This post was originally written by Ian Lurie in 2016. It was recently edited by Portent content strategist Travis McKnight, to include new information and more current data.
This content marketing guide is enormous. There is no TL;DR version because creating a content strategy has a lot of steps. And they’re all necessary.
If you’re a writer and know your way around a computer or a marketing geek who knows how to write, after reading the guide, you should be well-prepared for the endeavors ahead.
Before you dive in, here’s an important caveat: this guide focuses on the “getting started” steps, best practices, and a few of our favorite tools. If you’re only looking for content strategy best practices, we recommend you read our blog. But if you want to learn the whole process, you’re in the right place.
Kicking off any content marketing process starts with the strategy. Afterward, some basic process planning happens. This is how we do it at Portent:
In the first step, you grab a lot of data and mush it all together; this is the most mechanically involved task we’ll get into. Fortunately, the second step is fast and easy. The third and fourth steps are the most challenging and demanding. Both tasks require critical thinking skills, intuition, and industry knowledge that are impossible-to-automate.
Let’s establish common definitions and outline a few assumptions.
My definition of “content” is broad. Content is about a lot more than piles of blog posts. Content is everything you say, in any format.
Conversations are comprised of content. Content is how we converse.
Content drives every exchange you have with a potential customer. Product descriptions are content. So are photos, blog posts, podcasts, your company’s “About Us” page, those 40 ridiculous links you stuff at the bottom of your home page, and every other scrap of information you put—anywhere.
A content strategy has three objectives:
Content marketing is how you deliver on those goals.
Trust me, none of these are easy. To get started, you must break the connection in your brain between SEO and content.
Wait, what did you say?
I said: Forget about SEO and rankings. This is about content, which affects every inch of your marketing strategy. Content influences everything in marketing.
SEO is one reason to do a fantastic job on content. It’s certainly not the only one. I see SEO as 20 percent of the reason to create great content.
This whole step-by-step content strategy guide is meant to support all of your organization’s communications efforts. But it’ll only support those efforts if you use the data you collect to define “good” content for your site. That will only happen if you look at content as a marketing strategist, rather than an SEO.
There are entire books about persona creation. I’m not going to write about the process here. What I recommend, though, is that each persona include:
If you can assemble this kind of information, you’ve got the basics. It doesn’t have to be fancy.
You could go through your entire web site, by hand, and find every last piece of content. You could.
Or, you can automate the inventory. Which is what I strongly suggest. Here’s what I do, and how I do it:
Yikes. Awful. I know, but that’s the music I grew up with.
The first step in any inventory is getting a list of your stuff. Here, the first step is getting a list of site pages. All you need is a list of page URLs. If you have a large site (say, more than 1,000 pages), you should group those URLs by category.
Wait, what? Grouped by category? Ian, WTF?!!! I’ll have to do that by hand!!!
Nope. Assuming your site has any semblance of structure, you’ll have categories, and those categories will have a hub page, like this:
On this site, you’d probably create an “Outerwear” URL group that included everything in the Outerwear/ folder, including the outerwear page itself. Then you’d create another one for underwear, and so on. If there’s a blog, you break that up by category, too.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an e-commerce site, by the way. Most sites have category structures. If you don’t, look really carefully—you may have found the first step in your content strategy.
Here’s an easy way to see if you’ve got the right URL groups. Each URL group should:
You can get these URL groups fairly easily using a standard site crawler. Keep reading, and I’ll show you how.
Crawl each category list of links separately. My favorite desktop tool for this is Screaming Frog. Go get it. I’ll wait.
Screaming Frog is so full of awesome; it’d take another 10,000 words to describe it. If you want to learn more about using it, check out SEER’s incredibly complete guide.
Second. If you’re lucky, and each URL group matches a folder on your site, you can enter your web address plus the folder, like this:
…and Screaming Frog will only crawl links within that folder. Easy-peasy.
If your site doesn’t use folders, try using the Include filter, instead:
You can also filter the URLs after the fact, using the Filter tool, or by getting creative with Excel. I’m not going to write about all that here, because frankly, this post is long enough, yes?
Third. Save your crawl to a CSV, so you can import it into a spreadsheet, like so:
But what about monster sites? 1 million+ pages? My favorite publicly-available tool is Deepcrawl.
Fourth. Finally, take each URL group crawl result and import them into Excel. Keep the Status Code, as well as the H1/H2s, Response Codes, Page Title and Meta Description, Word Count. That gives me a pretty complete list of URLs and basic data you’ll need for page quality.
Finally. Get rid of duplicate source URLs! Don’t forget!
You can use a different tool than Excel. When I do this myself, I dump the list of URLs into Sublime Text and filter for unique URLs, and then use a regular expression to dump any offsite stuff that somehow got into the crawl. But Excel is a great starting point.
Now, you’ve got your list(s) of links—the “stuff” part of the inventory. Time to fetch your performance data—this is the “information about the stuff” part of the inventory. You’ll use this data as part of your strategy.
What I do not measure in a content audit (I use inventory and audit interchangeably):
None of these stats show me whether the content had an impact. They show me whether someone came and looked at the page, and they show me if you left your browser open for 10 minutes. That’s about it.
What I do measure in a content audit:
Read on if you want some tips on grabbing all of this data without going insane.
Performance data tells you how a specific piece of content helps your overall strategy. Language & quality data provides a snapshot of subject matter and best practices:
There is no ideal number of words per page, by the way. Or reading ease. Or anything else. You’re looking at this data to build a profile of particularly successful content within this one category on your site. In one URL group, that may mean 500 words/page and a reading grade level 12. In another, that may mean 100 words and reading grade level 7. It’s up to you to look at the data and draw conclusions.
But still—how do you grab all of this data?! There’s the rub. Keep reading.
Collecting all of this by hand could take weeks. Or you can automate it. You’ve got a few options, from super-technical to most accessible:
More likely, you’ll use a mix of tools and manual labor. Here’s how you pull it all together.
Tools like Moz’s Link Explorer will let you pull a lot of the content performance numbers. Add SEMRush to that, and you have a lot of great information. If you can’t collect every datapoint, work with what you can. In spite of the numbers, this is more art than science.
But data like authority numbers and revenue/conversions require logins, and you don’t want to share those on AMT or Smartsheet. Use Excel VLOOKUP, instead:
If you need to learn VLOOKUP, check out this excellent tutorial from Distilled.
Record any catastrophic events: a major PR gaffe, or a governance failure, or something similar. These kinds of events may point out the need for a stricter content policy. Or, they may point out how well a particular style of response worked to correct the problem and move on. Either way, there are lessons to be learned.
To be honest, I rarely do a deep competitive analysis. We’re not going to imitate the competition, because that probably won’t work. And being a copycat is really, really bad for your brand, as Adecco found out. And we’re not going to learn much from them, because we have no information about their process/challenges/resources.
However, there are times when competitive research and comparisons make sense:
And, since you’ve already automated so much of the data collection process, it’s easy enough to run the process above for a few dozen pages on your top competitors. So you may want to take a look.
For Portent, that means the following:
In our case, pretend we discovered that our competition hasn’t written that much about overall Internet marketing. They’re remarkably strong for individual topics, but haven’t pulled it all together. That gives us an opportunity.
You now have scads of data on every page in each URL group. Maybe you grabbed every possible data point. Maybe you didn’t. It doesn’t matter. This is the part that matters most. You need to look at all of this data and start to build a profile for “great” content in each URL group.
You could try to use a formula or a statistical technique like Pearson Correlation, but I don’t recommend it. Content is largely about emotional response:
You can’t calculate that.
You can, however, look at each URL group, determine what emotional response each group was trying to obtain, and then use the data to see whether you succeeded. Here’s an example.
I ran a small report—about 150 pages—on the Portent blog using our Content Inventory Analysis tool, which collects most of the data I’ve recommended you analyze. You can view the report here to follow along if you want.
I need to see if any content “sticks out” as particularly successful. The easiest way? Just sort by various columns, looking for pages with the best citation flow, most tweets or Facebook shares, etc. If I find something significant, I’ll create a separate report for it later.
In our report, the top three articles are either super-specific “how-tos” or educational “you should know” content that rambles on about digital marketing best practices. In general, our most successful posts in this report are also more than 2,000 words long, with two of them surpassing 5,000 words. In fact, just about all blog content that got tweeted falls into those two categories, and have more than 1,500 words.
If one of my strategic goals is to build share of voice through social shares (not the best goal on its own, but a decent start), then I can safely assume that:
These may seem like “well, duh” discoveries. But now you can back them up with data. Plus, I’m not sure the newsworthy part would’ve jumped out at me without looking at these top 10 pages.
Still, I won’t want to base all of my assumptions on one statistic. And there’s probably more to learn. If I dig deeper, I find:
Here’s the warning about all this: It’s just numbers, and you’re dealing with people. It may be that the top two posts performed so well because we used the word “flibbergibbet” in our tweets, or we tweeted on a Saturday (I checked the tweets we sent, and when we sent them, and didn’t see any huge differences).
So yes, you need to think it through, and explore other information as necessary. That’s research. It’s also why we all still have a job, and aren’t likely to be replaced any time soon by Python scripts that fetch numbers from 10 different APIs.
In our case, if I think it through and compare goals, audit results, and competitive analysis, I can conclude that:
Use “plan” or “strategy.” Regardless, this is the part that brings everything together: Your data, conclusions, competitive analysis, all of it.
Here’s what I put into a strategy.
First thing’s first. What’s the content supposed to do?
You may know. I may know. But I guarantee at least one critical decision-maker who reads your strategy will not. This is not something most people spend a lot of time thinking about—we’re kind of weird. So no matter how repetitive it feels, write out exactly what you hope content will accomplish. Expectation-setting is critical.
This is yet another place to emphasize that adding keywords to the website so Google will rank your website is not part of the strategy. It’s also a good place to point out content’s vast impact on the entire marketing plan. Get buy-in on these concepts here, and opportunities for great, creative, useful stuff start popping up like sun-starved Seattlites on a clear day.
Where did you get your data? How did you draw your conclusions? Again, someone’s going to ask. Nothing fancy—a simple list of sources and methods will do.
Carefully and diplomatically list tools, resources, or other things that may limit capabilities. You have to talk about this before you talk about goals and metrics! This is all about setting expectations. If your site lacks a content management system, you can’t publish as often. If you lack writers, you can’t produce as much. If you need photography and don’t have a photographer, well…you see where this is going.
You need to clearly state constraints, from day one. That’s how you manage expectations.
Say what you need! Don’t write: “Our resources are limited. We will not be able to meet these goals.” For the person reviewing the plan, that’s extremely frustrating. They know you do not have enough resources. You’ve told them that. But what do you need? What will let you get the job done?
You have to provide solutions: “We will need to add two people to meet these goals.” Trust me; nothing drives a boss more insane than a problem presented without a solution. Tell them what’s necessary for you to meet your goals. They may say no. But it’s better than grumbling.
What should we measure going forward?
The Goals and Analysis plan below talks about how often to measure your content. But you also need to set out the metrics, and the goals, right away. Check out our guide to content KPIs if you want inspiration.
Like the role of content, putting this into writing really gets folks on the right track.
For Portent, the goal is more shareable content and ultimately, reaching beyond the search community into the marketing community as a whole. We’ll measure that by watching:
Here’s an example: “I’d like to see comments per page increase by 25 percent, and see an even topic distribution between PPC, SEO, social media, analytics, development, and overall strategy.”
The two or three guiding principles behind the organization, translated into central themes for every piece of content you write. This is one of the critical bits that, if you get it right, causes the rest of the audit to fall nicely into place.
The “essential topics” might be “keywords” for some folks. I don’t think keywords are very strategic, and I know what my writing looks like if someone tells me, “Hey, can you write a blog post about bicycle tires?” So I’d rather stick to topics.
A good place to start is with the organization’s “why.” Not sure what your company’s “why” is? Check out Simon Sinek’s masterful book, Start With Why to learn how to develop and use “why” as a motivating force.
For me, the “why” is “help everyone communicate better, because great communications will save the world.”
That doesn’t mean every blog post we write has to talk about communications and a world-ending lack thereof. Instead, break the “why” up into essential topics like this. Every post we write should probably touch on one of these points:
We don’t have to literally write about each of these topics, either. But any content we create should probably somehow support one of the essential topics. For example:
Every one of those posts either offers advice on better communications, calls out great or awful communications, or otherwise trots alongside the communications bandwagon.
Essential topics are a “soft” concept. This makes it even more critical that you make it as concrete as possible, with lots of examples and crystal clear topics. Still, anything this touchy-feely in a world of “give me my ROI now, dammit,” spells nightmare. Here are the properties of a good essential topic:
Some of these look like narrow semantic distinctions, right? You probably rolled your eyes at “better visual storytelling.” It’s ok, you can admit it. I backspaced over it three times myself. But it’s not just me making up fancy phrases. Two years from now, someone’s going to have to look at this essential topic and be able to apply it to whatever content they’re dreaming up.
If you’re going to write personas, this is not the place to do it. You should have gotten everyone’s buy-in regarding personas way at the start of this article, long before you started writing strategy. If you didn’t, no big deal. Just don’t create the gigantic kerfuffle that’ll result if you throw personas into the mix now. Skip ‘em.
Instead, in this section, write little two-sentence descriptions of each audience type and do the same for a few different tones you think are appropriate.
Easiest section in the whole audit. Just explain the kinds of content you think can work. If video and text are the only types, explain why. If an audio podcast makes sense, go with that. Just think it through, so that this is a plan the reader can stick to.
Now, explain how you’re going to rank content. I don’t mean good to bad—I mean, “stuff we should write a lot” versus “stuff we should write a little,” or “stuff that scales” and “stuff that doesn’t.” For Portent, that’s the 70/20/10 rubric. I won’t bother going into it here—you can read about it in this post.
You can’t just cut-and-paste a standard description, though. You have to make this hierarchy make sense for the client. I usually do that by:
Don’t write out a list of titles. This is a strategic document, remember. Instead, create a calendar showing how often to produce content that fits each position in the hierarchy. For example:
I’d use an actual calendar format if I were you, though. People seem to absorb the information more easily that way.
This is much more tactical. Take a look at the content inventory report you created. If there are any mistakes/omissions/great things that happen more than 20 percent of the time, write a best practice to address it.
Then, picture a content team sitting in your spot, six months from now. What insights might those people miss? Write best practices for each of those realizations, too.
These are often little things, like writing fully-descriptive titles. But sometimes big stuff ends up here. For example:
When you’re making best practice guidelines, we also recommend listing the tools you use. Some of ours are:
Understand that these are not laws. Sometimes the team has to bypass a best practice. Your job here is to provide the information they need to make an intelligent, informed decision when they do. If they decide to place an image that’s larger than 500kb, fine, just understand that it increases article load time. If they skip the transcript, they may get fewer video views because people can’t get a quick preview, and because search engines may not properly categorize the page.
Lots and lots of examples. Good, bad, edits you’d make, edits you wouldn’t. The more examples you provide, the easier it is for the reader to figure out best practices and essential topics. We often provide marked-up screen captures showing what we’d change and how.
Depending on the reader, I might write out basic guidelines for outreach: how much to do and when, who to reach, and how.
In case you’re not familiar with outreach, it is among the best strategies to proactively drive organic and referral traffic to your website. A long-term outreach campaign also builds domain authority, bolsters brand awareness, and engages your audience where they congregate on the web. For more, check out our Outreach 101 guide. It has everything you need to get started.
Some clients really want governance to be part of their strategy and audit. To me, it’s a whole different thing. I know that’s not the norm, so I’ll explain:
Write down your plan for measuring and tracking content performance over time. Be really, really specific. Exactly what would you do every time you publish a new piece of content? Exactly what would you regularly check, and exactly how often? And if you aren’t sure what the appropriate cadence is for auditing your content, you can read more about that here.
You might even want to provide basic guidelines for interpreting data: if the numbers go up, do X. If they go down, do Y. But I’m really cautious with this kind of information in a strategy. It’s bound to get transformed from strategic advice to tactical musts. Next thing you know, every time a post gets three Facebook likes, the entire content team has to write on the same topic for three months.
This sounds really hard. And really complicated. That’s because it is. Content strategies drive communications policy, which, ironically, is really hard to communicate. But it’s priceless information for your organization. A good strategy forms a long-term framework for content, and it keeps everyone honest. It guides more than content marketing. It drives an organization’s entire marketing plan. So it’s well worth the effort.
The post The Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide to Content Strategy appeared first on Portent.
Google has podcasts in search results!
Neat! Google has yet another feature to push down the ten* blue links, encourage people to never click through to your website, and take credit for your content! Alright, that’s a little more cynical than I usually am but, I’m not wrong.
*your number of blue links may vary
These rich results for podcasts first launched in 2017. Initially, they displayed as a list of playable episodes under an organic listing. Now, podcast search results show up as a card carousel high up on the results page.
My Chrome browser isn’t the only place you will see these Google Podcasts search results either; you can also find them in several Google-owned and operated properties and services:
The first step, after “get yourself a podcast” is to publish your podcast to Google Play Music. It’s a straightforward process that includes creating an RSS feed and having a website that links to the RSS feed.
Once you have verified and published your podcast, it will be available in the Google Podcasts app and eligible for all the search display opportunities Google has to offer podcasts.
Anytime a website and Google are involved, there is going to be an opportunity for optimization. And, from what I can tell, there are not a lot of podcasts out there that are optimized for organic search. I mean, two of the three podcast results for “productivity podcasts” use an episode title of “Productivity.”
It also looks like Google is still trying to interpret search intent with a lot of “podcast” related searches; probably because there are podcasts out there for practically everything!
For example, trying to find out which type of schema markup to use on podcasts brings up a handful of pages that don’t actually answer the query and a Google Podcasts result with podcasts talking about structured data. The eighth organic result is the info I needed:
So, with all of that in mind, here are some SEO fundamentals for podcast SEO:
There you have it. As the art of podcasting continues to grow and gain more momentum, it will become even more necessary to make sure yours is well positioned and easily accessible through Google search results. By following these best practices, you’ll be set up for success. Happy podcasting!
Developers don’t do SEO. They make sure sites are SEO-ready.
That means developers hold the key to SEO. It’s true. If you’re a developer and you’re reading this, laugh maniacally. You’re in control.
You control three things: viability, visibility, and site flexibility.
This post provides guidelines for all three.
This isn’t a navel-gazing philosophical question.
For this article’s purposes, a developer connects site to database (or whatever passes for a database, don’t get all anal-retentive on me), builds pages using the design provided, and does all the work those two jobs require.
A developer does not design. They do not write content. If you do all three jobs, tell the designer/content parts of your brain to take a break. This post isn’t for them.
Viability: Stuff you do on the server and in early software configuration that readies a site for ongoing SEO.
Mostly I chose this word because the other two ended with “ility,” and it just works.
Server logs are an SEO source of truth. Log file analysis can reveal all manner crawler hijinx.
Every web server on the planet has some kind of HTTP log file.
And now someone’s going to tweet me their platform that, in defiance of all logic, doesn’t generate log files. OK, fine.
99% of web servers on the planet have some kind of log file.
Happy? Great. Now go make sure your server generates and saves HTTP logs.
Most servers are set up correctly out of the box, but just in case, make sure log files include:
Also make sure that:
Log files, folks. Love ’em. Keep ’em. Share ’em.
Why does everyone treat analytics like a light switch? Paste the script, walk away, boom, you’ve got data.
Is this all SEO stuff? Not exactly. But it all helps the SEO team. Is this your job? Maybe not. But you’re on the Dev team. You know you’re the top of the escalation tree for everything from analytics data to printer malfunctions. When they can’t find the data they need, the SEO team will end up at your door.
Even if you do, keep in mind:
Use the right response codes:
200: Everything’s OK, and the resource exists
301: The resource you requested is gone forever. Poof. Look at this other one instead
302: The resource you requested is gone, but it might be back. Look at this other one for now
40x: The resource you requested can’t be found. Oops
50x: Gaaaahhhhh help gremlins are tearing my insides out in a very not-cute way. Nothing’s working. Everything’s hosed. We’re doomed. Check back later just in case
Some servers use 200 or 30x responses for missing resources. This makes Sir Tim Berners-Lee cry. It also makes me cry, but I don’t matter. Change it.
Even worse, some CMSes and carts come configured to deliver a 200 response for broken links and missing resources. The visiting web browser tries to load a missing page. Instead of a 404 response, the server delivers a 200 ‘OK’ response and keeps you on that page.
That page then displays a ‘page not found’ message. Crawlers then index every instance of that message, creating massive duplication. Which becomes a canonicalization issue (see below) but starts as a response code problem.
Yes, Google says they’ll eventually figure out whether you meant to use a 302 or a 301. Keyword: eventually. Never wait for Google. Do it right in the first place.
I make no judgments regarding the pluses or minuses of these. But plan ahead and configure them before you launch:
Check ’em off now, so you don’t have to deal with them later:
I just found out that I have high cholesterol, which is irritating because I eat carefully and bike 50–100 miles/week. But whatever.
MY POINT HERE is that server viability fights potential blockages by making sure your SEO team can get straight too…
This is a horrible analogy. Moving on.
This is what everyone thinks about: How you build a site impacts search engines’ ability to find, crawl, and index content. Visibility is all about the software. How you build the site impacts it.
Every resource on your site should have a single valid address. One. Address. Every page, every image.
Canonicalization problems can cause duplicate content that, in turn, wastes crawl budget, reduces authority, and hurts relevance. Don’t take my word for it. Read Google’s recommendation. If you follow these recommendations, you’ll avoid 90% of canonicalization problems:
If your domain is www.foo.com, then your home page should “live” at www.foo.com.
It shouldn’t be
or anything else. Those are all canonically different from www.foo.com. Make sure all links back to the home page are canonically correct.
Don’t depend on rel=canonical or 301 redirects for this. Make sure all internal site links point to the same canonical home page address. No site should ever require a 301 redirect from internal links to its own home page.
Make sure that the link to page one of a pagination tunnel always links to the untagged URL. For example: If you have paginated content that starts at /tag/foo.html, make sure that clicking ‘1’ in the pagination links takes me back to /tag/foo.html, not /tag/foo.html?page=1.
Friends don’t let friends create links like this:
Those can create infinitely-expanding URLs:
/en-us/ /en-US/US-Distribution /en-US/~/link.aspx?_id=6F0F84644AC94212ACA891D5AE1868C9&_z=z /en-US/~/~/link.aspx?_id=B682300BEAD24C0ABC268DB377B1D5A0&_z=z /en-US/~/~/~/link.aspx?_id=6F0F84644AC94212ACA891D5AE1868C9&_z=z /en-US/~/~/~/~/link.aspx?_id=B682300BEAD24C0ABC268DB377B1D5A0&_z=z /en-US/~/~/~/~/~/link.aspx?_id=6F0F84644AC94212ACA891D5AE1868C9&_z=z /en-US/~/~/~/~/~/~/link.aspx?_id=B682300BEAD24C0ABC268DB377B1D5A0&_z=z /en-US/~/~/~/~/~/~/~/link.aspx?_id=6F0F84644AC94212ACA891D5AE1868C9&_z=z /en-US/~/~/~/~/~/~/~/~/link.aspx?_id=B682300BEAD24C0ABC268DB377B1D5A0&_z=z
Never hard-code relative links, unless you want to be the comic relief in an SEO presentation.
Don’t use query attributes to tag and track navigation. Say you have three diﬀerent links to /foo.html. You want to track which links get clicked. It’s tempting to add
?loc=value to each link. Then you can look for that attribute in your analytics reports and figure out which links get clicked most.
You don’t need to do that. Instead, use a tool like Hotjar. It records where people click, then generates scroll, click and heat maps of your page.
If you absolutely must use tags, then use /# instead of ? and change your analytics software to interpret that, so that
/#loc=value. Web crawlers ignore everything after the hash sign.
Whether you have canonicalization issues or not, make sure you:
It’s best to fix canonicalization issues by doing it right: build your site to have a single address for every page.
If you can’t do that, though, use these:
Please don’t do these things:
In other words, no funny business. Do it right from the start.
Performance is done to death, so I’m going to keep it short. First, a brief sermon: page speed is an easy upgrade that gets you multiple wins. Faster load time means higher rankings, sure. It also means higher conversion rates and better UX.
Lighthouse isn’t perfect, but it’s a helpful optimization checklist. It also tests accessibility for a nice 2-in–1.
Do all the stuff.
Regardless of the test results:
You can also consider installing page speed modules. I’d never do this. I don’t want Google software running directly on my server. But they do a lot of work for you. You decide.
A few other quick tips:
Chances are, someone else will add a bunch of third-party scripts and clobber site performance. You can get oﬀ to a good start:
If you’re loading assets from a separate site, consider using DNS prefetch. That handles the DNS lookup ahead of time:
That reduces DNS lookup time. More on that:
Find the most popular resources on your site and use prefetch (not to be confused with DNS prefetch, above). That loads the asset when the browser is idle, reducing load time later:
Be careful with prefetch. Too much will slow down the client. Pick the most-accessed pages and other resources and prefetch those.
Build your site to avoid ‘thin’ content: pages with very little content and little unique information.
Avoid these things. Don’t laugh. I still find this kind of stuff in audits all the time:
Don’t wait for an SEO to make you go back and fix it. Build to prevent this kind of stuff:
window.locationor something similar. Crawlers will ignore everything after the hash
We’ve already dealt with title elements and such, so this is a lot easier. Every page should:
While heading tags don’t necessarily aﬀect rankings, page structure as evidenced by rendering does. H1 is the easiest way to represent the top level in the page hierarchy.
Have a single H1 that automatically uses the page headline, whether that’s a product description, an article title, or some other unique page heading. Do not put the logo, images or content that repeats from page to page in an H1 element.
Allow multiple H2, H3, and H4 elements on the page. Let content creators use H2, H3, and H4. You can let them drill down even further, but I’ve found that leads to some, er, creative page structures.
Elements for Paragraph Content, Not Hard Breaks or DIVs
Any developer knows this. Content creators sometimes don’t. I still see many writers insert double line breaks. It’s not easy, but if you can somehow enforce the use of
elements for paragraphs, it will make later tweaks to styles a lot easier.
At a minimum, generate structured markup for:
See schema.org for more information. Right now, JSON-LD is the most popular way to add structured data. It’s easiest, and if you (properly) use a tag manager, you can add structured data to the page without changing code.
I can hear you. No need to mutter. You’re saying, “None of this impacts rankings.”
It may. It may not. But using standard page structure improves consistency across the site for every content manager and designer who will work on it. That leads to good habits that make for a better site. It leads to less hacky HTML code pasted into the WordPress editor. That means a more consistent user experience. Which is good for rankings.
Video libraries are great, but having all of your videos on a single page makes search engines cry. Put each video on its own page. Include a description and, if you can, a transcript. Link to each video from the library. That gives search engines something to rank.
Where possible, create URLs that make sense. /products/shoes/running is better than /products?blah–1231323
Readable URLs may not directly impact rankings. But they improve clickthrough because people are more likely to click on readable URLs.
Also, Google bolds keywords in URLs.
Finally, what are you more likely to link to?
Yeah, yeah, go ahead and hurl insults. I’ve heard it all before. If you want to argue about it, go read this post first.
All quality content should ‘live’ on the same domain. Use subfolders. The blog should live at /blog. The store should live at /store or similar. I always get pushback on this one. Google has said in the past that subdomains are OK. Yes, they’re OK. They’re not the best. Google says subdomains are sometimes just as good. Not always.
When Googlebot comes across a subdomain, it decides whether to treat it as a subfolder or not. Like many things Google does and says, they’re unclear about it and results diﬀer. I have no test data. I can say this: in most cases, moving content to a subfolder helps, if by ‘most’ we mean ‘every site I’ve ever worked on.’
So why leave it to chance? Use a subfolder now, and you won’t have to deal with subdomains and unhappy marketers later.
There are two exceptions to the rule:
The most common reason folks use subdomains is the blog: The CMS, or server, or something else doesn’t support a blog. So you set up a WordPress.com site.
That ends up being blog.something.com. If you have to do that, consider using a reverse proxy to put it all under one domain. Of course, if you have no choice, use a subdomain. It’s better than nothing.
Just don’t. Nofollow is meant to prevent penalties for links from comments and advertising. It doesn’t help channel PageRank around a site. It does burn PageRank. It’s a bad idea.
The only time to use nofollow is to avoid a penalty because you’re linking to another site via ads or other paid space on your site. A good rule of thumb: If you’re doing something ‘just’ for SEO, think carefully. Nofollow is a good example.
Clicking the top-level navigation should take me somewhere other than ‘/#.’.
Top-level nav that expands subnav but isn’t clickable creates three problems:
Make sure clicking any visible navigation takes me somewhere.
Until, oh, last week (seriously, Google just changed this last week), Google said they wouldn’t consider content that only appeared after user interaction. Content behind tabs, loaded via AJAX when the user clicks, etc. got zero attention.
Last week, the big G said they do examine this content, and they do consider it when determining relevance. I believe them, but as always, they’ve left out some details:
Oh, also: The old tiny-content-at-the-bottom-of-the-page trick still doesn’t work. That’s not what they meant.
This is the easy part: if you’ve got content on the page for which you want to rank, don’t hide it behind a tab, an accordion, or whatever else. On a well-designed page, people who want to see everything will scroll down. If they don’t want to see it, they weren’t going to click the tab anyway.
If you want content indexed, don’t deliver it based on a user event. Yes, Google says they now index content that reveals after user interaction. Play it safe, though, if you can.
Look at your site’s HAR. Anything that appears after the ‘load’ event is probably not going to get indexed: the Load event, in an HAR
Make sure whatever you want indexed appears before then.
See Make Content Clickable. URLs with /#! and similar won’t get crawled. Google deprecated that as an indexing method.
No one thinks about this. No. One. SEO requires non-stop tweaks and changes by content managers, analysts, designers, and lots of other non-developers. If they can’t do the work, they bury the resource-strapped development team in requests.
SEO grinds to a halt, and organic performance falls.
I mean, if you have infinite dev resources no worries. Skip the rest of this article. Go back to feeding your pet rainbow-crapping unicorn.
Otherwise, keep reading this relatively brief section.
The title element is a strong on-page organic ranking signal.
First: the meta keywords tag is utterly useless and has been since, oh, 2004. Remove it. If your SEO protests, find a new SEO. With that out of the way, make sure each page has the following editable META tags:
Every page should have an editable description meta tag. The description tag doesn’t affect rankings. It does, however, aﬀect clickthrough rate, which can mean organic traﬃc growth even if rankings don’t improve. Like the title tag, make the description tag a separate, editable field.
If the page is a product page, have the description tag default to the short product description. If the page is a longer descriptive page, have the description tag default to the first 150 characters of the page content. Never have a blank meta description! If you do, Google and Bing will choose what they think is best. Don’t rely on them.
Facebook uses OGP tags to build the text, image, and title of shared content. Without it, Facebook may use the title and meta description tag and pick an image. It may pick something else. OGP tags let the content creator control what will appear on Facebook and, like the meta description tag, they can boost clickthrough.
Have the OGP tags default to the page’s title, meta description and featured image. Then let the author edit them. At a minimum, include og:title, og:type, og:image and og:url. You can read more about OGP tags at http://ogp.me/.
Twitter cards are more niche. Twitter will use OGP tags as a fallback, so these aren’t required. If you can add them, though, it gives content creators even more control over what Twitter shows for shared content.
Twitter cards can double clickthrough and other engagement. They’re worth the eﬀort. See https://dev.twitter.com/cards/overview for more information.
The ALT attribute is another strong ranking signal. Every image uploaded as part of page content must be editable when the user uploads it. If they do not enter an ALT attribute, default to:
I recommend including “Image:” so that screen readers and other assistive devices identify the snippet of code as an ALT attribute.
Overuse of classes can create headaches. Use semantic CSS wherever possible: Instead of using “.h2” for example, use “h2” . (lousy punctuation to make sure the CSS is clear).
This tip stolen shamelessly from Martijn Oud.
Last updated 2019. Things change. Check back for new stuff.
The critical rendering path is the collection of steps made between the time when your browser receives an HTML response from a server, and the painting of the requested web page. In this post, I’ll break down the process so it is a bit more precise, while also providing some tips to optimize each of the steps.
The DOM, or Document Object Model, is an object-based representation of the parsed HTML. For example:
As the HTML is parsed, it will construct what is called the DOM Tree. The DOM Tree is made up of the objects that are parsed via HTML and XML. For example:
While this is only one part of the critical render path, making sure you are writing clean semantic markup will help to ensure your HTML is parsed quickly for optimum performance.
Similar to the DOM, the CSSOM is also object-based. The CSS Object Model represents the styles associated with each node that lives in the DOM. Styles can be declared or inherited.
The above CSS would create the following:
CSS is a “render-blocking” resource, which means that the render tree (more information on this later in this post) cannot be built until after the CSS is loaded. In past years CSS was typically served as one file style.css. Now, developers are using different techniques that allow you to split your files and serve critical styles, which can help reduce or eliminate any render-blocking sources you might be loading.
As developers, we have some techniques we use that can help with render-blocking resources. Here are a few ways you can ensure you are not blocking the render tree from loading.
If you have the resources, the best way to avoid blocking the render tree is during the initial phase of your website build or configure during the website maintenance period.
For WordPress users, you can prevent render tree blocking by using the Autoptimize plugin, along with the Autoptimize Critical CSS addition. Both plugins offer free and paid versions; you can find the plugin in the WordPress Plugin Repository.
As you create your styles, it is vital to understand inheritance and the role it plays with CSS.
For more information on how you can optimize your page speed and reduce render-blocking resources, check out Portent’s Ultimate Guide to Page Speed.
Here is an example of loading your script in the footer:
Here is an example of loading your script asynchronously:
Combining the DOM and the CSSOM results in the creation of the Render Tree. The tree represents the computed layouts of each visible layout, which are then served to paint the process that renders the pixels to your screen.
Now that we have a fully rendered tree, we can begin to illustrate layout construction. This step establishes the location and placement of the elements on the page, taking into account the size of the viewport, the width, and height of elements, as well as the position of where the elements are in relation to one another. By default, block-level elements have a width of 100% within their parent element. The parent element, in this case, would be the viewport or screen size.
As we create the markup, it is essential to be responsive in your thinking. One way that we can make sure our app or website is responsive in relation to the viewport is to use the meta tag:
By doing this, you are ensuring that your app or website is visible within the current viewport. There are other steps to ensure your site is fully responsive, but that is a topic for another blog post.
If you have ever run a site speed test, you have likely seen the “First Contentful Paint” in the metrics section for Google’s Lighthouse tool. This number is the result of the critical rendering path. If you see your score and you aren’t sure if it is good or bad, luckily for us Google provides colors for us to understand.
Green = Good
Yellow = Could use improvements
Red = Trouble is lurking
While website resources and implementations can vary. The critical rendering path is consistent. It is important to understand the ins and outs of the process so you and your team can begin optimizing for the future. To summarize, here are some steps to help your process going forward:
I just gave this presentation at UtahDMC’s 2019 Digital Marketing Conference. It’s nerdy. It’s full of marketing stuff. It’s hard to explain. Have a look, and see the links further down this page:
Here are the links:
How to find me:
You know you want to learn more:
When you are setting up your website or blog in WordPress, you may decided to add different widgets that make the site easier to navigate, more beautiful, and easier to use. There are a number of things that can be done once these widgets are installed, and each of the widgets has a very simple layout that makes it easy to use. Plus, the results that users see on the website will look clean and professional.
The recent posts widget is one of the best things that anyone can use on their site. When users come to the site, they may not know much about the content or business. The best way to solve this problem is to have a list of the most recent posts that help people get an idea of what is posted on the site.
This widget will use images to denote what the header of these posts was, their title, and their date. This is completely different than using an archive because the archive does not offer specifics to the user. Plus, the recent post widget will update the posts when new content is added. All you need to do is decide how many recent posts will be featured. Depending on where the widget sits on the page, several posts could be featured so that users have something they can look through.
One final feature of this widget is that the images can be turned off. If the site does not look as nice with images alongside each new post in the recent category. The images can be removed at any time, and they could be put back at any time. You simply need to decide which posts you would like to use, if you want them to be in chronological order, and how much of the preview you want to show.
When social media sharing is vital to the dissemination of content, it helps to show off the company’s social media pages. Instead of just having social media sharing buttons, there should be real icons that will take the user to the actual social media page that is listed. This is because most people who are coming to the site do not know much about the business. They are there to learn what the business does, and they may not want to bookmark a webpage when they can click on the social media buttons and follow those pages.
The icons need to look real because they make the site look cheap if they are poor facsimiles of the original icons. This is especially true when customers have security concerns. No one wants to click on what they think is a fake social media page. Because the threat of information theft is so high, it is best that these buttons be placed in a conspicuous place that people can easily see. You never want to hide the social media buttons because customers do not get the cross-marketing that you planned.
Plus, the icons can take people to a specific post on that feed. This might be especially useful if there is a sale or promotion going on. Taking people directly to the promotion will help to increase sales, spread awareness, and help bolster overall marketing for an event.
The Google Maps widget is vital for all companies that host events, have a physical location, or need to bring in foot traffic every day. The Google maps widget can show the physical location of the company in realtime, and it will help customers click to get directions to the location. This is especially helpful when a company needs people to come to their office or shop.
When the Google maps widget is used, the company can also add the location of an event that is coming up. Each new event can get its own map widget so that customer knows where to go for each new event. If someone is new to the area, they need directions. If someone is trying to get around traffic patterns, they can click on the widget to go into Google maps and see what the problem is.
Check out: Best Google Maps WordPress Plugins for more alternatives!
Plus, the widget allows for directions to be typed below the map if there are several ways to get to the office or shop. Imagine that you live in a large metropolitan area. You may show customers how they can use one or more interstates, how people on both the east and west side of the city can get there, and even offer directions for parking at the site.
Skype is a powerful business tool that a lot of companies use to communicate with clients. Plus, the company might even have a Skype account set aside just for customer care. If you are working alone, your customers can see if you are online. This makes it easier for people to get in touch with the business, and it allows you to set office hours for the company. When people onto the website after-hours, they can see that you are offline. They know that they cannot send you several requests at that time, and they can choose to leave a message instead.
Skype status is also helpful when the business is based on communication. Someone like a private doctor or therapist might want to use the Skype status button because they need to show when they are in the office and when they are not. A company that works online might need to use this status to show that they are in the office because they do not take phone calls. Plus, the Skype status button could show the message that was left on the Skype account. Leaving a message saying that you are out to lunch, on vacation, or closed for the day can be helpful when trying to manage a physical office or call center.
Skype status is also important when you are working with international or distance professionals who need to know when you are in the office. It is hard for these people to remember what time it is where you are because your time zones are so far apart. Checking the site to see your Skype status saves your partners a bit of time when communicating with you.
The social counter is also a good way to show off how many followers the different social accounts for the business or blog have. This is vital when running contests because users need to know how close you are to 1000 followers because your contest relies on reaching 1000 followers. Plus, you can show which pages are the most popular.
When the social counter is used to explain how many followers the company has, it is very easy to show off a big following. Some people take that large following very seriously, or you could use that follower’s counter as a way to link back to the site. Also, it might be interesting to show off certain followers that the page has. Any celebrities and influencers might be the link in the social counter button, and watching the counterchange is a fun way to add a bit of life to the site.
The compact archive might be the most important part of any long term blog or business page. When the site has been around for long periods of time, it would be silly to try and expand the archive because it would go on for pages and pages as someone scrolled through the homepage. You do not want to make your homepage so big that people cannot get to the bottom where they can read things like the About Us page or the badges for the partners that you have.
The compact archive can fit into a very small space on the sidebar of the page, and the archive will go back as far as you need. If you want to go all the way back to the beginning of the site or blog, you could have the years go back to something like 2005. However, you have the power to change the date range of the archive. If you ever need to change the date range, you can do that. Plus, the archive will automatically add your newest months when the time comes.
The YouTube Channel Gallery is a powerful way to show off all the content that you have posted to YouTube. There are several ways to show off your YouTube channel because you can use the social media counter above to show how many subscribers you have. You can use the social media buttons to send people to the YouTube page.
This particular gallery allows your customers to scroll through your videos while still on your webpage. Most people have no desire to open another window and start another search for content. When you show the content on your website, the customers can open a pop-up window for the video, watch the video, and get back to reading your site or blog.
These are not the only useful widgets for a WordPress site. You can use a widget that helps people create a new profile, you can use a widget to publish your contact information, or you could use a widget to allow users to submit their testimonials for your products or services. Every widget that you use brings a bit more life and functionality to the site, but the seven you see above will make your site easier to navigate, more professional, and more intuitive.
Well, long story short – yes!
While using a website, when you intend on doing some interaction, say clicking on a button, you are sending a request to the server which gets processed, and in return, you get a response. If you link on a link inside an article in Wikipedia, the page will load, and you will be taken to a new Article/Read.
Thanks to this server side processing, all the above-mentioned functionalities are possible. Furthermore, it makes the rendering of animations and similar behaviors much less time consuming and a smoother experience.
As mentioned, one of the things that threaten the careers of web developers are platforms such as WordPress and Joomla. However, we also stated that these platforms aren’t nearly as capable of overthrowing the necessity of web developers. In fact, all these new CMS have many limitations for which big companies are still hesitant to go on board with them.
So if you are a guy who knows what he is doing, rest assured, there are plenty tools on the market to get your work done easily and most important – quickly.
So all the code doesn’t get initialized at the time of loading the website. This makes sure that your website’s load time isn’t hampered, all the while loading your site with rich features.
Hence, as you can see, there is the possibility to handle multiple operations with a single thread. This helps the programmers from not having to indulge in additional (or redundant) programming for all the different applications.
Self-help is the best help. You must have often run into a website where you wished for a certain feature to be present, but unluckily it wasn’t. You start asking yourself, oh why did the developer or the owner through this simple feature off their checklist? Should I write an email explaining my concerns? Should I search for an alternative website which might be my dream website?
Author: Madan Pariyar, a digital marketing strategist helping clients to resolve their website woes. When not busy with all things, you may find me occasionally watching movies, traveling and spending time with my family.
Selecting a fast WordPress theme is the first thing to do after setting up your WP website. Page load time not only decides your ranking but also affect the website UX. You can, of course, speed up the overall website, however, your WordPress theme is what responsible for most of the lag in page load. It is due to embedded features like responsive design, graphical design, elegant palettes, and excessive customization options. So, you need to look for a theme ideally optimized to load faster.
One of the best ways to make your theme faster is removing the unnecessary customization and optimizing the pre-built images specifically. You can find some great web developers and designers on job boards like Workamajobs or WPHired to fix your speed issues. Alternatively, you can also use our personalized web design services managed by some of the best WordPress experts.
Nevertheless, if you are looking for more niche-specific options, take a look at our custom list below.
SPEED TEST RESULTS from https://tools.pingdom.com
Publisher is our favorite WordPress theme and as you might have noticed it’s also our WebCreate.Me theme. We are super happy with the speed and performance. It’s loads in less than a second and it’s one of the fastest WordPress themes on all Themeforest.
You can build stunning blogs or magazines with Publisher. It has plenty of demos and endless functions that you will love (as we do). You can easily install your demo with 1 click and start getting your layout done in few minutes. Make sure you visit those demos and preview them. Admin of the template is super easy and intuitive and one of the easiest we ever worked with. It’s full of amazing functions, such as advertising options, AMP support, super SEO optimized, financial news optimized, push notifications, smart thumbnails cropping, etc.
If you want to build a professional magazine or blog with TOP features this is your best choice. The author did not forget a single detail and coded an amazing fast loading template which won’t disappoint you. Their customer support is outstanding, updates are regular and automated and everything is very well documented. No need to hesitate here, give Publisher a go!
SPEED TEST RESULTS from https://tools.pingdom.com
When you start using H/Code, the programmers have provided you with a number of options that you can demo. You can include your information on a demo page to see how it looks, and you may begin entering your information into Woocommerce to set up your online store. H/Code is very popular because it is very easy to test and edit. If you do not like the demo of a page, you can change it without going through several clicks to get back to the editing phase.
H/Code also allows you to work in a world of shadows and dark open spaces. This theme is the reverse of others that will use open white space to bring the customers closer. When you begin to set up your pages, you can change the color of the text, add images, and add videos to make your site feel a bit more like a microblog. You are appealing to a younger crowd, and you can use new demo pages every time the H/Code updates.
SPEED TEST RESULTS from https://tools.pingdom.com
Avada is the #1 best selling WordPress-themes on theme forest and also the fastest multi-purpose WP theme in the entire marketplace. Avada has dozens of elegant demos that are designed to offer you fast loading pages. You can import the demos in a few clicks making the site setup easier.
It’s a flexible WordPress theme that could be customized using fusion builder. There are global shortcode elements to fasten this process. And while Avada creators optimized the theme to load fast, they didn’t remove any of those useful features, i.e. cross-browser compatibility, eye-catchy design or any other advanced feature.
If you want to have full control over the appearance of your website, then Avada is your best choice.
This Ecommerce WordPress theme is designed specifically for creating a WooCommerce store. Do you know a WooCommerce-theme has a lot of integrations in order to provide the right customization for online stores? Embedding these features do make these store themes a bit slow. Thankfully, we have Electro that actually loads in just two seconds. Nevertheless, they didn’t cut down any of those exquisite options like pre-built templates or WPML compatibility (for making your site multilingual).
SPEED TEST RESULTS from https://tools.pingdom.com
SEOWP is the ultimate SEO-based them for WordPress. The theme itself it not filled with extra color and styling that slows everything down. You get all the background parts that you need to make your site a success. You are compatible with Gutenberg, and you can use Woocommerce if you are selling to the people that you bring to your site.
You get the social share buttons that make it easier for customers to share what they have found, and there are several plugins that allows you to just your content on each page. You can get the blocked style that is very popular today, and the white pace on the space helps make the site that much faster. Once again, this theme will help you build your site and use SEO, tagging, and social sharing to attract followers.
SPEED TEST RESULTS from https://tools.pingdom.com
Pillar is responsive WordPress theme that will work quickly on both desktops and mobile devices. When you are using this theme, you can clearly see all the content on the right and the main tabs/content on the left. This is a block-style theme that will load quickly because it is linking together small blocks of information. You can load the theme with many images that will send your visitors to particular pages on the site, and you can use tabs on the left to send users to your most-popular pages.
The header in this theme is not so large that it will take a long time to load, and there is plenty of open space that will help to speed up the experience for the user.
Plus, this theme is based on Bootstrap which is one of the most popular themes on the market today. The difference between the two is that Pillar comes with over 100 demo pages that you can use to begin filling in content. You can choose put up to 50 more of these demo pages on the site, and those pages give you the virtual assurance that Pillar can load in any situation. Even when your site is full of content, it loads instantly.
SPEED TEST RESULTS from https://tools.pingdom.com
Sober is the most modern and futuristic of the themes that you will see on this list. While you want to use a theme that makes your site fast, you also need a modern look that people can connect with. Sober removes lines and grooves on the page that will help make all the text look clean. The theme itself focuses on uses blank space to help draw in the customer. Plus, it uses the blocked format that allows you to build a site with several different pages that are all represented by the picture.
You can put the name of your site and a few tabs on the left so that your customers can navigate. Your customers can choose the tabs if they know where they want to go, or they can explore the blocks on the right. Because the design is segmented into small blocks, it will load very quickly. There is no need for a header that might load too slowly, and you also get the Woocommerce advantage that helps your customers shop with you securely, quickly, and with a bit of freedom.
SPEED TEST RESULTS from https://tools.pingdom.com
Another high performing WordPress theme! TheGem is a real deal. It’s been one of the best sellers on Themeforest for a long time. It comes with everything you can possibly need and imagine on your WordPress website.
It’s loaded with 200+ pre-designed templates which can be imported with 1-click and used for various types of websites. You can build over 70+ different FULL websites from TheGem. For example, you can cover niches, such as creative agency, business website, various online shops and e-commerce websites, portfolio pages & websites, blogs, landing pages, product pages, construction or real estate, gyms, restaurants, hotels, clinics, charities, etc. The list is neverending and all of them can be achieved by importing your demo and working on your website few hours. Hard to imagine, right? Well, you should for sure start with previewing demos and testing.
The author offers outstanding support, regular updates, and very detailed and guided documentation. You can count on them! Also you can be sure that it’s packed with the best plugins and features that you might possibly need for your website, such as, full SEO optimization, WooComerce compatibility (eshop plugin), showcase portfolio options, multilingual options, 7 premium sliders, visual composer (page builder), mobile-friendly, etc. Check out full page, for a complete list of features.
SPEED TEST RESULTS from https://tools.pingdom.com
Divi is the most popular WordPress theme in the world. That alone should be a solid selling point for your business. You can use this theme to build your whole site. Plus, you will build the site using visuals. You do not need to do anything special to ensure that the site will look good, and you do not need any coding experience.
When you begin to build the site, you are taken through a number of steps to build the site. You can see the sample of your site when you are done, and you can go back into the building mode when you would like to alter or add pages.
Plus, this platform ensures the fastest performance on mobile and desktop devices. Because the theme is meant to be responsive, all your guests or customers can use it with no problem. If you feel as though you need a little help building your site, Divi can do it for you.
SPEED TEST RESULTS from https://tools.pingdom.com
Writing is a minimal theme designed for personal bloggers. It has one of the cleanest designs with a loading speed of 1.9 seconds and a great range of features.
This theme has a rating of 4.8/5 on Themeforest and is one of the most price-effective choices. To provide great UX, every template of this theme is designed for easy readability. One of the best benefits of a simplistic theme is its fast loading pages. Coding is SEO friendly along with retina ready pages.
SPEED TEST RESULTS from https://tools.pingdom.comMore Info & Download
Monstroid2 is a multipurpose template that will provide you with infinite possibilities. It does not matter how you imagine an online-project of your dreams. This incredible template allows implementing even the most innovative ideas into life. You will be definitely impressed with a super-light package weight. This ready-made solution weights only 250kb. This means that it has a smooth performance and speedy process of pages loading. There are 500+ pre-designed sections and ready-made pages that you can choose from. Each of them is designed for some specific purposes. All you need to do is to press Magic Button and start exploring lots of pre-styled pages. You will also get multiple skins designed for the most popular topics. Among them, you will find variants to showcase such niches as education, dances, cars, restaurant, night club, electronics, environment, real estate, and many others. By the way, demos are constantly updated which means that there is always something to choose from. One of the most widely-used drag-and-drop builder called Elementor will broaden the horizons of the customization process. It has such advantages as real-time editing and code-free customization. Even if you are not experienced in programming, you can work with various website elements and add content to your pages. In addition to this, this amazing template is installed in one single click. It allows completing the installation process in a blink of an eye that makes it possible to save some of your time. You can also pay your attention to a great WooCommerce Package if you want to turn your website into a large online-store.
SPEED TEST RESULTS from https://tools.pingdom.com
Magazine themes take much more time in loading its landing page as compared to another type of themes. This is because, unlike a business site or personal blog, a magazine (or newspaper) theme needs to load multiple widgets on the homepage.
Madd is the fastest theme we found during our tests. You will really love the structured layout of MADD. This theme has a minimal design to save the load time on less useful elements. It is a responsive theme with Google fonts. MADD is also updated to fit the need of advanced WordPress users. It is Gutenberg ready for those who want to use a page builder over WordPress editor. If you are looking for a simple and fast magazine theme, then you should definitely have a look at it.
SPEED TEST RESULTS from https://tools.pingdom.com
Zoner is a WordPress theme specifically designed for real estate agencies and business websites. This theme has an integrated Google and street map. You will notice a smooth UI in this theme along with loads of functionality features. This WordPress theme gives you a selection range of 14+ homepages. This is a theme you won’t regret buying. You can find it on themeforest, or know more about this theme from their official website.
So that was our take on some of the fastest WordPress themes in most common niches. You can always customize the theme based on your design needs and get the less useful elements removed. Some business websites often use page builders for adding elements on a simplistic theme for improving conversion rate. If that’s your case, you can just get a pre-customized theme. Once you have selected and installed your WordPress theme, start publishing content to keep your audience engaged.
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When you are looking for a way to manage ads on your website, you need to find a platform that will do everything you need. Your blog or website is too difficult to manage if you are also releasing all your own ads, rotating your ads, and tracking earnings by-hand.
There are seven amazing ad plugins listed below that you should try, and each of the plugins does something different from the next. You may choose to deploy one of these plugins to see what it does, and you can buy into the pro version when you are ready to use it every day.
Other popular WordPress plugin comparisons:
AdSanity is a simple ad plugin that takes control of all the things that you do with your ads. There are a number of ads that you may release from banner ads to PPC ads and everything that is created by an outside service like AdSense. You can use this program to rotate your ads, to release ads at particular times, and to check their performance.
On top of all these good traits, this plugin allows you to create ad blocks in your posts so that you do not need to alter your theme or do any tricky coding that is hard for many bloggers to do. You can mix and match your ads as much as you like, and you can check your revenue from the ads so that you know which ads are making you the most money.
If you are running more than one ad style at a time, you can place those ads anywhere you like on your site. Plus, the plugin will allow things like coding from Google AdSense to target the customers who need to see certain ads.
AdRotate does more than maximize your ads by rotating them so that your visitors do not get bored. You do not need to rotate the ads on your own, and you can set up all the ads for your site in this program before it begins its work. You can enter all the information from the ads you related yourself and the ads that are produced by another company. You can rotate everything from a banner ad to every ad that sits in your posts.
The coding for the plugin is free for the most part, but you need to step up to the pro version when you would like to use geo-targeting and the impression management that is required if you sell advertising. You can use affiliate ads when you are on ad rotate because they can be targeted at the people who are most likely to buy. Plus, you need to be sure that you have tried out the ad creation function that allows you to edit some of your ads before they are thrown into the mix.
DoubleClick is made by Google to assist with their AdSense program and all other ads that you would like to create. Part of what makes DoubleClick amazing is that it allows you to work with all ad styles instead of forcing you to only use Google when you are publishing ads. Yes, you can put your Google ads into DoubleClick, and you can use other ads if you think they would be necessary.
You can sell ads through DoubleClick as it allows you to take competitive bids for ad space. The plugin will determine how much space you have, allow you to take bids, and help you choose the best option for your site. You can offer any sort of ad you like including the PPC ads that will help you make a little bit of residual income. This also means that you can change the ads around until you find the right sport or them. You may choose to make your own ads to put into the program, and you can remove any ad that is not performing.
DoubleClick is one of the most popular ad plugins you will find, and it also helps you create reports for your ads so that you can review all your earnings. You can determine which ads are not working well, and you can double down on the ads that you like most. You can put ads into your posts so that you do not need to alter your themes. You get all the functionality you need, and you can even step up to pay extra for more functionality.
AdInserter does exactly what it says. You can use a plugin to ensure that you can plug your ads into any of your posts with no trouble. You can use the AdInserter to make ad blocks for your posts, to choose the location in each post, and you can even alter how ads will be placed in certain categories. In this way, you are targeting ads to the reader who is reading certain types of posts.
AdInserter does have a pro version that will give you more options for geo targeting and reporting. You can use the plugin when you would like to change the sort of ads that you have placed in each of your posts, and you can get the AdInserter to alter your ads. You can make small adjustments to the way that you present your ads, and you may find that a couple of alternations makes your ads more popular.
If you would like to sell ad space or expand to ads that come from a place like Google AdSense, you can place those ads into the inserter. You can use ads that you just made yourself, or you could place the coding for an ad you sold into the plugin. You get reports for all these ads, and you can label all the ads so that you know which ones are yours and which ones belong to Google or a third party.
Quick AdSense can speed up your use of the AdSense platform and simplify everything for you. You might find that it is hard for you to use traditional AdSense coding on your site because it does not fit in the places you thought would work. The Quick AdSense plugin will take all the AdSense coding, put it in the right place, and save you time.
You will see reports for your ads that explain how many impressions you have and how much money you have made for something like a PPC ad.
Quick AdSense also has a menu that you can use to randomly insert ads into any post that you like. You can choose the conditions under which your ads will be posted, and you can alter those conditions at any time. Because of that, it is very easy for you to adjust how your ads appear on your site. You do not need to enter all the conditions into WordPress, and you do not need to mess with coding that is often too hard for a blogger to understand.
When you are using Quick AdSense, you can set up your website to rotate ads, to run the same ads, or to sell ads. You can put your ads in the appropriate posts, and you can cut off ads from certain posts that you believe should be ad-free.
OIO Publisher is a program meant for ad management that comes to you as a plugin. If you would like to use this program, you must be prepared to make some coding changes when you want to do ad placements. Not every placement works well, but the general feel of the plugin allows you to rotate ads, track ads, and determine how much money you are making on each of those ads.
When you are not making enough money on a certain type of ad, you can move on to another ad that might be much more beneficial to you. Also, you can use the publisher to ensure that you have placed your banner ads in the right spots, improved the way that the ads look when you are trying to arrange each page or post.
Because you may need to make some adjustments to your site themes, this is a good program to use when you have some coding expertise. You will not feel like you are stuck with the options that the widget gives you because you can make it fit into the style that you would prefer.
Insert Post Ads is the perfect plugin for people who do not know how to code and feel confused by even the simplest coding and options on WordPress. You also need to remember that this plugin was designed for people who have just started running a website. You might get more comfortable with WordPress over time, but you need something very basic when you get started.
You copy the ad code that you plan to use on your posts, choose the Insert Post Ads widget, and enter the code. After you have entered the code, you can choose where the ad will go. You can literally choose the exact paragraph where the ad will go, and you can customize each of your posts to ensure that your organization stays the same.
When you are looking for a way to manage ads on your website, you need to think about what you want your ad widget to do. You can sell ad space, manage your ad revenue, make your own ads, or coordinate ads from multiple sources. You may also choose to simply insert your ads or rotate them as you go.
Choose the plugin that you think will work the best on your site. Plus, you must find a plugin that feels intuitive when you use it. Some of the plugins are very simple, and others give you the chance to make complex choices about ad placement.
What makes a PPC campaign successful?
It’s not measured in pure clicks. It’s not measured in how little you spend on a click. We can’t even measure it solely by conversions.
PPC campaign success comes down to one all-important metric. What’s your PPC ROI? Turning clicks into conversions is what truly matters.
To grow your business it all comes down to this question. What’s it cost to acquire new customers vs. how much is that customer is worth? How much money will they usually generate once they have converted to a customer?
What kind of ROI do you need to see from your PPC campaigns? 5X, 10X, 15X?
Let’s explore how to attain it.
To have a successful PPC campaign, you must choose the right keywords to target. These aren’t just any keywords that relate to your business. They’re strategic and designed to maximize your PPC ROI.
Effective keyword research follows 3 essential steps:
A great PPC campaign and SEO keyword is actually a phrase composed of 3-6 words. If you just use a single word, the competition would typically be so high that you wouldn’t be able to get a decent ROI.
In the digital marketing world, we call these phrases long-tail keywords. But they’ve become the norm, replacing single words for many years now.
A great keyword gets decent traffic without being too competitive.
A great PPC campaign keyword isn’t just any phrase that has to do with your business. It has regard for what your goals are and where the customers who will see your ad are in the buyer’s journey.
Let’s look at 8 categories that you can put keywords into as you align keywords the buyer’s journey and our goals.
These are very broad keywords. They are helpful especially in the awareness phase. They may be just what you need if you’re a new kind of company.
Do you have a new product line that people aren’t specifically searching for? Or are you trying to reach newbies who may not know what they’re looking for?
These keywords do the job.
These broad keywords should be used and monitored very carefully to avoid sabotaging your campaign. If they aren’t performing well, it’s time to get rid of them.
If you specialize in organic steel-cut oatmeal, then a very broad audience-based keyword might include “healthy foods” or “breakfast ideas”.
You would use alternate keywords when people tend to gravitate toward a very similar product.
People who search for “quick oats” or even “cream of wheat” could be persuaded to try your oatmeal with the right message.
If your ad appears when people are looking for your competitor, the right message could encourage them to switch.
These might include a brand name or a specific branded product name.
What do you actually sell? Here’s where you get more specific with terms like “steel-cut oatmeal” or “organic oatmeal”.
These phrases indicate that a person is ready to buy now. They would include things like:
Here’s a great example of a high intention Ads search ad.
To avoid a competitor stealing someone who looked up your brand specifically, you can use keywords that include your brand.
These are keywords that indicate that someone is not your target customer. They may add these words to a keyword you’re targeting when they type a query into Google search.
Because they included this word, you know that you’re not really what they’re looking for.
For example, a person who searches for “digital marketing” is looking for something very different than someone who types “digital marketing jobs”.
In this case, unless it’s a recruitment ad, it’s in everyone’s best interest that the ad not even appear. It would risk a click you’ll have to pay for that you won’t convert into the customer you want. Plus, it makes your ad appear irrelevant to Ads.
When you add negative keywords, you reduce the chances that someone will accidentally click on your ad, thinking it’s something else.
Common negative keywords include the following:
As you start your campaign, you’ll find more negative keywords to add to your list. Keeping your ad from appearing where it shouldn’t is just as important as having it appear where it should.
Don’t ignore them if you want to have a successful PPC campaign.
To begin your list, consider each of these categories and how they align with your campaign goals. Which keyword category or categories make the most sense for your campaign?
Which keywords are customers using to find your company or companies like it? Explore common customer social media hangouts, blogs, and forums to find out.
Create a list for this campaign. You may find that you have some go-to terms that you use across campaigns. But keep in mind that your goals can change the keywords you choose significantly.
Now it’s time to expand the list. Even if you’re an expert in the industry, you need to know what terms people are actually using to find products or services like yours.
Even if your ads aren’t in Ads, start with a tool like Ads Keyword Planner unless the platform has a better tool for you. Or invest in a paid tool. You may find it very worth it.
A keyword planner will show you similar words you may want to add to your campaign. You’ll see:
Sort by each category to find the best keywords based upon the criteria we discussed.
As tempted as you might be to focus on the cost per click, remember the big picture is ROI. As a general rule, people are paying more per click because they have a higher ROI.
This may not be the case in all businesses. So you’ll use analytics. Make sure you’re never paying more than that click is actually worth to your business to guarantee a positive ROI for your campaign.
You can waste a lot of time trying to re-create the wheel. If your competitor already did the work for you, why not see what they’ve got. Paid tools like Spyfu and SEMRush allow you to spy on the competition.
These tools can be cost prohibitive for small businesses who are handling marketing alone. But a digital marketing company is able to spread the cost of these tools across many clients, making them cost-effective.
You can also do competitor research manually by searching for each keyword on your list to see who pops up in the ads. You then have an idea about who you’re competing with. You can take a closer look at their sites and strategies.
You’ll both refine your list before and during the campaign. Before, you’ll want to get rid of words that are just too competitive or don’t get any traffic.
As you begin to refine your list, you may determine that some terms will be more effective in a different campaign.
Avoid doing all of this work over and over. Start categories for lists of words you rule out. They may be useful somewhere else.
Watch your campaign closely once it’s running. If you have words that perform poorly, weed them out. Or move them to a different ad group.
When you know what a customer is worth, you know how much you can spend to acquire that customer. You’ll also be able to better calculate your PPC campaign ROI.
People often use complex formulas to figure a customer’s lifetime value (CLV). These formulas may be more accurate. But they typically result in businesses throwing their hands up and just guessing what a customer is worth.
Here’s the quick and easy way to determine a customer’s value. If you don’t know your CLV, start here. Then refine your estimate later if needed.
Gather data to answer 4 questions:
If you’re a kid’s clothing company or similarly time-restricted business, this last one may be clear. If it isn’t, you can also look at this on a yearly or 5-year basis.
Finally, you need to know,
CLV = average spend X frequency X years X margin rate
Are you a new business? Start tracking these numbers now to learn what each customer is worth to your company.
CLV isn’t just one number across your whole company. Some customers are worth more than others. But you don’t have to look at each customer individually. That would be way too cumbersome.
Instead, segment customers by things they have in common like:
You’ll find that some segments have a higher value than others. When you’re creating your PPC budget, you can spend more to acquire those customers.
Let’s look at your budget next.
Some small businesses jump right into PPC without a budget. They inevitably overspend.
They don’t realize that what they are doing really isn’t working. They fail to plan for related expenses. Because they didn’t plan, they turn to the lowest bidder for the unplanned stuff in an effort to keep from breaking the bank after the PPC campaign is in full-swing.
Understanding the expenses involved in advance will allow you to create a more successful plan. Your budget will include allotments for:
a. Ad copy — You’ll either DIY, pay someone in-house or hire a 3rd party. If you’re creating display ads, you’ll also need a designer using one of the options mentioned.
b. Landing page — The most effective PPC campaigns have landing pages that seamlessly align with the ads. Someone needs to write and design them. And keep in mind that whether you have short or long landing pages, both have its own advantages and disadvantages. So here are some points to help you decide.
c. Cost for clicks — You can set a limit in your campaigns, making this the easiest budget item to calculate.
d. Other labor — You may be paying someone to research, manage and/or monitor your campaigns. Someone’s got to do it. PPC advertising isn’t a “set it and forget it” type of marketing. It requires continuous monitoring and optimization.
e. UX Optimization — You can’t run an effective PPC campaign if you don’t have a flawless user experience on your website. If you’ve already invested in a responsive website and SEO to create the optimal user experience, skip this.
f. Tools — Many tools are free. You’ll also find some paid tools that make planning, running and analyzing your campaigns easier.
To determine the actual cost of your campaign, you’ll divide up all of these expenses by the number of new customers you generate. In most cases, we’re talking pennies per each. But to know your real ROI, it’s important to factor in all of related marketing expenses.
Whether you’re creating social media PPC ads or using Ads, geo-location is a vital component of your ad strategy. It doesn’t matter if you have a Shopify shop or you’re a local business. There will always be locations that are more ideal than others.
Do you think everyone is a potential customer for your ecommerce shop? Consider if that’s true to get the best ROI. Australia, New Zealand, India or Wales? An ad in English might display there, but are these good locations for your ad to display?
Maybe. Maybe not.
If you’re a local business in Atlanta, are people in Nashville, Ashville or Ft. Lauderdale very likely to become your customers? Probably not.
Failing to geo-locate can cause 3 serious problems for your campaign.
Using geo-location is easy in both Ads and on the various social media sites. Depending on the platform, you may choose to target:
In a Facebook or Instagram PPC campaign, you can even target people who are visiting in your area. Each platform will walk you through it step-by-step.
Does your ad point to your home page? You’re making a mistake far too many small businesses make. Your home page is a general page that tells people about your company.
Companies that create multiple landing pages aligned with their ads generate 12X the leads. And yet 44% of companies point their ads at their homepage. 61% have fewer than 5 landing pages.
A landing page is a page that is specifically designed to meet a goal. It is built to directly align with your ad. If the ad is speaking to plumbers, the landing page also speaks to plumbers. If the ad offers 20%, the landing page tells the clicker more about what you offer and then tells them how to redeem that offer.
Landing pages are conversion tools. They give the clicker a straightforward next step that aligns with the ad. Congruency across your keywords, ads, and landing pages is your best friend.
Here’s the landing page for the ad we showed a bit earlier. Notice how it sends you right to the oatmeal page, not just an overall products page. It’s more specific.
Here’s another fantastic landing page from Ties.com. Click the ad that offers a $75 worth of ties for just $9. Go straight to this page that tells you how to redeem it. Now that’s seamless!
This is PPC at its finest. Why settle for the average small business conversion rate? It’s about 3%-6%. You could be tripling it or more simply by aligning landing pages with your ads.
While other PPC platforms have similar quality models, Ads is the one where you really need to understand what your quality score is and how it impacts your PPC campaign success.
Ignoring it will cost you a lot of money.
In an effort to provide the best user experience, Google Ads wants to show the most relevant ads to searchers. If they didn’t, they’d lose money because fewer people would click the ads.
To accomplish this, they’ve established a system called “Quality Score”. It rewards businesses who provide an exceptional user experience.
To determine your quality score, Ads looks at:
If people aren’t clicking, this tells Ads that your ad is irrelevant. This might happen because you have poorly written copy. Or you may be appearing in searches that don’t really apply to your ad. To fix this, improve your ad copy or remove irrelevant keywords and locations from your ad.
You may need to add negative keywords if they’re causing the irrelevance.
If people leave your page immediately or don’t click on anything it’s a bad sign to Ads. It tells them one of two things. Either people thought they were clicking on something else. Or your website provided a poor user experience.
The page may take over 3 seconds to load. Or maybe it wasn’t mobile friendly. In either case, fix the experience to recover your score.
Ads wants you to fix the problem. That’s why they tell you what your score is. But if you ignore it, they will begin penalizing you by making you pay more for ad space. That’s as much as 400% more.
But there’s a flip-side to this. Get your score up. That’s a 7 or higher. They will give you a discount on your cost per click and increase your visibility.
This is just one more reason a successful PPC campaign isn’t a set it and forget task.
If you’re running a PPC campaign, your ad should compel people to click. To do this, target someone specific.
Similar to segmenting, target people with a specific:
Once you’ve decided what characteristics to target, divide your ads up into ad groups. Each ad group will represent a specific target. You might further subdivide ad groups based on a specific service or product line.
Who you’re targeting with that ad group will impact:
Align everything for a seamless experience for that target.
What’s a common theme throughout this article? It’s that you can’t set and forget a PPC campaign. To be successful, you need to:
So what should you be tracking while running a PPC campaign?
Test your site’s speed and mobile-friendliness. You can use free tools from Google. Or you may choose to invest in real-time site monitoring. Not a day should go by that you aren’t very aware of how your website is treating people.
If you make changes to the site, always test them. Make sure they display like you expect them to.
Marketing Analytics company Kissmetrics performed an extensive study on how site speed impacts people leaving your site. For every additional second your page takes to load, you lose about 10% of your visitors. If your page takes 5 seconds to load, that just won’t cut it. You’ve lost almost 50% of your visitors. But you paid for those clicks.
Think mobile is an exception? Think again. Only 11% of mobile users said they accept that a site will load more slowly on mobile. If their phone can handle it, they expect you to deliver that speed.
Over 50% of web traffic is now mobile. Your website should be responsive on all devices.
You can’t earn clicks that convert if you’re not being seen. Keep track of your impressions. If it’s very low, reevaluate your bid caps and keywords to make sure you appear when you should and where you should.
People should be clicking on your ad. If they aren’t then one or more of your keywords may be irrelevant. Or your copy isn’t compelling them to click. Make the adjustment to increase clicks.
The average CTR across industries is around 3% for search ads and 0.46% for display ads. This excludes remarketing ads. These are the ads for your business that appear on another website after someone visited your site. These CTRs are much higher, but conversions are generally lower.
As we discussed, you’ll pay more for clicks if you let your quality score drop. Compare the cost per click to your conversion rate and customer value to know you’re spending the right amount on each click.
If it’s too high to give you a decent ROI, then increasing your conversion rate is your best move.
In Ads, the average cost per click is $2-$3 across all industries. But it can be significantly higher for more expensive services with highly competitive keywords such as legal, medical, and insurance.
This tells you whether or not your ad is appearing in ideal spots. If it isn’t it may not be seen. You may need to work on your quality score or raise your bid for certain keywords.
If you have a very low conversion rate, it makes your cost per click seem astronomical. But when you have the system in place to convert more clicks, cost per click becomes a very reasonable investment. To determine your ROI, spread the cost of clicks that didn’t convert across the ones that did.
The average conversion rate in Ads is 3.75%. It’s much higher in service industries.
We’ve discussed this in detail so here we’ll just remind you to track it.
With these strategies, you can run a more successful PPC campaign. Spend some time evaluating those keywords. Align your landing pages with the ads to get the best results. And don’t ignore your quality score. You’ll pay more.
If you need help growing your business through digital marketing strategies that work, contact us today.
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