on SEO. Slow page loading affects search engine rank and subsequent traffic. Moreover, slow and poorly optimization sites mean inferior user experiences, higher web abandonment rates and fewer conversions (when visitors turn into customers).
Essentially, when your website is speedy, your users are happy, and your conversions increase. When your site isn’t optimized for speed, your company’s reach, revenue and reputation are in jeopardy. Improving page performance is wise for SEO – and, as Walmart discovered, your bottom line.
Why proper technology is important to search rankings
SEO efforts commonly begin with tackling Google search results rankings. When ranking websites, Google prefers webpages that load quickly and cache well (how a server processes a page visit). When a page loads and processes quickly, the search rank is subsequently improved. To that end, Google recently announced they will “give page speed even more consideration” as one of the ranking factors for their search indexing, particularly as it applies to mobile pages and mobile-friendliness. Page speed, especially mobile speed and responsiveness, should be integral to any SEO plan.
Even your content and page structure can affect the speed at which Google processes your site and therefore, how it is ranked. Google prefers pages with clear, relevant content. It goes beyond word count to examine all aspects of the page’s content when determining a good match for a search query. This means page keywords and phrases, images, links, and code, among other elements, are analyzed to determine a site’s proper placement in search results. A site should provide clear navigation, and orderly content and structure so that web spiders (the bots that discover and update webpages) can quickly process the page. If these elements aren’t optimized for your site, your search rank could suffer.
How proper technology impacts users
Page speed is not only important to Google, but to users. Page loading time plays a crucial role in the user experience. Consider this: nearly half of web users expect a site to load in two seconds or less, and they tend to abandon sites that don’t load within three seconds. And high web abandonment can be disastrous for conversion rates.
If a user doesn’t remain on your site, how do you generate conversions? Even a one second delay in page load or response times can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. (Yikes!) Improving page speed is essential to retaining visitors, and more importantly, increasing conversions.
How to tell if your agency understands technology
Many digital marketing agencies claim to have the web technology expertise to successfully improve your search rankings and conversions. You’ll find stunning agency websites chock full of jargon-rich phrases such as, interface design, mobile optimized and information architecture, but how are you to know which development agency is full of hot air, and which has solid technology chops?
Luckily, there are some free, third-party tools to help you evaluate an agency’s website technology and implementation skills. Some of our favorite tools for measuring site speed and structure are Google PageSpeed Insights, SEM Rush and GTMetrix.
- For an incredibly comprehensive analysis, try SEM Rush (You may need a developer or analytics guru to help you understand the nuances and metrics on this site.)
- Google PageSpeed Insights provides a quick web performance analysis for sites on all devices, along with site scoring, reasoning and instructions for improvement.
- visit GTMetrix provides in-depth analysis and scoring for site code, content and server communication, among others.
- WebPageTest.org is useful for analysis of compression techniques, headers, server speed and effective CDN usage.
- Pingdom's website speed tool
Take a moment to analyze your website on these sites (or that of your agency), and you’ll quickly see which agencies are implementing proper technology to improve web speed and performance – and which are not. A low score indicates your site isn’t properly optimized, which could be affecting your search rank, and thus, your conversion rate. If your site is underperforming, perhaps it’s time to have a heart-to-heart with your digital agency (or find a new one), and discuss with a developer what technology solutions are feasible.
So what technology is important?
To get you started, the following elements should be carefully refined and integrated by the developers at your agency to improve page performance:
- Well-crafted website headers
- Proper server security protocols
- Responsive Website Design (Is it designed to be easily read on a mobile device)
- Google's Structured Data
- Optimized images
- Proper use of client & server side caching
- Correct File compression of static resources like images and stylesheets
- Keyword phrases and density
- Content tags and attributes
- Server response times
- Use of a secure certificate
- Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
- Use of a Content Delivery Network (CND), such as Amazon CloudFront or Rackspace CDN
- Proper use of secure certificates
While page speed certainly isn’t the only factor at play, it’s becoming more and more essential for SEO success. Armed with these tools, you can now evaluate an agency’s SEO and technology capabilities before entering or completing a development partnership, saving you valuable time and money. (You’re welcome.) A competent digital agency should leave no stone unturned when optimizing your site for SEO; it’s vital to your long-term, online success and ROI.
Is your digital agency not living up to its claims? Let’s talk!
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