Websites can be complicated, with lots of pages, content, images, videos…all the things! Or very simple, with just a few pages of key information and visuals. At the end of the day, it’s most important that you’re website communicates with your audience in a way that engages them and encourages them to take the action you desire.
You of course want a good user experience. No long load times or users will bounce before your page has finished rendering. You want search engines to find you easily. While this can be a little more complicated, MANY factors are involved, you should as least make sure you have the SEO basics on your site. Also in today’s high-tech world your site needs to be responsive. That means your site scales and adapts between desktops, tablets and mobile devices. Many people think if they can see their website on their phone then it’s responsive. That’s not the case. Lastly you want to make sure your site is safe and secure.
So How Do You Get Your Website Grade?
There are many free tools out there that will grade your website on different aspects. Many of these focus more on the marketing perspective which involves quite a bit more than most website owners care to delve in to. However, if you just want a good overview of the basics, you can’t beat HubSpot’s Website Grader.
It’s free. It’s simple. It delivers results fast AND gives you insights on how to improve in each area.
I’m going to be super honest here. Years long past, I designed websites on the side to make extra money. They were fun to me, like puzzles. This was back when everything was HTML and CSS so one character out of place threw your whole site into disarray. Now we have these wonderful templates and themes that make site building a breeze. Sooo…I decided to build Cloud Cycle’s site myself. When I put my new, fledgling site through HubSpot’s Website Grader I almost cried when that big old 64 popped on the screen.
Now I knew that 64 wasn’t necessarily bad. I’ve put many client websites through the grader and knew that score was better than what most sites initially receive. But this was my site! So I wanted to come out the gate awesome.
Cloud Cycle Initial Score
Website Grader Ranked My Site Like This
Mobile Responsive 30/30
Talk about a rough ending! Website grade gone bad.
So How Did I Improve My Website Grade?
First let me start by saying HubSpot gives you links to articles that give you suggestions on how to improve in each area. So if you take the test and get something different than I did, don’t despair. Between their articles, and some online searching for solutions, you can figure it out. Now how easy it will be to implement the changes depends on the platform your website was built on.
I built this site on WordPress which made enhancing my site quick and easy thanks to plugins. Due to the fact that my site utilizes a theme there wasn’t much I could do on the performance. My page request number and render blocking is a bit out of my control. (Unless I want to run the risk of really messing things up in my site.) My main concern was are my pages light (yes), loading fast (yes) and caching (yes). So I was pretty happy overall with my performance and didn’t make changes here.
I may go back and take a look at some image file sizes to see if I can improve those by reducing size by maintaining good clarity. Images can be a real killer to load speeds. I see so many people download a 300 dpi image from a stock site then upload it to their web page. Quick lesson here, 300 dpi is for printing. 72 dpi is recommended for web. 72 will print like crap. 300 on a website will kill you. So make sure you are using the appropriate image sizes for what you are doing.
I used Yoast’s SEO plugin to improve my SEO score. This plugin is amazeballs!!! (Yes, that is a technical term.) It helps walk you through your different SEO elements and gives suggestions on how to improve. They also have a great help area if you are confused. I followed their instructions to optimize my overall site, then went in page-by-page to optimize each page. Luckily I didn’t have a lot of pages since the site was new. I also told it not to index pages like my thank you page after a form submission. Now one complaint here, I couldn’t get Yoast to create my XML sitemap that HubSpot recommended. The plugin has the feature but for some reason I kept getting an error. So I used the Google Sitemap plugin. BAM, sitemap created with a push of the button.
Making the Site Secure
Next I tackled the security area. This was easy but cost money. Essentially sites that are secured are more trusted and recommended by search engines. Not to mention viewers. If you handle transactions, customer logins, house customer information or other sensitive information you definitely need a SSL certificate. For the rest of us this isn’t critical but if you have a blog it’s still nice to have. I got my basic SSL certificate from GoDaddy for $48. It was installed and running within in an hour.
Obviously I didn’t have to worry about mobile as I got a high score there. However, if your site isn’t mobile responsive it could be as simple as switching your site to a mobile responsive theme if you’re on a platform that supports that. I say simple but any time you switch themes there is a chance things are going to look odd as content shifts to a new theme. So you should go back and check all you pages and adjust as needed. If you’re not on a theme platform, you will probably need to enlist the help of a web developer and do a site overhaul. This could be costly, BUT YOU NEED TO DO IT! As of right now, July 2016, currently 35-40% of the US population views websites through mobile devices. That number is growing!!! So it’s no longer and option to be mobile responsive, it’s a MUST!
So What Was My New Website Grade?
Ninety-four! I literally smiled and told myself, “That’ll do pig. That’ll do.” If that reference was lost on you, man I feel old now, and you need to go watch the movie Babe. (The pig, not the baseball legend.)
So go forth. Get those website grades and start improving your site today.
Is Your Website Really Driving Results?
A good web grade is just the beginning. Your website needs to communicate effectively to your targets and guide them to desired actions. Depending on your service or product, you may need to nurture viewers over time to take that action. We offer website evaluations as part of all our digital marketing strategies. When combined with retargeting efforts your website can go from simple online presence to a lead generation machine.