Technical SEO often gets overlooked. It's not flashy. It's not an exciting topic. It requires some IT knowledge. It's not easy for most marketers. But it can have quite the impact on your online business development efforts.
This case study looks at how fixing page speed/load time, search engine crawl errors and broken links doubled our website traffic.
The reason we test new things on our own website is partly so we can share insight with you. It's one thing to read an opinion piece about how certain optimizations might improve SEO, but it's another to read about an actual case and make conclusions from it. That's why I'm sharing this case study today.
Fixing Page Speed and Load Time
Like many other company websites, ours didn't pass Google's Page Speed Insights test. It also barely passed the page speed and load time test at webpagetest.org.
We knew that improving our own web presence meant that we needed to improve page speed and load time.
Here's what we did to improve it:
- Compressed images and reloaded them to the website.
- We moved our website from ExpressionEngine content management system to HubSpot's COS. We did this because we wanted to consolidate management of the website and see an increase in page speed.
Image compression for faster page speed load time
The first step -- and the easiest -- was to compress images and reload them on our website. This step took us an hour or two and made some modest gains in page load time, but not the gains we were expecting. When we last redesigned our website, it turns out that we did a decent job compressing images.
We used Compressor.io to compress the images. I recommend this free online tool with one caveat. It only compresses one image at a time. If you want to batch optimize images and are working on a Mac, then try ImageOptim. It doesn't compress images quite as much as Compressor.io, but you can run all of your images through this tool in one pass.
In other cases, we've seen image optimization save several seconds of load time. Given how easy it is to optimize images, it should be your first step.
HubSpot COS for faster page speed load time
Before November 2016, our website ran on ExpressionEngine and our blog ran on Wordpress. Our marketing automation platform and CRM was (and still is) HubSpot. While we made these systems all work together for several years, I decided in mid-2016 that moving our website and blog over to HubSpot would help consolidate marketing and sales management to one central location.
I also knew from putting several client websites on HubSpot that the platform is FAST.
It took us about 6 weeks to move our website and blog to HubSpot COS, and we went live in November 2016.
This step significantly improved our website load time. We tested site speed with Google PageSpeed Insights and saw this improvement:
Before move to HubSpot COS:
- Mobile: 54/100
- Desktop: 71/100
After move to HubSpot COS:
- Mobile: 69/100
- Desktop: 87/100
Fixing Crawl Errors and Broken Links
Now that our website was on a new platform and images were optimized, it was time to fix nearly 100 crawl errors that Google found as it indexed our website.
Note: In the spirit of science, we really should have measured the gain from the move to HubSpot COS before we started fixing crawl errors and broken links. This would have helped us measure the impact of each change. But we wanted this done by the end of the year, so combined all of these steps as a project.
Using Google Search Console to identify the crawl errors, we resolved these issues one by one. In most cases, this meant redirecting old page addresses to new ones. In a few cases where it made sense, we put up new pages at old website addresses.
This took several hours over a couple weeks. We'd resolve all of the issues, then a few days later, we'd see a few new issues. After a few interations of this, things have stabilized. Currently, we're crawl error free, but we still check this every few weeks just in case.
Because we've been blogging since I started the company in 2007, we had hundreds of broken links on the website. Websites and sources we linked to years ago were no longer active, and needed to be fixed.
Admittedly, this was a slow, laborious process that hasn't been completed yet. Because there were so many broken links in our blog, we had to prioritize them:
- Links from our blog to pages on our website
- Links to data sources
- Links to other companies
We quickly knocked out the links to our website, and many of the links to data sources. We're still picking through the remainder of broken links as time allows. Here's what we learned:
- It's critical to fix broken "internal" links -- those pointing back to your website.
- Fixing broken links is a task that's never done. Websites you link to will go offline and you'll need to find other sources or simply remove the links.
Making Our Website Secure (HTTPS)
After doing all of this, we had some other unfinished business to take care of. We were already seeing huge gains in website traffic, but decided that this was our opportunity to convert our whole website to HTTPS secure browsing, as search engines reward websites that are secure.
Luckily, having the website on HubSpot COS made this process simple. Normally, this would require installing an SSL and redirecting all web page addresses to secure ones. HubSpot software handled all of that for us, and the secure website went live on December 9, 2016.
Since we completed this project, we've seen a significant lift in website traffic and visits from Google search results.
- Website visits increased 74% from October to December 2016 (and December was a holiday month, usually sharply down from preceding months).
- Website visits from search engines increased 109% from October to December 2016.
The increases continued into January 2017:
- Website visits increased 145% in January 2017 as compared to October 2016.
- Website visits from search engines increased 237% in January 2017 as compared to October 2016.
The reasons your company may want to take on a project similar to this one is to get more traffic, which equates to more leads and more business development opportunities.
If we can help, let me know.
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