website optimisation

Website optimisation is a description that encompasses a lot of different areas on your website. It isn’t only the search engine optimisation side of your web design. Here are some website optimisation ideas for you to look at.

Website optimisationWebsite optimisation ideas

You need to use images – and maybe also videos – on your  website. As much as anything, this helps keep visitors interested.

The images you use on your site need to be optimised for search engines and humans.

Start by giving your images meaningful names so that the various image searches can have a good idea of the content of the image.

There are also image tags for title (the hover-over text that sometimes appears when you move your mouse over an image) and also an “alt” tag which tells people with images switched off what your image is about.

Humans like nice looking images but they also like the file size of those images to be small enough to download fast. This goes even in these days of fast broadband internet access, maybe even more so as people expect sites to load almost instantly and gigantic images won’t do that.

Page load times are a factor in website optimisation. Which means big images won’t help your website optimisation efforts.

You should also make sure that all your images have their height and width declared. This allows web browsers like Internet Explorer and Firefox to leave the correct space for the image if it doesn’t download immediately. Otherwise your page design will shift all over the place until the images download fully.

CSS files have come into their own in recent years. They help you separate the content of your website from the presentation of that content (how it looks).

But you also need to go through them if you’re serious about website optimisation.

A lot of website developers make their CSS names meaningful. Which is good if you’re coding a page but means that there’s a lot of extra characters on the page, potentially adding to the page load time.

Your main CSS file almost certainly has extra white space in that could be trimmed. Remember that your CSS file is loaded every time your website is reached so cutting its size will help with your website optimisation.

Carriage returns on your web pages also take up space. Sure, they help your HTML to be human readable, so there’s maybe a trade off there, but all those extra characters affect your website optimisation. Just be careful that removing them doesn’t break your layout in some of the earlier, less standard compliant, versions of the web browsers. Testing is called for (sorry!)

Just for fun, view the source of Google’s home page. It’s a pretty extreme example of how to cut down page size and Google are forever trying to deliver everything ultra fast, so their own website optimisation is another part of that equation.

When you’ve got your file sizes trimmed as much as possible, the next part of your website optimisation is to take a look at what your visitors experience when they reach your site.

Your website should be simple to use and pleasant to look at (or at least not downright ugly).

Any menus on your site should have obvious names rather than industry jargon.

Your menus should also work regardless of whether people are using a mouse, a touch pad or a finger to browse your site. Yup, a finger – just watch any iPhone user!

And if you’re getting a lot of visitors using mobile phones, make sure that you deliver them content that is optimised to be seen well on these small devices. Your technical person can advise on doing that side of your website optimisation.

Putting your website on the internet is only the first part of the equation for attracting visitors to your site – optimising your web site is the next step.

There are millions upon millions of other web pages on the web and you need to do everything you can to make sure that your site is found when a potential customer searches for you.

Optimising your web site…

This needs to be done on a page-by-page basis. Each page on your site will have a slightly different focus and the optimisation process is designed to help the search engines to know the topic of each page.

Optimisation falls into two main sections: “on page” and “off page”. You’re in control of the “on page” aspect – it’s your site and you can amend pages whenever you want. We’ll deal with “on page” here.

Title Tag

This is the part of your page that shows up when your page appears in the Google search results. In the case of this page, it’s “Optimising Your Web Site – What You Need To Know”.

You should think of your title tag as being the headline that invites internet surfers to click and find out more. You need to include your main keyword phrase for the page in the title. Because of the way the search engine algorithms work, keywords nearer the start of the title are considered more important than words towards the end of the title. Which means that you should try to put your important keywords closer to the start of the title. However, since the title is designed to get people to click on it, don’t do this at the expense of readability.

The other thing to remember about titles is that search engines will only display the first 65 characters of the title (they may go over this by one or two characters, but don’t rely on this). If the title is longer, you’ll see an elypsis at the end, indicating that the complete title is longer:

 

For this particular page, the title was a lot longer at 104 characters.

What this means is that if you use long titles, you need to make sure they will make sense when they are displayed in the search results.

Meta description tag

It used to be that the description tag was always used by the search engines as the text below the title in the search results. Nowadays, this is happening less and less: Google and the other search engines are often using extracts from your page depending on what was searched for.

That said, there are occasions where your meta description tag is used, so it is worth putting in a precis of your page content. Make it snappy and reasonably concise – a good rule of thumb is no more than 160 characters, including spaces.

Heading tags

These are the titles that your site visitors see when they reach your page. Your website design software will help you put them into your pages.

Heading tags come in six different sizes.

H1 is the biggest and should only be used once on any given page, much the same way as a newspaper only has one headline for a story.

H2 is the next biggest and is used for important sub headings.

H3 through to H6 are used for other, less important, headings.

Google will pay attention to your heading tags to help determine what your page is about. And, of course, your site visitors will see the heading tags and use them to guide themselves through your pages.

Image names

Depending on your market, images may or may not be important for attracting visitors to your website.

Search engines find it harder to analyse pictures and other images so the name an image is given helps them with this task. Naming an image picture1.jpg is a lot less helpful to a search engine than calling the image title-tags.png (as the image above is called).

Don’t stress too much over image names. Just keep in mind that a meaningful name will help the search engines to make sense of your pictures and will also help you with finding them.

Other page content

This is the main text on your website pages. Write naturally but do your best to weave in your keyword phrase as you write. Be sensible – don’t use it too much but don’t skip your keyword phrase altogether!

If your page reads OK to you then it’s probably OK for the search engines as well. If you’re not sure, ask a friend to read it as well.

Click here for help with optimising your web site.