SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It is the practice of increasing both the quality and quantity of a website’s traffic, as well as exposure to a brand, through non-paid (also known as “organic”) search engine results. Search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. are essentially answer-machines. They scour millions of pieces of content and evaluate thousands of factors in order to determine which content is most likely an answer to a query.
In the last few years, SEO has evolved as a technique like never before. With the changes in algorithms, the way people search too has changed a lot. SEO trends have emerged in such a way that they decide the factors that govern the website rankings directly.
However, SEO is often mistaken for being a one-time solution. On the contrary, SEO is a long time strategy. To ensure the attraction of customers organically, businesses need to optimize their site continuously. Businesses need to have a smart approach to adapt to the ever-changing search engine algorithms.
In 2010, Google announced that page speed would affect a website’s ranking. Page speed simply defined, is “a measurement of how fast the content on a web page loads”. On average, a page-load for an e-commerce website is 7 seconds. Meanwhile, the ideal time is around 3 seconds or less.
Page speed has an impact on the user experience. Bad user experience can cause a loss of revenue if the target audience has to wait too long for what they are looking for. Google compares a website to its competitors on a specific segment and attributes a bonus point whether it is the fastest. However, these points are not given unilaterally. Google takes into account the country, device and the network.
There are a few factors that affect page speed:
- The Host – A cheap host can greatly damage the page speed. Picking the right host is of utmost importance.
- Too Large Images – Images that are too heavy to load greatly slow down the page speed.
- External Embedded Media – External media like videos, though valuable, can largely increase load times.
- Unoptimized browser, plugins and app – Websites perform differently on different browsers. Plugins like Flash greatly slow down the page speed.
- Too many ads – Too many ads tend to damage page speed.
If website is run through Google’s PageSpeed Insights (PSI), and a 100% score is found, the site is fast.
Google gives preferential treatment to websites that are fast.
PSI provides both lab and field data about a page. Lab data is useful for debugging performance issues, as it is collected in a controlled environment. However, it may not capture real-world bottlenecks. Field data is useful for capturing true, real-world user experiences – but has a more limited set of metrics.
This insight is invaluable in judging the optimization of a website. The higher the score, the more efficient a website’s SEO.
The open-source tool Google Lighthouse can be used to analyze the technical optimization of websites, in particular regarding their performance on mobile devices. This is of great importance because today more website traffic comes from mobile users than from desktops. Evidence also suggests that users are more likely to bounce from a slow mobile site.
When a Google Lighthouse audit is run, Lighthouse will load the target website several times, as it gathers metrics about site structure, tags, and performance. It tries to emulate a mobile device, even throttling connections to something like 3G and testing the website offline.
According to Google, Lighthouse is meant to help identify common problems that affect a site’s performance, accessibility, and user experience. Followed cleverly, Lighthouse’s findings could help an online store improve, and perhaps, become easier for customers to find and use.
A Lighthouse audit will provide five categories of feedback, each with a ranking of zero to 100.
- SEO – Lighthouse audits nine search engine optimization basics. It can help a business get an idea how their website will perform in Google and other search engines.
- Performance – How quickly the site loads and how quickly the key elements in a website become available to users on mobile.
- Progressive Web App – Based on the progressive web app basic checklist, Lighthouse looks for your site’s level of completeness.
- Accessibility – This score is a weighted average of about 35 accessibility traits.
- Best Practices – Checks for the use of current web development best practices, such as employing HTTP/2.
A high score in Lighthouse is a clear proof of an efficient SEO. With its Lighthouse Audits, businesses can develop a way of analyzing complete domains and their relevant online markets, to establish the optimization level of an industry and the performance of a domain compared with its competitors.
With tools like Google’s PageSpeed and Lighthouse, it has never been easier to test out the overall performance of a website. With the valuable insights and suggestions these tools provide, businesses can reach a high level of overall optimization.