Website Optimization is a phrase that gets tossed around pretty loosely these days. You’ve probably seen the Facebook Ads, read the e-books, and watched the videos. You know how important it is to optimize your website. But if you’re like most people, that’s the extent of your knowledge.

What does it all mean?

Okay, so you’ve heard it before, but- what does it all mean? Is website optimization some grandeur concept that only elite experts and top-paid agencies can achieve? Why aren’t the efforts you’ve put into your website paying off?

If you’ve asked yourself these questions, don’t worry: you’re not alone. In fact, I get asked these questions daily. The truth is, the term website optimization is more complex than some “gurus” would like you to think. Most of the time, even talking about it makes some people nervous.

So, let’s take a step back and talk about it from a simpler perspective.

What does it actually mean to optimize your website?

Let’s break it down

To break things down, I’m going to divide “website optimization” into digestible sub-categories. This way, we can focus on each category individually when it matters.

It’s no secret that myriad variables must be considered when it comes website optimization. Generally speaking, the term website optimization refers to five core categories (possibly six, read on). Let’s take a look at each of these categories and talk about what they mean.

  1. Performance Optimization focuses on your page load times and site content structure.
  2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) utilizes on- and off-site techniques to boost your search rankings.
  3. Security Optimization ensures your site is up-to-date, secured, and monitored at all times.
  4. Conversion Optimization relates to tweaking your website’s content to get more subscribers, leads, etc.
  5. E-Commerce Store Optimization focuses on boosting your on-site sales via organic buying opportunities.

A sixth category that’s becoming increasingly popular is Funnel Optimization. A “funnel” refers to the buying process that companies lead customers through when purchasing products on their websites. Funnel Optimization refers to optimizing various aspects of your website to lower your cost per lead (CPL) and increase conversions.

Together, as one

Together, these six categories make up what is generally known as, “website optimization”. The secret to truly killing it online is understanding how to affect, manipulate, and optimize each of these six categories.

Within each of these categories are “opportunities”. Opportunities are virtual tasks that a website audit shows can improve your website’s overall performance. This may include optimizing site content, fixing code files, compressing graphics, restructuring your databases, moving your web hosting, or a combination of all these things.

If your website is audited by our Site Wizards, the first thing we do is run several FREE reports. One of these reports is the in-browser Google Lighthouse audit. This gives us valuable information we use to create a customized optimization plan based on tangible data. In the report, there are several items, also referred to as opportunities, that Google recommends in order for the site to become fully optimized.

In the Google Lighthouse audit, there are five areas of concern: Performance, Progressive Web App, Accessibility, Best Practices, and SEO. If you would like to learn more about Google Lighthouse and their auditing tools, please see the reference link at the bottom of this article. Keep in mind, you will need a basic knowledge of HTML/JavaScript to get the most out of the Lighthouse tool.

Now, the Nitty Gritty

Now that we know what website optimization is and how we can kickstart our optimization efforts, let’s get a bit more granular.

There are several actionable items you and your Site Wizards can do to optimize your websites. Knowing what we know now about website optimization, I hope this begins to shed some light on the fact that optimizing and managing a website truly takes time and expertise. You could try and design your own website or hire a cheap web designer to do it, but that is not what’s going to get you RESULTS.

To achieve ultimate website optimization, consider these 9 “spells” our Site Wizards use on a daily basis. Executing each of these items will help to greatly improve your website’s performance, search rankings, and conversions. We know because we’ve done it hundreds of times over. Now, it’s available for you to learn the secret “spells”, too!

Google Lighthouse Audits Screenshot

Website Optimization: Performance

No longer is it acceptable to simply “have a website”. Nowadays, website owners must optimize their websites for performance! But, without a keen knowledge of how to do this, it can seem overwhelming and impossible to accomplish. Let me be the first to tell you, I get it! Performance optimization for websites is a lot like going through college. You can’t rush it. You’ve got to absorb all the knowledge you can in the allotted time and apply it little-by-little until FINALLY… graduation day!

The good news is, it doesn’t take four to six years to get real results when it comes to optimizing your website.

But before we get too far into the analogies, let’s get back to the nitty-gritty.

To know exactly what you’ll need to do to optimize your website’s performance, you can use Google’s FREE website auditor called Lighthouse. You don’t need to be a web developer or tech genius to use it, either. Just follow the instructions below.

How To Run Google Lighthouse Auditor

  1. Open Google Chrome on your desktop or laptop. If you do not have the Google Chrome browser already installed, download it here.
  2. With Chrome open, click File >> New Incognito Window. This opens a private browser which is needed to ensure caching isn’t affecting your scores.
  3. Type your website address into the web browser bar and launch it.
  4. With your website now launched in your incognito browser, right click anywhere within the web browser on your website. A menu should appear.
  5. Click Inspect or Inspect Element. A set of developer tools will open somewhere on the screen (left, right, above, below).
  6. Click the Audits tab which should be located at the top of this screen.
  7. Scroll up to the Audits section and uncheck all options other than Performance. (Lighthouse also offers other audits, we’ll get to that in a bit).
  8. Now, you can run a Google Lighthouse performance audit. To do so, click the blue Run Audits button at the button of this screen.
  9. Allow the auditor to run and wait for the results. Do not exit out of this screen or leave. It only takes a few moments.

Once the results are in, your Performance score will appear, along with a list of Opportunities you can use to optimize your website’s performance.

If you’re not comfortable coding in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, there may be things on this list you’ll need to off-hand to a web developer. Some of the opportunities listed in your Lighthouse report may include things like defer offscreen CSS or remove render-blocking JavaScript. In this case, it’s always best to refer these findings to your web developer and allow them to address each issue.

There may be a handful of opportunities you feel comfortable handling yourself. If properly sizing images appears as opportunity in your Lighthouse report, try using a FREE web tool such as Composer.io. Simply use this tool to compress your images and then re-upload them to your website (replacing the current ones). This will have a profound impact on your Lighthouse Performance scores and overall website performance.

If you’re running a WordPress site, try using popular optimization plugins like Autoptimize or WP Fastest Cache  to compress your images. They’re both free and fairly simple to set up. Plus, they both have huge support communities in case you need help.

It’s hard out there for anyone who wants to optimize their website- no one ever said it would be easy. But, it’s not ridiculously difficult, either. And, the results speak for themselves when you begin to improve your website performance using Google Lighthouse. In fact, users are about 50% more likely to stick around on your website if it loads quickly. So, yeah… pay attention to your website’s Performance! It may be having a negative impact on your traffic and conversions.

Website Optimization: Search

When it comes to your website, search engine optimization (SEO) refers to ways you can optimize your website to rank favorably in search engines. The most popular search engine in the world is Google (by a long shot). However, there are many smaller search engines that index your website as well, including some for specific industries and markets.

Understanding how each search engines works and then optimizing your website accordingly would take too much time and likely unnecessary. My suggestion would be to focus on a couple of specific search engines and optimize your website for those.

Once you’re logged in to your Google account, you can access Google Search Console by going to search.google.com/search-console. The page should loook something like this:

google search console screenshot

The Search Console gives you a close-up look at your search rankings, as well as tools to submit your pages to Google. Even if you have no technical expertise, you can likely get your web host or web manager to take care of this for you.

Submit Your Website To Google

To submit your website to Google, you can do one of two things: Add a sitemap to your Google account, or submit an indexing request for your site using a nifty tool called Fetch as Google. Both processes require site owners to create an account with Google Search Console.

Here are the specifics of each option:

If you have a brand new site, you’ll need to first verify that you’re the site’s owner. To do that, log in to Google Search Console and click the Property dropdown in the top, left corner of your Dashboard. Then, click Add Property at the bottom of the select box and enter your domain name into the subsequent box.

If you need to index new pages on your existing website, you’ll still need to submit each page to Google for each of them to rank accordingly. Google used to allow anyone to submit web pages to their search index whether you owned the site or not. Now, only site owners can submit pages to Google’s index.

If you own a webpage you’d like Google to re-crawl, you can do a few different things:

Submit an Updated Sitemap

To submit an updated sitemap, log in to Google Search Console and select Add a Property.

3. Create Custom Content

Finding a niche and creating an unbeatable offer isn’t going to work if you don’t create top-notch, custom content when possible. Adding stock graphics to your site and copying and pasting text from other sites or pages may save time, but it will do nothing for you in terms of website optimization. In fact, using stock graphics or videos, reusing existing copy, or taking shortcuts when it comes to your site’s content will only hurt your SEO scores and performance.

That’s because Google prefers original content that your target demographic finds useful. If Google finds that your website is just a mirror of another site, or uses stock graphics that haven’t even been compressed, you’re going to appear unfavorably in relevant search results.

Aside from taking a hit on your search rankings, this also increases your bounce rates and conversion costs, as well as decreases your favorability score with your site visitors.

4. Compress Your Graphics

This is something that matters more than you’d think. On average, a website that properly compresses their graphics has 13% faster load time than its non-optimized counterpart when compared side-by-side. Needless to say, it’s important to compress your images.

There are some great and free compression tools available. One great tool we use is Compressor.io. Regardless of which tool you use, the point is to compress ALL of your images prior to uploading them to your server.

5. Update Software Regularly

One thing that’s commonly overlooked by business owners after their sites launch is keeping their software updated. Most people think that once their site launches unless they need anything “changed” on their website, they won’t need to do anything. That’s a big mistake.

Not updating your plugins, theme files, SSL certificates, and other software can leave your site vulnerable to malicious attacks. It can also lead to broken site links, server errors, and other issues that may cause your site visitors to experience downtime. The consequences of running outdated software are many, but this isn’t something just anyone should do. Plugins on your website may be customized. If you run an update that’s incompatible with certain customizations, it will break your site. For this reason, it’s always best to speak with your Site Wizard about updating your plugins and other software.

6. Use High-Performance Hosting

These days, it’s too easy to find reliable, cloud-based web hosting for your website. Cloud hosting is performance hosting at its best. Examples of popular cloud hosting platforms include Amazon AWS, Liquid Web, and Microsoft Azure. Cloud hosting provides your server with its own, dedicated IP address rather than a shared IP.

Whether you’re on a private cloud or public cloud server, performance is oftentimes generally better than shared hosting plans.

Aside from the type of hosting you choose, your hosting provider will have more information on what optimizations are included with your hosting.

7. Drive Traffic To Your Website

Contrary to the popular Field of Dreams quote, “if you build it”, they will NOT come… unless you tell them how to! Sure, you may have a beautiful website that is optimized for search and performance. But, unless you tell people how to find your website, it will become a barren desert that gets no page hits, generates no leads, and provides no value to your business.

The most popular ways people drive traffic to their websites is through social media advertising, search engine advertising, and Facebook Groups. There are certainly free ways to drive traffic to your website, but the most effective way is to run hyper-targeted paid ads.

8. Automate Everything

If there are things you can automate on your site, such as auto-sending emails to site admins when someone fills out a contact form, do it! The popular tracking code we know as “Cookies” provide you with a great way to track users on your website and retarget them in your PPC campaigns.

Other ways to automate your website may include the following:

  1. Developing an extensive FAQs section so users rely on your LIVE support agents less
  2. Using an intelligent chatbot to close sales and answer support questions when LIVE agents are offline
  3. Integrating lead forms with your customer relationship manager (CRM) of choice

9. Constantly Analyze & Iterate

The most important thing you can do to achieve ultimate website optimization is to iterate constantly based on data. Tools like Google Analytics, as well as Site Assembly’s Optimization Tools, provide you with data you can use to create an optimization plan.

To learn more about Google Lighthouse Audits, click here.