DIY: 3 Great Website Tools to Check the Speed and Health of Your Pages

With the dawn of the mobile revolution, it has become more critical than ever to have a website that is not only responsive by design for multiple devices, but also fast and mobile friendly.  Statistics show that in the hospitality world 30-40% of users are increasingly using mobile devices to research and book vacation rentals.  It is clear that Google rewards websites in both organic and paid search placements with higher rankings when a user does not use the back button after getting to a landing page.  While this is only one small factor in consideration, it makes a big difference from a usability standpoint when a customer is using a phone or tablet to open a website over a cellular network.  Gone are the days of testing page speed with your desktop computer as T1, T3, Cable, and Fiber connections are much more commonplace in urban areas.  So how can I really tell if my website will open fast for all my users?  How do I isolate the cause of those problems?

If I were you, I would not rely on just one tool to test my website.  Keep in mind, you will get varying results depending on server locations, bandwidth being used, time of day, etc.  So make sure to test a couple of times and get an average.  As well, in this example we will only test the homepage of a website.  I strongly encourage you to test new landing pages used for your AdWords campaigns as well as any that may have extra functionality, forms, widgets, or just a lot of pictures…All of these below are free tools!

1.  WEBSITE OPTIMIZATION For many years, I have referenced this tool as a starting point to get a quick glimpse of how the different objects on my webpage are being seen by crawlers.  http://www.websiteoptimization.com/services/analyze/

The 2 main things I look at are:

dowload-times

page-analysis

Check out the red highlights in the analysis tool then ask your webmaster how they will address these items.

2. Pingdom Pingdom is great in many ways as you can sign up to get alerts when your website goes down via email or text message.  I use tools.pingdom.com to get even more in-depth with what objects are slowing my website down in addition to THE ORDER that they load.  Sometimes just having some objects load at the end allows a user to see the important stuff and gives time for the other secondary style sheets and .js calls to load.  You can drill down to see specifics, get a “performance grade” and it will also keep a history so you can see how well you have improved over time.

http://tools.pingdom.com/

performance-grade

 3.  Google Page Insights - Lastly, I will check Google’s Page insights to see what score they provide.  It is out if 100 and theoretically the higher the better.  The nice thing about Insights is that they break down all the links, server calls, and objects and let you know where your biggest opportunities are for optimizing for page speed.

https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/

google-pagespeed

Remember, most times you can tackle 2 or 3 biggies – usually image size, caching, and order in which objects load to make a dramatic difference in your website’s page speed time.  In the end, the effort is worth it because it will result in a lower bounce rate, higher rankings, and a better overall user experience.  Many have said for years…you only have 8 seconds to make that first impression!  Now go OPTIMIZE!

The Chemistry of SEO : Periodic Table of SEO

The very building blocks of the Universe are represented by the Periodic Table: atoms that combine to form molecules which in turn combine to create real things we can see.

In the realm of Search Engine Optimization, the real thing we can see is a website ranking for a keyword or even an actual visitor to a website.  However, the small building blocks that cause those results are invisible to the untrained.  Check out the Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors for an visualization of how the Universe of SEO is organized:

See How Easily You Can Learn About Google Analytics and The Power of Your Brand in Search

Blizzard has a few Webinars coming up. Hope to see you there:

Google Analytics Multi-Channel Conversion Tool
Monday, November 28th, 2011 10AM MST

Learn about the most exciting new Google Analytics feature to come along in years!  This may be the single most exciting online marketing development during 2011.
Learn how to setup and interpret this valuable new data which is guaranteed to shed new light on where your online bookings really come from and will most likely change your budgeting process in 2012. This is a 30 minute webinar.

The Power of Your Brand in Google’s Search Algorithm
Thursday, December 8th, 2011 1PM MST

Learn how your Brand is becoming an increasingly important component in Google’s organic search algorithm.  Google monitors your brand signals and will rank you higher and drive more search engine traffic to your website if your brand appears stronger than your competitors.

Learn about the brand signals Google tracks in its algorithm and what you can do to increase the strength and frequency of those signals.

Google Plus for Hotels and Vacation Rentals: Strategies, Tactics and Tips
Wednesday December 14th, 2011 10AM MST

Get a head start in the new Google+ social networking platform. Learn how to get your account going and how to get the most out of it.  Includes tips for newbies but focuses on strategies and tactics that will work in the world of guest marketing.

How Does Your Website Rank in Google’s Quality Rating

Jennifer Ledbetter, the author of PotPieGirl.com shared a great blog post last week abut how Google makes its algorithm changes using human raters to rate search engine results.

In a nutshell, Google has an army of humans that guide their algorithm changes by examining the “quality” of websites.  Those quality signals eventually become encapsulated into the mathematical algorithm and then roll out into the entire Google index.  Your website goes up-or-down based upon  your “quality footprint.”  The possibility even exists that your site could go up or down as a result of a manual review, outside of an actual algorithm change.

Here is a short video from Google explaining:

Is this scary?  We don’t think so. In fact, this really confirms what we have been teaching our clients for years: Focus on making your site the BEST site and your search results will follow.

The most fascinating element of her post is that she shared a “proprietary and confidential” 125 page document from Google that gives step-by-step instructions on how to do a “quality rating.”  Unfortunately, Google asked her to remove that link. (you can find it probably by searching for it)  Fortunately, we downloaded the document last week and will summarize the important bits for you. [Read more...]

Integrate Your Google Webmaster Tool Data into Google Analytics

Connecting your Google Webmaster Tool account and your Google Analytics account provides better reports in your Google Analytics AND more convenience.  This feature was released last week on the Google Webmaster Central Blog.

I especially like having the “Queries” report right in Google Analytics which shows how many impressions my website received in Google search results (by Query), the Click-Thru-Rate and the average ranking. Pretty Handy.

Here are the step-by-step instructions… with a caveat: you must be in the “new version” of Google Analytics, not the old.  If your screens look different, you are in the old version.  The login to the new version is at the very top of your page.

Here are the step-by-step instructions to integrate these two accounts:

1) Login to Google Analytics and click on the gear to the right of the reporting tabs:

[Read more...]

Google Plus for Business – First Glance

The early iterations of Google Plus are interesting to watch, but Google Plus is still only a curiosity from a business standpoint.  Not only is there not a business offering, Google has warned businesses not to setup a Google+ account for your business.

Officially, Blizzard recommends you wait a bit longer on Google+… but read on for more specific instructions.

That said, it is easy to imagine how a business could use the existing functionality to build a business page and create a circle of “friends” and clients to communicate with.  Right off the bat the Hangouts feature is a promising business tool.  Blizzard tested Hangouts this morning with a video conference call and it worked great.  It was an easy tool for a bunch of Blizzard employees and clients to get together at an appointed time and have a discussion.  Hangouts allowed just audio or audio + video.  Additionally, any user can share their screen.  Hangouts is limited to 10 people AND the organizer of the conference can’t control it. In this sense, GoToMeeting is a much better option for a more push-type presentation.  Here is a short video from Google:

We recommend that you:

  1. Get a GooglePlus (or Google+ if you prefer, I use them interchangeably) account for your personal business just to acquaint yourself with how it works.  Read Google + for Newbies if you want some great tips.
  2. Try the “Hangout” feature to see if you like it for business meetings with remote colleagues.
  3. Add the +1 button to your website, parallel to the “LIKE” button so early +1 users can start using it. Click here for directions on adding the +1 button to your website.
  4. Watch for the Google Plus business offering.

Google has released a first-glance at its new Google Plus Business Page with a demo by Ford Motors:

Hopefully, pages like this will be made available to all business soon!  Of course, it will be one more thing your social media and SEO marketing team will have to deal with. Sigh.

 

Google Places May Be More Important Than You Think

A fascinating eye-tracking study was released by SEOMoz today that is worth paying attention to. The eye-tracking research shows how eyes moved through Google search results and posted several “heat maps” of the results.  These results included Google Places and Google map data that is currently being “blended” into the search results by Google.  The conclusions Blizzard draws for hotel and lodging websites are not new:

  • How you look when you do rank is very important.  A lower ranking with a great looking search results can really deliver.
  • Because so many lodging related searches are “local searches”, your Google Places becomes increasing important because Google uses Google Places data to “enhance” a simple search result with red map icons and review info.

This is something we spoke about a few months ago when we got excited about how Google Places was giving individual hotel websites a big boost over Expedia and TripAdvisor in Google’s own search results.  The bottom line is that lodging companies should work to improve the visual appeal of their search results.  This will encourage the consumer to actually look and see your listing when he or she searches.  Practically speaking, this means working to improve your presence in Google Places.

I encourage you to visit the SEOMoz post to look at more, but here is an example: