Contractor websites (and their designs) are no different from any other site on the interwebs. A lot of emphasis on where your site ranks in Google depends on visitor “stickability”. This is a measure of how long visitors stay and how many of your pages they visit. The longer they stay and the more pages they look at, the better it is for you.
Follow the bouncing ball
When people leave your website, this increases what Google calls your “bounce rate”. Don’t confuse bounce rate with the “exit rate”, which gives a ranking to whichever page the visitor exits from.
How the bounce rate is worked out can be incredibly complicated: e.g. “Bounce Rate = total number of visitors viewing a single page divided by total number of visits greater than or equal to the average variable page load speed”. The take away here is that a high bounce rate is bad; a low bounce rate is good.
Google Analytics & Webmaster Tools
To get an accurate picture of what’s happening on your website – including your bounce rate – you need to install Google Analytics. This is a free service that will also tell you how many visitors you’ve had on a given day, where they came from, how long they stayed, and a ton more useful information you really need to have.
Some “experts” claim that Google uses Analytics to spy on webmasters. This might possibly be true to a degree, but if you’ve got nothing to hide, what’s the problem?
If your website has decent content and operates within Google’s terms and conditions, then signing up can be a positive advantage. It gives you access to information Google already has anyway, and which you’ll need in order to fully implement your SEO program.
Curbing a High Bounce Rate
Once you start receiving data from Google Analytics you’ll be able to see what your bounce rate is. Anything over 60% means you’re in trouble; 40-60% is “OK but needs working on”; below 40% is manageable.
So how do we lower a high bounce rate? The object of the exercise is to stop people leaving your site too quickly. The solution comes in two stages: capturing them when they arrive and keeping them informed and entertained once they are there. You need to ensure that your site:
- Loads quickly and smoothly
- Looks relevant to the search result/ subject expected
- Contains enough information to hold the visitor’s attention
- Doesn’t look spammy
- Is mobile-friendly
- Improving Your Site’s Loading Speed
It is important every page and post on your website loads quickly and smoothly. If any aspect of your site is too slow, two things will happen. First of all, most visitors will not bother waiting and will click away. Secondly, Google will see that your bounce rate is trending badly and it will penalize your site.
You can check your site’s loading speeds via the Google PageSpeed plugin for the Chrome and Firefox browsers. There’s also an online version here:
Concentrate on the index (front) page of your site, but check out other pages and posts as well. For your front page, anything under 70% is unacceptable and needs working on.
Here are some ways you can easily speed up your page loading times:
• Websites built with WordPress often have a speed advantage. They are built to be sleek and easy loading. Even so, there is stuff you will have to do to optimize your loading speed. Keep plugins down to the barest minimum and be aware that even if a plugin hasn’t been activated, its presence can still slow down your site. Delete any plugins you are not using.
To speed up a medium- to large-sized WordPress website, consider installing a cache plugin such as WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache. They work by generating a copy of each of your web pages (usually as an html file) that loads faster than the php file, which needs to summon information from a database in order to display.
• Optimize your images. Your pictures need to be as small (in file size) as you can make them. Use a program to do this for you: Photoshop and Fireworks (both from Adobe) are quite expensive but do the job quickly and easily. A useful online resource is the free Web Photo Re-sizer.
What these programs do is automatically find the best file type for a particular illustration. When your image contains simple lines and few colors it is best to optimize it as GIF or 8-bit PNG, then reduce the number of colors in the palette before saving.
Photographs and highly colorful illustrations need either JPG and 24-bit PNG, both of which come with larger color palettes. Remember, the better the picture quality and the more colors in the palette, the bigger the file size will have to be to accommodate it all.
• Images need to be actual size. Some people upload a large image and then resize it on the page. The problem with this is that the full-size image will still be loading, so you need to change to smaller, same-size images.
Another good tip is to trim excess white space from around your images and replace it with padding created either within WordPress (horizontal or vertical space in the Advanced section of the media tab) or by using CSS.
• Don’t overload your server. When you sign up to a hosting company, such as Bluehost, Dreamhost or Hostgator, you will probably be told that your package is suitable for “unlimited websites”. This is only the case in theory. If you have dozens of large websites, receiving high numbers of visitors, the loading time of every website on the server will be affected.
My advice would be to never exceed 30 standard sized websites on any one of those cheap package deals. If all your sites combined are getting more than 1,000 hits a day, it may be time to upgrade.
Executing on these tips will help you develop a website that helps you sell, which after all, is what your site is supposed to do. And to put a finer point on it, if your site hasn’t earned you $50,000 in new business yet this year, it might be time to have someone take a look!
Photo credit: Hryck