WordPress is running more than 28% of the web as one of the most popular content management systems available, and for good reason. People appreciate how easy it is to use and all the tools available to make websites more powerful and effective. But a common trap many users fall into is adding so many great features that it slows your site down, which can have an immediate and profound “wet blanket” effect on your traffic and SEO by frustrating your site’s visitors.
In EDGE of the Web Episode 297, EDGE hosts Erin Sparks (Site Strategics CEO) and Tom Brodbeck (Site Strategics Digital Media Director) spoke with Jon Henshaw, founder of Coywolf, to get the 4-1-1 on WordPress site speed.
Jon Henshaw: His Background and Experience
Jon has been involved with website development and internet strategy since 1995. Yes, the Internet did exist in 1995, and some of us were actually around to experience how painfully slow it was, though we didn’t realize it at the time without any point of reference. Jon co-founded Raven Tools, a SaaS platform designed to efficiently manage search engine optimization, online advertising campaigns, and social media conversations, which was purchased in 2017 by TapClicks. Since then Jon has been Senior SEO Analyst for CBS Interactive and also started a new site called Coywolf, that publishes webmaster resources and digital marketing insights about SEO, social, content, productivity, and entrepreneurship, including the Coywolf Digital Marketing Podcast.
The SEO Dark Ages
Jon’s background was originally in psychology and human behavior. He had a website called Family Resource and stumbled into figuring out ways to improve his site ranking through search engine optimization, without realizing he was even doing SEO. Seeing the Internet develop from the beginning was something that totally fascinated him, this ability to write something, put it up on a website and have people from all over the world read it. That is if they are able to find it. For Jon, the Internet and web have always inherently been about marketing and SEO.
In the early days of Google, it was relatively easy to get a page to rank high, and there were people who learned how to make it happen to beat their competitors, and then there were people who totally took advantage of it for spamming. It took a while for Google to get a handle on improving their algorithms in order to reduce the ability of people to game the system in a negative way. SEO seemed like some kind of dark art, which is why Jon named his first SaaS offering Raven Tools, with the “Raven” being a nod to Edgar Allan Poe’s dark writings. Much better to stay above board these days and follow the rules – or at least most of them.
Site Speed and SEO: The Connection is Real
If you’re an SEO geek like Jon who stays on top of understanding how Google works and how they are making use of things like site performance and speed, then you know that the two are closely linked. And yet many people don’t believe it. But Jon has confirmed time and time again through his own experiments and testing that site speed is in fact what he describes as “super-impactful.” Site speed, as it turns out, is the secret SEO weapon people need to know about in 2019.
Take Google’s Amp effort, for example, and keep in mind there is always a profit motive behind everything a big corporation does. Google wants to help crappy, slow sites be faster by using Amp, not because improving the Internet is good for everyone in general, but specifically because those crappy, slow sites can’t effectively serve up ads. Amp is a tool that’s great for end users because it improves their experience, but it’s great for Google because it makes them money.
When you start loading up a WordPress site with all those fancy plugins, your site gets slower and slower, and then you’ll miss out on all the SEO benefits Google offers for faster sites. That’s the most important takeaway: Site speed impacts SEO!
If you want to find out more about the how of improving WordPress site speed with Jon Henshaw, listen to the full interview at EDGE of the Web Episode 297.
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