Optimizing site load speed: A guide for SEMs and SEOs

Search Engine Optimizers (SEOs) and Search Engine Marketers (SEMs) both have to deal with a wide array of optimization elements for promoting the websites. Site speed optimization is one of Google’s most significant 200 ranking elements. Even though SEO is solely related to ranking sites higher on search engines and SEM includes marketing tactics as well, site speed optimization is their mutual area of interest. It makes this guide equally useful for both professionals.

Let’s talk about “what,” “why,” and “how” of website speed optimization.

What is site speed?

It is the measure of time how quickly a website’s content gets displayed in front of the visitors.

“Lesser loading time = More site speed.”


Why is site speed important?

According to a study by Akamai, a one-second delay in website load time leads to 11% fewer page views, a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction, and 7% loss in conversions. Likewise, it is directly proportional to the bounce rates. The bounce rate against 1 second page load time was recorded 7% and shot up to 73% in 16 seconds.

 load speed


Contrarily, the lesser site speed time translates into higher average stay time, more pages per session, decreased bounce rate, and, ultimately, more goal conversions.

Remember, whether you are running paid advertisement or striving to rank organically, getting clicks are useless if visitors are bouncing back.

Visitors get to see the aesthetically pleasing design, useful functionalities, and the valuable content only if the website loading time is acceptable – 3 seconds is considered as the threshold. If the website is taking much time to load, then these bells and whistles might remain out of user’s sight, making them of no use.

Now, let’s look into some ways that you can use to improve your site speed.

Problem identification – conduct a site speed test

SEMs must conduct site speed tests first to identify load time issues. Conduct a thorough loading time test for your entire site, especially the most important pages such as home page, blog, and services or product pages, also known as money pages. However, this varies for each website and webmasters know best what are the most important pages for them.

Manual testing is a daunting challenge, hence, you need premium tools to get deep, valuable insights to the surface.

Site speed evaluation tools

If you are not open to premium tools than using Google Pagespeed Insights is a pretty good option. This performance evaluation tool works both for desktop and mobile. Additionally, it provides recommendations to decrease the loading time. However, it’s features are somewhat limited as compared to the premium tools available in the market.

In the premium category, my recommendation is Pingdom. It is an easy to use tool that generates detailed and easy to understand site speed reports. You can narrow down the analysis to different geographical regions, which makes it extremely beneficial for local SEO optimization as well.

Now, let’s head towards an essential part of this site speed optimization guide i.e., how to increase conversions by decreasing website loading time.

Here we go!

5 practical tips for site speed optimization


1. Content Delivery Network

This is a geographically distributed network of proxy servers, also known as Distributed Delivery Network. The chief purpose of CDN is to provide web content faster to the end-user.

Content Delivery speed

If a website only relies on a single server, then network congestion happens, and it turns into lesser site speed. Contrarily, in the presence of more servers, requests load splits; they get redirected to the nearest servers, and content is delivered faster. It is an expensive option but decreases an effective measure for site speed optimization.

2. Using web development libraries that support defer loading content

It is essential to display the content in front of the user faster, but it is not necessary to download all elements of the page at once. For example, if there are multiple heavy images on your website, then display the initial view first. Afterwards, update asynchronously according to the user scrolling pattern. By doing so, page loading does not take much time. This process is also known as lazy loading.

Several web development libraries are present to defer loading content. Some dominant names are Ajax, jQuery, and Prototype.

3. Implement Plugins Carefully

Nowadays, plugins are high in demand to avoid manual coding. However, using many plugins often backfire in the form of decreased site speed. Site optimizers should refrain from using plugins unless absolutely necessary.

Only those plugins should be used that saves from complex actions and expensive server processing; otherwise, it might lead to performance degradation.

You should buy high-quality plugins from highly reputed developers to stay out of warm waters. Remember, even using a single low-quality plugin can mow down your site speed.

4. Image optimization

Images are necessary to make your content visually appealing. However, the key is to balance between the image quality, reasonable image dimensions, and loading time. You should place the visually appealing images but not at the expense of decreased site load speed.

Site optimizers can take the following measures for image optimization.

  • Correct file format

Image formats have a direct relation with file sizes. If there is no need for image transparency, then JPEG is suitable to go for photographic images at smaller file sizes. GIFs should only be used for simple animations. Moreover, avoid TIFF or BMP to a possible extent as they have a large size.

  • Image resizing – Image editor is a better option than setting HTML attributes

A large image has a bigger file size than smaller ones, so prefer to use image editors for resizing to decrease file size before uploading at the site.

Rather than first saving large images on your site and then resizing by HTML attributes, initially make them smaller in the image editors. Save it with new dimensions and then use it on your website to eliminate unnecessary downloading time.

  •  Image optimization WordPress plugins

Using high-quality WordPress plugins such as Optimol and Imagify is an optimal choice for image compression. The bottom line is to use those plugins that compress images externally; otherwise, your site speed may go down because of the compression process.

Remember, merely relying on plugins is not the recommended approach. You should readily take care of image sizes at the time of uploading them in the WordPress media library to save the web host’s disk space. Ideally, the size should be less than 2 MB. Afterwards, use plugins like a cake topping, to reduce image size further.


5. Minimize Redirects

Analyze your site test scan reports and see the number of redirects. You should try to minimize or eliminate redirects completely, if possible, because they create additional load for the server to reroute visitors that can slow down your site speed.

Some redirects are necessary. For example, redirecting your audience from old to a new page, fixing the website’s permalink structure, or temporarily redirecting traffic on other URLs because of ongoing page maintenance. Such redirects are critical for not losing traffic. Moreover, WordPress provides some fantastic plugins to make redirection easy.

Other than the aforementioned scenarios, redirecting visitors often prove to be detrimental for loading speed. For example, some websites redirect users to their landing pages. Doing such things does not increase the chances of conversions; instead, the visitors become annoyed because of not accessing the relevant content.

The takeaway is not to use plugins that cause site speed reduction. Otherwise, not only the site speed shatters but also the average pages per session and average stay time goes down.

Wrapping Up

Load speed time is an essential factor of SEO and has a direct effect on page views, decreased customer satisfaction, conversions, and bounce rates. Professionals should optimize their site speed as a whole and focus primarily on their most important pages for higher ROI.

They should use premium site-speed test tools to identify the underlying site speed issues. Start from the big troublemakers and then come down to the minor ones to enjoy noteworthy results. This process is not a piece of cake, but consistent efforts would translate into higher conversion rates.




How to Perform a Successful Content Audit: The Ultimate Guide

How does someone write a post in 2007 and make it relevant to trends of 2020?

A few days ago, I stumbled across a blog post about business directories while collecting data for a project. I was midway unfolding the hideous approaches that manipulative directories use when I realized the requirement of updated information for my project. I stopped for a moment and wondered when was this post written? I scrolled up and, to my surprise, it was originally published in 2007. Yes, you read that right. But the fun part is it was updated just a month ago and the content on that blog post was fresh just like our pandemic frustration.

Now, how does someone write a post in 2007 and make it relevant to 2020 trends?

By keeping an eye on it, assessing its relevancy time to time (ideally annually) and updating it when it is needed.

That is what content audits help you do.

They facilitate your website’s authority building using the same content over and over again, power up your SEO and content marketing strategy and help you do the business the way you always dreamt to.

Here in this post, I will guide you through a step-by-step hassle-free process of conducting your content audit using different tools and techniques. It will not only save you time but also help you gauge the performance of your content efficiently and effectively over time.

What is a content audit?

A content audit is simply the process of collecting relevant data about the assets on a website – blog posts, landing pages – analysing it while measuring the KPIs (Key Point Indicators) that you select beforehand and drafting a course of action depending on the results.

A content audit provides insights into which content on the website needs to be updated, re-written, consolidated or deleted. A content audit also identifies the money-leaking gaps in your content strategy and gives you a clear idea of what type of content you need to create in the future to maintain a consistent ROI.

A content audit is different from a content inventory. A content audit is more like a qualitative method as compared to the content inventory which is more of a quantitative collection. A content inventory is an integral part of content audit but the content audit is not limited to inventory alone but also dives deeper in the data and analysis.

Why are you Conducting a Content Audit?

content audit uses

Before jumping into the mind-boggling process of data collection, you need to be clear about your goals. You can be struggling to make sense of visitors’ behaviour on your website or wondering why anything you have been doing in the past has never worked. To be precise, a content audit is usually done for two purposes, SEO and Content Marketing.

A content audit for SEO helps you compare different SEO factors of every content asset on your website such as keywords, images, alt text, page views, bounce rate etc. and compare it to your current page rankings. It helps you to identify the weak spots in your website’s SEO and figure out what you need to do to improve your organic ranking.

Similarly, a content audit for content marketing helps you analyze how your audience is responding to your content marketing efforts. By cataloguing the information like page visits, page length, social shares, comments and social mentions, it helps you develop better content marketing strategies to entice more public response.

However, nothing is stopping you from conducting your content audit for BOTH objectives at the same time. It will just take a little more time and effort.

What Can you Expect from a Content Audit?

  • Better search engine optimization insights into every content page of your site
  • Categorized best performing, average and worst performing pages
  • Data to develop strategies to update better-performing content, consolidate overlapping content and delete content which no longer adds value to your business
  • Generate more ideas for future content
  • A timeline for the next 3 months or maybe a year (you choose) of content you need to publish and test


How to Perform a Successful Content Audit

After defining your goals and doing your homework, roll up your sleeves and get ready.

  • Data Collection

The first part of performing a successful content audit is to collect all the information you need about your content assets (keep your goals and KPIs in mind).

Open a spreadsheet and enter every URL on your website.

Seems tiring and boring?

Yes, when you are doing it manually by going to “all posts” in your dashboard and opening every post to copy the URL.

Not when you use tools like Screaming Frog (free for up to 500 URLs, unlimited for $150/year), URL Profiler ($19.95/month for 5000 URLs) or SEMrush (Free Plan). These tools will automatically crawl all the links on your website and provide you with the data in the form of a CSV file that you can download and incorporate in your spreadsheet. These tools also automatically provide you with many data points relevant to your SEO.

Content Audit via Screaming Frog

Note: Go to File> Import> Upload and select the downloaded CSV file in your computer to upload it to your spreadsheet.

Tools like Screaming Frog and SEMrush crawl your website through a sitemap. You can use DYNO Mapper ($40-$399/month) to create one.

The Ultimate Guide

If you despise using Excel or Google Spreadsheets (we all do at some point), you can use the WordPress Content Audit Plugin. After setting a few conditions, it will let you create content inventory directly in the edit screen on WordPress.

Choose what suits you.

After you have collected all the URLs, now is the time to collect other related information about the assets.

The other columns in the spreadsheet need to be filled now. However, the kind of data you’re going to collect depends entirely on your goals and the complexity of the problems you need to solve. No matter if they are SEO related or Content Marketing related. Though, it is important to collect data on every possible variable that can help you achieve your designated goals of better SEO and content marketing strategy.

Tools like Screaming Frog will automatically collect information such as page title, page headings, target keywords, images etc. but for a detailed audit, you will need more than that.

For an overview, collect information like word count, type of content, page visits, bounce rate, broken links, date of the last update, average time on the page, social shares, conversion data, associated funnel stage, content condition etc.


Now, if you’re a data geek, it will be fun. If you’re not, the whole process of collecting information about every variable of every content piece on your website will be daunting.

To combat the brain-numbing issues, bring tools like Screaming FrogGoogle Analytics and Shared Count to the table.

As mentioned above, Screaming Frog will extract most of the basic information about every content piece.

Google Analytics will give you information like Page Visits, Bounce Rate and Conversion Data by page.

The easiest way to do it is following Reporting > Behavior > Site Content > All Pages and get your data in a CSV file and import it following the method mentioned above.

Additionally, go to Google Search Console to get organized data. Follow Search Analytics > Select Pages > Access quick information about Clicks, Impressions and CTR. Get a CSV file and upload it to your spreadsheet.

  • Assessment

Now that your spreadsheet has a healthy chunk of data and you are ready to assess the information, you need a few more detailed columns in your audit.

Make one titled “Scores” preferably to the start of the sheet. Use it to grade your content depending on its effectiveness. Pages with As are the best ones. Bs? Decent. Cs and Ds? Might need updates. E and Fs? They need a complete revamp.

However, you might find some pages that relate to another blog post or article but do not add value individually. It would be better to consolidate them. Run a 301 redirect and combine to another asset without losing what we call SEO juice.

  • Plan of Action

Follow a score column with an “Action” and “Future Plans” columns to note down suggestions such as keeping the content as it is, updating it, consolidating it or removing it from the website. Fix the broken links, optimize URLs and images, update information where needed and make a course of action to fill the content gaps in your sales funnel.

Analyze the data to see if you have content for every stage of buyers’ journey and if not, plan it for the future.

There is no right or wrong way to do it because audits are subjective. Use the data right according to your goals, make a strategy and get to work.

  • Competition Analysis

If you are a hard worker and want to get your hands on all the data that can lead you to success, go out on a limb and dissect your competitors’ content. There are numerous limitations when it comes to auditing someone else’s website without access to inside data such as Google Analytics. But you can always have a good idea through the data you can access tools like Ahrefs, Screaming Frog and SEMrush. The audit can assist you to do a better job at you off-page SEO and overall content marketing strategy.

And there you have it, all the essentials you need to perform a comprehensive content audit.

Note: Whether you do it manually or use a combination of the aforementioned tools, a fair amount of time is involved in the process. Obviously, the number of URLs in your website also makes a difference. But it is well worth the effort.

A Closing Tip – Expand it to Other Marketing Channels

If you wish you to go all out, incorporate your other marketing channels such as social media and emails to your audit and achieve comprehensive results.

Remember, running an audit is hectic regardless of your mastery in the skill. If you have better operations to run, it is best to outsource it.