Google Now Helps You Improve Your Site Performance

A new addition in Webmaster Tools this week sees Google becoming your own personal usability and accessibility consultant.

Site Performance, an experimental feature added to the Webmaster Tools console courtesy of Google Labs, provides detailed information about your site’s load time and gives suggestions for speeding it up. It includes a chart of your site performance data over time, which can help determine latency triggers.

As explained in Google’s official blog post about it, the Site Performance console includes examples of specific pages and their actual page load times, plus Page Speed suggestions that can help reduce latency.

I was pretty shocked when I logged into Webmaster Tools today to find my blog pages take an average of 6 seconds to load. Google states that this is slower than 83% of sites! The Example Pages and Page Speed Suggestions revealed the culprit was a banner ad that was not optimized and a couple of extra DNA fetches on some pages so I was able to fix the issues pretty quickly.

The load time data is apparently sourced from aggregated information by users of the Google Toolbar but it’s important to remember that it’s all averaged. A specific user may experience your site faster or slower than the average depending on their location and network conditions.

As a Labs tool, Site Performance is still under development and Google are seeking feedback on it via the Webmaster Tools Forum.

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Q and A: Can a cluttered home page affect search rankings?

Question

Hi Kalena,

I work on the  www.wordtravels.com website. Can the cluttered homepage negatively affect its overall page rank? What are your thoughts?

Thanks! Aimee

Dear Aimee,

In general terms, the fact that a page is “cluttered” would not necessarily have a direct impact on your rankings, but from a usability perspective a complex or “busy” home page can be confusing, and is likely to affect your conversion rate (the percentage of people that sign up to your service or make an enquiry).

If your site visitors find it difficult to find the information they are looking for,  they are more likely to leave the site without taking an action, so it is important that the info you provide on your home page is clear and easy to use – and funnels your visitors to the areas of the site that will be of specific interest to them – and it is there that you can start to provide detailed (and relevant) information.

One issue related to a “cluttered home page” that could affect your rankings, may actually be the inclusion of too much content.  What you say ?? How could there possibly be too much content ??  You have no doubt heard the SEO mantra – “Content is King” – well this is certainly true as far as I am concerned – but it doesn’t mean that you should put all your content on the one page.

Optimising your web site should involve choosing one or a very small number of keyword phrases to optimise for each page, by including relevant content for those specific phrases only.  Trying to squeeze all your target keyword phrases on the one page (probably resulting in a cluttered page), will not only be confusing to users – but is also likely to be confusing to Search Engines.  If a search engine cannot clearly identify the “purpose” of your page, because it contains too many conflicting keyword phrases for example, then it is not likely to give the page good rankings for many (or any) of those keyword phrases.

I’ve had a quick look at your site – and whilst it is certainly “busy”, it is relatively easy for a visitor to find a specific area they may be interested in.  Of more concern to me is the sheer number of links on your home page.  Google doesn’t like pages with lots of links (largely because users tend not to like them either).  Google has suggested a maximum of approx 100 links per page. A quick count of the links on your home page shows that you currently have over 600 – which is likely to raise some questions with Google (and not in a good way).

Hope that helps…

Andy Henderson
Ireckon Web Marketing

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Q and A: Is it possible to SEO a WordPress site?

Question

Hi Kalena

I had a big discussion last night with my husband and my son-in-law who has done some work on my husband’s web site.

Jason (my son-in-law) has used WordPress for the site. There are currently about 79 pages on the site. In our conversation I was pretty adamant that I wanted to be able to SEO all the pages. I don’t want to rely on WordPress and it’s blog meta tags to get ranked.

Shouldn’t we be better served by a web building program than a blog program like WordPress? I understand that WordPress has an all singing all dancing SEO plug in but is that really the best option?

I know that you use WordPress for your blog. And it seems the right thing to do. But do you also use it for your main site? Any advice you may give me would be most appreciated.

Thanks so much.

Vicki

Hi Vicki

Actually, sites built with WordPress are perfect for SEO purposes. We are actually thinking of switching our Search Engine College site over to WordPress because of the SEO benefits including deep indexing, cross linking, tagging, filenaming and various SEO plugins that pretty much make other CMS packages obsolete.

You and your son in law should have no trouble optimizing your husband’s WordPress site and hopefully achieving some good ranks and traffic as a result. There are a number of fantastic SEO plugins for WordPress and people are raving about how SEO friendly the WordPress Thesis theme is so you might want to check it out.

You might also want to my review my favorite WordPress plugins. Add to that list the SEO Smart Links plugin and you should be set.

——————-

Like to learn more about SEO? Download my free SEO lesson. No catch!

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SEO Friendly Content Management Systems

Over the years I’ve received a few questions on this blog or at conferences about search engine friendly Content Management Systems (CMS). Is there such a thing? What are the best ones?

Before the days of WordPress, there were really only a couple of CMS options that provided the flexibility for search engine optimization. But now there are SEO friendly CMS systems popping up everywhere.

But before you decide on a CMS for your site, there are still some crucial aspects you need to consider.

Stephan Spencer has written a helpful article to this effect called How to Choose Content Management Systems for SEO. He breaks down CMS features into the following categories:

  • critical
  • important
  • desirable
  • optional

Then he explains why the various CMS features meet those categories and how they impact SEO.

Great stuff!

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Q and A: Can changing my CMS affect Rankings ?

Question

Hi Kalena

We recently moved from a custom CMS system to Expression Engine. Overall I like it, though we have seen a bit of a drop in Google referrals despite keeping the design and layout of our pages (largely) the same. One thing I noticed is that previously all our individual article pages ended in ‘.html’ or ‘.shtml’ whereas with the new CMS they all just end in a slash. So my question: does Google give priority to content that ends with a ‘known’ HTML ending like .html or .shtml, or doesn’t it care?
– Dave

Hi Dave,

The Search Engines won’t give a ranking preference on the basis of the filename or URL. Whether it is a .html, a .php an .asp or even a .pdf doesn’t matter – as long as they are able to crawl, and index your pages, the extension (or lack thereof) is irrelevant.

However, it sounds to me like although you say that the design and layout of you pages is much the same – the names of those pages (i.e. the URL used to access the page) has changed.  This is quite a common issue when switching CMSs, and unless you are careful, you can lose much of the credibility (and hard earned rankings) achieved by your old site.

If any of the pages in your new site have a different URL
– they will NOT show up in Search Results until they have
been re-crawled and indexed by the search engines.

To check to see which pages on your site have been indexed, do a Google search for site:yourdomain.com (substituting your own domain name of course).  This will provide a list of all the pages currently indexed by Google.  It may include a mixture of Old and New pages. Try clicking on the old Page links – if they still come up with the old pages or you get 404 (file not found) errors – read on and I’ll explain how to fix this.  If they do still link to the old pages, then you may want to delete these from your server too.

Page Redirects

It is critical that as part of any site redesign process you ensure that that you put in place page redirects – this will ensure that anyone trying to access one of your old pages, will be redirected to the new page.  This is clearly important from the user perspective – to ensure that they get the current information (and not some old – out of date page).  But it is also important from an SEO perspective – any links to the old page (from external sites) need to go to the New page, and the search engines (who have presumably indexed your old pages) also need to be told that a new page exists.

Notifying Search engines and fixing backlinks for all your pages may sound like a very daunting task, however, there fortunately is a (reasonably) simple solution – our friend the 301 redirect.

301 Redirects are a server based redirect and are reasonably easy to setup (although can be a little technical, so you may need help from your developer).  The actual technique will vary, depending on your server environment, but effectively a 301 redirect will simply redirect visitors trying to access your old pages to the correct new page.  Also know as a permanent redirect, 301 redirects also tell Search Engines that this is a permanent change, and to update their index (and ranking data) accordingly.

you can find more posts about 301 redirects on this site – or for some more technical info I suggest that you take a look at this good overview on 301 redirect techniques by Steven Hargrove.

Andy Henderson
Ireckon Web Marketing

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