We’ve always encouraged clients to improve site speed; it’s one of the fundamentals of great UX. Google is now talking about “Web vitals”, jargon for improving usability. I’ve been speaking with lots of clients lately about cleaning up unused plugins that are draining their load times. If you’re not using them anymore, get rid of them. Your revenue will thank you for it.

What I learned

  • Useability is a ranking factor
  • Why Google loves user-friendly sites
  • Are you an F1 car or a truck?
  • Do you still need those old plugins?
  • Think about the user


Hey, welcome back Rankers. How you going? I’ve been working a lot on speed this week on various client sites, and we look at a variety of things with speed, and the big thing at the moment is… What is it called? Web Vitals. That’s what Google’s talking about, because everyone’s all about that now in the SEO industry. Usability is a ranking factor. Well, yeah. That’s what SEO is, right? Making the site work better for the user. That’s why Google loves those sites. Hence, these things are ranking factors, as we’ve said for a long time.

Are you a Formula One car?

But I put a post on LinkedIn this week and I just said, “Your eCommerce site should be like a Formula One car.” Unfortunately, most of the sites we see, or a lot of the sites we see, are pretty trucks with square wheels, simply meaning they don’t go very fast, but they look beautiful. And that is rife in the industry. And a lot of the time in conversations I have with clients, is that they want to install that plug-in or that CDN, or they’re doing something on their site that they’re no longer using, that they maybe installed years ago and they don’t even know it. So this is things like old plug-ins, old apps. If you’re on Shopify, if you’re on WooCommerce, there’s all sorts of things. If you’re on Magento, there’s all sorts of things.

One thing that I’m seeing a lot of, and that we remove a fair bit, depending on the client, of course, is Facebook plug-ins, because a lot of people may have tried Facebook ads. Maybe it didn’t work. Maybe they’re not doing it anymore, and maybe they’re not doing anything with Facebook anymore. We’ve got a few clients like that. But they’ve still got all the plug-ins running. Now, these plug-ins, on one client site, I just removed them and it made the site load 800 milliseconds quicker. So that’s good. So that’s money in your pocket. Every second that we save is money in your pocket. Had another client, this week, got a really, really long time to first byte and we’re working with the developers. And then I realised the client had about four years of transactional data from their customers stored in the website database. And that was contributing to a very long time to first byte, which basically means the customer has to sit there and wait for nothing, literally.

And there’s other things, like some CDNs, even. I think it’s MaxCDN where they do a subdomain to have all your files stored on. CloudFlare, all your files are stored on your domain. On some CDNs, they’ll have a subdomain, so CDN dot, whatever your site is. The problem with that is that it creates extra SSL, extra DNS. And basically, what those two things mean is that if your CDN is sitting on a subdomain, it’s actually, there’s a bit of a waste in there of time. And that is working out what the DNS is, where that CDN is, as opposed to just I’m already on the site. So the server doesn’t have to go and look for all these other things.

Stay user-focused

So all these other things add time, and you’ve got to look at them carefully before you start adding stuff. I said, “It might be convenient to have a stove on a hot-air balloon, so you can cook your lunch. But it’s not great, right? It’s not going to fly very high.” So there’s some things that we do for convenience, but we don’t realise the impact that it’s having on the customers as they’re trying to use the site. And so, a lot of the little things that we do, I mean, these are all SEO tasks, right, but we don’t do them for Google. We do them for the user because we’re focused on the revenue. And every time we shave off a second, we know that’s probably a big uptick in conversion rates. We’ve seen that the site we shaved off 800 milliseconds this week, seeing an uptick in conversions, but it’s early days, obviously.

So we need a month’s worth of data, at least, before you can say, “Well, that worked.” But we know a faster site is better. And so, all the things that we’re looking at, and someone else said to me today, “Maybe we could put Lucky Orange on there to find out what this thing is doing and how users are interacting with it.” I said, “Those things are great. Hotjar, Crazy Egg, Lucky Orange.” There’s a whole raft of them. You probably have your own favourite user recording tool. But once again, the problem with these is they add load time. So a lot of people who install these get the data that they wanted, and then just keep it running and forget they’ve installed it. Well, if you’re not using it, get rid of it.

So with all of these things, it’s trying to work out what is going to have the biggest impact, positive impact on revenue in the shortest space of time. And if we need a plug-in, sure. But you’ve got to weigh up the full impact of those things on your entire site and the different channels and the different devices, because we’re in a world now where there’s a lot more mobile usage since COVID. And if you go and have a look at your data, you might be surprised at the different channels and how the different channels, whether it be paid, whether it be organic, whether it be direct, whether it be Bing. They will react differently depending on what device they’re on and what channel they’re coming in from, those users. So you have to be aware of all those things when you’re adding plug-ins and enhancements to the site. But that’s what I meant. I mean, I think I… Jordy Heis from Shopify has started to stretch that analogy for me. And I ended up breaking it, because I don’t know terribly much about Formula One cars, but thank you, Nathan Huppatz for your input. Because he definitely does.

Hopefully, that’s helpful, and we’ll see you next week. Thanks very much. Bye.

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