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15 ways to improve website performance

Posted on 28 October 2021 by Dan Murray

Could your underperforming website be costing your business? Slow page loads and poor UX will damage search performance and send customers elsewhere. Here are 15 ways to improve your website performance.

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Photo by Charlotte Coneybeer on Unsplash

Your website is one of the main ways your potential customer can discover you. But if it’s slow, clunky or otherwise underwhelming, it’s not a great reflection on your business. Worse than that, poor sites are increasingly likely to get penalised in Google search results, meaning less traffic, leads and sales. So, how do you improve website performance, in search and in the eyes of your customers?

How can I check my website performance?

There are multiple tools you can use and ways to check website performance. From looking at your analytics to getting user feedback, testing the website speed, security, and accessibility, there are multiple data points that you should be looking at to measure your performance.

You may have seen that with Google’s Core Web Vitals update, the search engine has added more weighting to fast page loads, quick user interaction and consistent rendering. It reflects Google’s increased focus on good user experience, a fundamental building block of solid web design and development.

Aside from creating helpful content, presented clearly, and navigated through an excellent user interface, a website increasingly needs to be technically competent – fast, robust and responsive.

If your site isn’t performing as expected – whether that’s manifesting as disappointing site metrics, poor search rankings, or high bounce rates – here are 15 tips you can implement to improve website performance.

1. Pay attention to your website accessibility

Your website should cater for the broadest possible audience, including those with impaired sight, hearing or mobility. Follow good accessibility practice, for example, by prioritising text clarity and enabling keyboard navigation throughout. Ensure your image alt text isn’t just keywords – it should primarily help describe an image to those who rely on screen readers. If you’re creating videos, remember to subtitle them.

2. Create the right content

Your website must have engaging content that describes what you do, who you do it for, and how you do it better than your competitors. Ensure all written content is helpful and that you’ve answered all the questions visitors are likely to have. Check and update your written content regularly and demonstrate your in-house expertise via a blog. Enhance pages with your high-quality images and video where appropriate.

3. Implement an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) programme

The better your search engine performance, the more traffic you’ll get. You need to target relevant keywords in your site copy, headings, and titles. Add alt text to image files, and make sure that you write custom metadata such as snippets where appropriate. Use tools like Google Search Console to find issues, fix broken links, and improve your website for mobile devices. Use plugins like Yoast to help you identify and make improvements. Don’t overdo the keyword density, though – remember you’re writing for people, not robots.

4. Make it easy for people to navigate your website

Users will quickly get frustrated if they can’t get around your site easily. Key pages such as Products, Services, About Us and Contact should be prominent in the menus. You can help users by using metadata such as tags or categories and providing a clickable breadcrumb trail. If you’ve got a large or complex site, provide a search feature – and remember to upload a sitemap to Google.

5. Analyse, understand, and use your data

Metrics are vital to understanding how people interact with your site and why they’re leaving. Audit your site to identify pages with the highest bounce and conversion rates. Use successful pages to understand why others underperform. Perhaps their content is weak or optimised for the wrong keywords – people won’t stick around if they’re not getting the content they searched Google for. Consider the customer journey, and make sure each page helps people get to the next stage.

6. Minimise cumulative layout shift (CLS)

A layout shift happens when a web page’s design elements move around as the content loads. It’s distracting and annoying for users, and since the Core Web Vitals update, pages with a bad score are penalised in search results. Minimise shift by specifying height and width attributes for images and other page elements. You can review your Core Web Vitals by using the Google Pagespeed Insights tool.

7. Lower the first input delay (FID)

FID is another fundamental user experience metric targeted in the Core Web Vitals update. It’s the time taken by the page to respond to a user’s first input, for example, clicking a ‘view more’ button. Long delays are annoying for users, and they increase bounce rates. High FIDs will move you down the search results. Improve them by minimising the use of rich content and JavaScript.

8. Shorten the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

The final element in the Core Web Vitals update, LCP, is the time taken to render the largest on-page element, such as an image or video. You can improve performance and search rankings by keeping this as low as possible. Use rich content sparingly, be careful of large files, and ensure images are sized appropriately.

9. Focus on site speed

Don’t understate the importance of a fast website. Quicker sites provide a more positive user experience, lowering bounce rates and increasing the likelihood of return visits – or that somebody will complete transactions during a single visit. Web hosting speed is vital, but it’s not the only consideration. Remember that some users may be on mobile phones with a weak data signal. Ensure you optimise images and content appropriately.

10. Remove unused plugins

Still, on the subject of speed, you can accelerate website performance by removing old plugins and apps. Audit your site, removing legacy and unused technology. Where you rely on integration with another service – such as a finance system – check that the systems communicate efficiently and have the capacity to cope with peak visitor demand.

11. Focus on security

Keeping your web software, plugins, and apps up to date doesn’t just ensure fast and reliable performance; it’s vital for security. An insecure and ageing website or lax data control policies and procedures risk the security of your business and your customers. A data breach has massive financial and reputational repercussions – but even simple errors like an expired certificate can knock customer confidence.

12. Optimise your e-commerce platform

If you’re selling online, you need to pay at least the same attention to your web store as to the rest of your site. On e-commerce platforms like Shopify or Magento, make the most of SEO and UX optimisations to streamline and support the customer journey. It’s essential to optimise a WooCommerce web store, too – follow best practices to ensure customers can achieve their goals.

 

Considering e-commerce technology? Check out which is better: WooCommerce or Shopify, and WooCommerce vs Magento.

Woo Commerce vs Shopify vs Magento lead image

 

13. Marketing and lead capture

Every retailer knows the importance of offering help to a browsing shopper. Doing the same on the web helps you engage leads and convert them into customers. Innovative businesses use inbound marketing platforms or plugins to track, capture and follow up on leads. Tools let you target first-time and returning visitors with appropriate content or offers, improving conversions and helping you get the maximum value from every visit.

14. Use social media

After search engines, social media can be one of the main drivers of website traffic – so it’s worth investing effort in it. Create a Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube presence and build up a following by commenting on industry news, promoting your business’ content, or sharing photos or videos of your work or products. Where possible, include a link to the correct product or landing page on your website.

15. Ask your customers!

Finally, it’s hard to beat a bit of good old customer feedback. Ask visitors and customers to rate their experiences – ask what was good or bad, but most importantly, ask how easy it was for them to achieve what they wanted. Ask what they wanted to do but couldn’t. Listen to the answers and implement fixes for common complaints.

Conclusion and further reading

To sum up, there may be many reasons why your website isn’t delivering the results you require. But if you improve your site content and accessibility, address performance issues, target problematic metrics, your performance should rapidly improve.

Focus on the customer journey, engaging every visitor with inbound marketing tools—audit what does and doesn’t work. Fix what needs fixing, and do more of what you’re doing well!

We’ve written several articles that go deeper into many of these areas if there’s something specific you need guidance on:

Thanks for reading. We hope these tips can help you!

 

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