I started my travel website for friends and family to see what we were doing on our vacations. It also served as test bed for my web development business. Over the years, I have added an removed many features and items, as a result it has become slow and frankly — a bit of a mess.
As I worked on cleaning up my website, I realized I was seeing many of the same problems on other travel sites posting in this group.
I don’t rely on my website for income, but maybe you do.
These three easy checks can identify problems on your website. Some of the problems are easily fixed, others may require the help of your web designer. Only by knowing where the problems are can you fix them.
Three Things to Check
How Fast Can You Go?
Google ranks user experience as one of the most important factors in its page ranking. One of the main factors in determining user experience is page speed — the faster the page loads the better.
I use two websites to check page speed, Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom’s Website Speed Test. Both are easy to use and both have unique features. If you only want to use one, use the Google Page Speed Insights.
Page Speed Insights ranks the web page being tested from 1 to 100. It tests the load speed expected on a desktop computer and on an average mobile unit. Of the two, the mobile value is the most important.
Starting July 1, 2019, mobile-first indexing is enabled by default for all new websites (new to the web or previously unknown to Google Search). For older or existing websites, . . . We inform site owners in Search Console of the date when their site was switched to mobile-first indexing. — Google Search Central
This example shows a site that has an average result for desktop systems but a very poor result for mobile. In this case the problem was caused by ‘blocking’ elements. These are items load before anything is shown on the screen.
This type of problem is hard to fix. In this case the problem seems to be in the template which was provided by the hosting service.
NOTE: The ‘Opportunities’ section in Page Speed Insights lists areas that could be improved. Clicking on the drop down icon the the right of the list item will show a more detailed listing of the problem areas. For sites using ‘WordPress’, many of the problems can be alleviated by using a plugin.
Website Speed Test allows you to test from various locations around the world.
This example is from a popular travel blog. The problem with the load time on this site was caused by the images, one of which was nearly 20 times as big as it needed to be. With the hosting service and Pingdom’s test point both in New York, load times are extremely fast. Loading the same page using Pingdom’s Sydney Australia test point seems to take forever.
This type of problem is easy to fix — and is the next item.
Is Your Image Too Big?
The FireFox browser has a quick way to see if an image on your web page needs scaling:
- Right click on the image
- In the drop down menu select ‘View Image Info’
- The ‘Dimensions’ line will give you the size of the image and what size it has been scaled to. If the image doesn’t need to be scaled just the size of the image is shown.
Fixing the Problem
Fortunately, scaling images is easy to do.
WordPress has the ability to scale image in the media section. A tutorial on scaling images is at https://www.seedprod.com/how-to-resize-an-image-in-wordpress/. There are also plugins that can help in scaling images and, starting with version 5.3, WordPress will automatically detect very large image files.
Images can also be scaled to the correct size using PhotoShop or a free photo editing tool such as GIMP. (Then one I use.)
NOTE: Always scale a copy of the original image.
Can You Be Seen ?
Missing pages are the bane of any website. The larger the site, the greater the chance there is a link to a page that no longer exists.
Online services such as https://www.deadlinkchecker.com/ and https://www.brokenlinkcheck.com/ can scan for both internal and outgoing broken links. Small websites can be scanned without creating an account, larger websites may need an account to scan the whole website.
I like to use Google Search Console. It is a free tool that detects problems with the way Google indexes your website. It won’t find problems with outgoing links, but it is a quick way to find problems with internal links. In addition to finding problem links it has other useful information including security alerts.
Setting up a Search Console account is simple. For WordPress users there is a plugin. For other systems you will need to verify ownership of the site by inserting a code snippet into the ‘head’ of your home page. To create and account visit Google Search Console.
Fixing Problems with Internal Links
For pages that have been moved, WordPress has a plugin to redirect visitors to the new page location. I haven’t used the plugin, but it has many good reviews. The documentation says, in addition to doing redirects based on a variety of conditions, it will track 404 (page not found) errors. On other sites you may need to manually edit the link and enter the new page location.
For pages that have been deleted or moved, redirect the visitor to the correct page or to your site directory.
Fixing Problems with Outgoing Links
Delete the link.
What Page Codes Mean
- 404 — Page not found
- 301 — Permanently redirected to new location
- 302 — Temporarily redirected to new location
Fixing these problems will not shoot you to the top page on Google’s search page (Unless you are already there.) but it may improve your position. It will help your user’s experience on your website, possibly earning a link to the site.
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