7 Silent Website Mistakes That Kill Your Performance & SEO
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These Website Mistakes Are Silent Killers
When designing and launching a website, the mistakes that take away any chance of the website succeeding are often silent, invisible, or both. The mistakes you can see are usually easiest to fix, like broken links, spelling mistakes, or layout issues. It’s the deeper technical and content-related mistakes, often associated with hosting or complex on-page optimization, that can hold a website back from gaining ground in Google search results — and you often don’t even know why it’s happening. Like silent ninjas, they can kill your site and you won’t even know it.
I will show you some of the common issues here and hopefully put light on these silent assassins who want to ruin your Google rankings. It may not be an easy DIY fix, but at least you will learn some of the questions to ask of your webmaster or whoever is charged with maintaining your website.
All Hosts Are Not Created Equally
If you have ever been involved in standing up a website, you may have shopped around for a place to buy your domain (i.e. yourcompany.com). Most times the unknowing, unsuspecting, layperson may also see offers while they are buying a domain to host the domain. For instance, companies like GoDaddy, BlueHost, DreamHost, 1&1, and many others offer cut-rate plans to host your domain, build a website using their website building tools, and bundle it all for an amazing price of less than $10/month.
But wait… there’s more. Sometimes you even get a deal for the first year on the domain and a break in price if you pay in advance for an annual hosting plan.
The intent of this article is not to bash cheap web hosting companies. They all have their respective place and purpose in the internet universe, and their offers to host your website on the cheap are completely above board. As often over-stated… it is what it is.
What they will not tell you — and I’m not implying they are hiding anything — is that a website built on these cheap hosting plans will have a very difficult time ever reaching prominence in Google search results, no matter how hard you try.
That said… let’s dig into the 7 website mistakes so you can get started making some changes (if needed).
Mistake #1: You Have Cheap Hosting
As mentioned earlier, when it comes to hosting, you usually get exactly what you pay for. I don’t want to present the idea that every website needs a premium hosting package. If your website acts as a static billboard and visitors already know how to find you, a minimal web hosting package may be just right. Slower performance is not going to make the difference in most of these cases.
Something you may not know is that the vast majority of commercial hosting infrastructure is built on a shared machine concept. This means your website shares resources of a single computer with other websites. This is an oversimplified explanation, but through virtual machine allocation (VMs), hosting providers may host hundreds of websites on a single computer. Depending on demand, those computers can get bogged down, become latent, and end up not providing what Google considers a minimum standard of performance to maintain a reasonable user experience. Hosting providers balance loads to provide a minimum viable standard, but these standards are often lower relative to pricing.
If you own a business that needs to attract new customers through online marketing, premium hosting is critical because Google rewards performance. There are many hosting companies providing a litany of price points and configurations, from basic website hosting to dedicated enterprise hosting. As with most things related to online technology, the solution that is right for you depends on a number of factors.
In order to make this article manageable, I am going to stay within the context of managed WordPress hosting — that’s what we use at Delegal Digital and that’s what I know. We partner with a managed WordPress host called SiteGround. Their pricing for individual sites is very reasonable and, although we are in a shared hosting plan, the performance metrics are better than most in their competitive space.
SiteGround’s overall performance far exceeds discount hosts like 1&1, GoDaddy, DreamHost, and many others, and they stand tall when compared to high-end providers that offer dedicated hosting. We’ve done the benchmarks and used that data to make our decision to go with SiteGround for our agency and client hosting. They have recently moved the majority of their infrastructure to Google Cloud and performance is better than ever. They offer introductory plans all the way up to dedicated enterprise plans and their pricing is extremely competitive.
There are other premium managed WordPress hosts like LiquidWeb, Flywheel and WPEngine. All of these are very fine companies who will provide great tools and support at varying price points.
The bottom line on hosting is this: pay a little extra to get a lot more. Google places a premium on speed when it comes to search results and will not reward your website for poor performance.
Mistake #2: Host Not Optimized For WordPress
I would be remiss to let this one go. Believe it or not, if you are running a WordPress site — and statistics say you likely are — a host that is optimized for WordPress will make a difference in how your site performs.
Caching is also a primary consideration. Many WordPress-specific hosts optimize and tune their caching so WordPress CMS performs at its peak.
Last, most dedicated WordPress hosting providers hire WordPress experts to support their infrastructure and their customers. Resolving performance issues is often much easier with a dedicated WordPress hosting provider because they know the technology stack.
Mistake #3: Page Speed Deficiency
Page speed, which may certainly be related to host performance, is a key ranking signal when it comes to how Google views and ranks your website in SERPs. Why? Because Google is only interested in serving up content that provides the best user experience. If your website takes 4 or 5 seconds to load a page, data shows that most users — especially those on a mobile device — will be long gone by the time that page loads.
There are many factors that impact page speed on your website, not the least of which is the performance of the host (computer) as I elaborated earlier.
Page speed is measured in the time it takes for a web page to load after a user requests it (clicks on a link for example). Page speed can be impacted by a number of factors and Google will tell you exactly how it views a specific web page through their PageSpeed Insights tool. Google scores the page 1-100, the higher score the better. The PSI tool reports on two primary metrics: First Contentful Paint and DOMContentLoaded — FCP and DCL, respectively.
Another free tool that provides incredibly detailed insight on page speed is GTMetrix. Here you can determine exactly what is impacting poor page speed performance. They do a particularly great job when analyzing image optimization, which is a common issue on web pages. GTMetrix will also give you a complete list of remediation steps and even provide help on making some of the changes, like image optimization.
Page Speed Best Practices for SEO
There are many tactics you can use to improve your page load speed. It is important to not get too far down this rabbit hole and to use an approach that will give you the most bang for your buck. With WordPress it’s also important to not get every plugin under the sun to help with optimization. You should avoid plugin bloat (noted below) because it is possible to introduce new performance woes while trying to remedy others.
Mistake #4: No CDN
This one’s pretty simple. Content delivery networks (CDNs), also referred to as content distribution networks, are made up of geographically-dispersed servers in data centers used to serve content using optimal traffic loads or distances. The idea is that multiple copies of your website are stored in multiple data centers so that users have faster, and maybe more reliable, access to your website.
Most premium hosting providers will have CDN options built in to your plan but that doesn’t mean it is automatically activated or working properly. Have your webmaster assure that it is! Popular CDNs include Cloudflare, Fastly, and Stackpath, among others.
Mistake #5: Content Over-Optimization
There really isn’t anything more frustrating than spending a ton of time optimizing a website only to find out you’ve gone too far. That’s right, over-optimizing your site can have adverse effects and a bad outcome.
SEO hasn’t changed fundamentally in several years, but it seems to change in small nuances every day. The same core principles still apply — that is, perform good keyword research to find a competitive niche, write good content that properly utilizes keywords and phrases you identified, and answer the questions of your target audience while trying to predetermine their intent when searching the internet. Simple, right?
The problem is that many novice content creators get carried away and over-optimize content by repeating a keyword or keyphrase too many times. Google doesn’t respond kindly to content “stuffing” when it comes to the keywords you want to rank for. In fact, they end up punishing you for it in the end.
Avoid over-optimizing your web pages with target keywords. Put yourself in the searchers’ position and think of how they might search for answers related to your business’s products or services. Write about that! I know it sounds simple but it’s not. Google is getting smarter, and only the best content is being served up in search results.
Mistake #6: Content Under-Optimization
You had to know this was coming. Properly optimizing content on your website is THE most valuable thing you can do to help it rank in Google search results. Why is SEO so important? Because it is what drives every search result that Google serves up. Google has to answer billions of questions that are asked every day, so naturally they seek out the best content that will make their users happy.
Optimizing content for SEO is not easy. It requires time and a clear understanding of how Google works. There are a few great tools to help. While I’m not going to go in depth on SEO strategy, I will layout the key steps in a good SEO strategy. Backinko expands on this in detail.
Mistake #7: Plugin Bloat
This may be the most common oversight of WordPress websites — too many plugins. I’ve encountered sites that are using 40-50 plugins, and many of them are performing redundant functions.
The main reason most novice WordPress webmasters end up with too many plugins is because they can. There are well over 60,000 plugins available and most of them are free or have a free option, so it’s really easy to get carried away. Sometimes you may even forget you have a plugin installed and activated even after you have replaced it with a newer one with similar capabilities.
Do an audit of your plugins on a regular basis. If you aren’t sure why a plugin is installed, do some research and find out what it does. If it’s not needed, deactivate it and trash it.
Remember, when you install a plugin, it is very likely adding code to your rendered web pages and that means a hit on performance. Granted, not every plugin does this, but many do.
Along these same lines, if you are using a large theme that has lots of page building bells and whistles, it is very possible that it is adding lots of unnecessary weight to your website. Scour the documentation to find out if you can eliminate elements or functionality that you aren’t using. It will make a significant difference in the way your website performs.
I’ve covered some of the most overlooked killers of website performance, hence search performance. You can trust that each one of these silent assassins are more in-depth topics and you should dig into the provided links as well as your own research to understand how your website may be suffering from performance drags that can be remedied with a little effort. The payoff is huge.
We Can Help
If you have any questions or would like help identifying any of these issues on your website, you can contact us here at Delegal Digital. We work with clients in Savannah and across the US. We can provide you with an audit of your site and quickly determine if there is room for improvement.