Version 2.1.9

Website Guidelines

In-depth website guidelines to help build, refine, or audit your own website to modern professional standards.

Site Health

Page Speed

Page speed – how fast your website loads – immediately impacts user experience, as well as says a lot about how your website was built. Users typically won’t wait around or come back to a slow website and will commonly go to the next competitor or search result. Page speed is also a major factor in search engine algorithms, thus it’s important to make sure your website loads quickly.

Your website should have a fast load speed – ideally, under 3-5 seconds. Some common areas to focus on that could be slowing down your website are media size and compression (large image sizes are a common issue), server response time, caching, code structure, and code minification.

Depending on the platform the website is built on, there can be some limitations of areas you can make more efficient - in these cases focus on the things you can change to decrease load speed. Sometimes you do have to sacrifice media quality for a quicker site. Make sure to take a look at what plugins your websites is using and if it needs some of them at all. A lot of plugins and page builders can decrease load speed significantly. Make sure to use a properly configured caching plugin as well.

53% of mobile site visitors will abandon a page that takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

A 100-millisecond delay in website load time can decrease conversion rates by 7%.

Further Reading

Page Speed

Page speed – how fast your website loads – immediately impacts user experience, as well as says a lot about how your website was built. Users typically won’t wait around or come back to a slow website and will commonly go to the next competitor or search result. Page speed is also a major factor in search engine algorithms, thus it’s important to make sure your website loads quickly.

Your website should have a fast load speed – ideally, under 3-5 seconds. Some common areas to focus on that could be slowing down your website are media size and compression (large image sizes are a common issue), server response time, caching, code structure, and code minification.

Depending on the platform the website is built on, there can be some limitations of areas you can make more efficient - in these cases focus on the things you can change to decrease load speed. Sometimes you do have to sacrifice media quality for a quicker site. Make sure to take a look at what plugins your websites is using and if it needs some of them at all. A lot of plugins and page builders can decrease load speed significantly. Make sure to use a properly configured caching plugin as well.

53% of mobile site visitors will abandon a page that takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

A 100-millisecond delay in website load time can decrease conversion rates by 7%.

Further Reading

Search Engine Availability

Even if SEO isn’t a primary marketing tactic for you, it’s still important that your website is at least found on search engines. There are a lot of reasons why you could be missing from search results. Like if your domain is too new, it hasn’t been optimized for website crawlers, or if you have ‘no-index’ tags that prevent your site from being crawled. Your site can also be removed from Google altogether if malware or viruses is found on your site, or if you’re trying to manipulate Google’s search algorithms with poor SEO practices like low-quality backlinks and keyword stuffing.

Your website should be found on search engines and properly indexed with an up-to-date sitemap.xml and robots.txt files. You website also shouldn’t be sandboxed, blacklisted, or have other penalties, tags, or issues that prevent it from showing up in search engines.

You can check Google Search Console for issues and be sure you aren't blocking search engines in your WordPress Reading settings.

Studies found that in over 5 million searches, the top 3 Google search results get 75.1% of all clicks.

When a website is blacklisted, it loses almost 95% of its organic traffic, which can rapidly affect revenue

Further Reading

SSL Certificate

An SSL certificate is a type of security protocol that helps keep internet connections secure and safeguards any sensitive data being sent and received. This is especially vital on certain types of websites – such as those which handles payment information – but the fact is that they are commonly free, so there’s no reason why all websites should not have one.

Your website should have an SSL certificate. It’s an SEO ranking factor, increases security, protects data, and improves users’ trust. There are SSL checking tools out there but you can easily check yourself by viewing the badge/icon next to address bar.

After adding a SSL certificate, be sure to check your site thoroughly to make sure all internal links have been updated to HTTPS.

32.6% of all websites on the internet today have inadequate security.

Google has been using HTTPS as a search engine ranking signal since 2014.

Further Reading

Broken Links

All the links on your website should function properly and not point to missing pages or inaccessible content. Not only for the benefit of your users but also to avoid penalties from search engines. You can use plugins to search for broken links that are on your website, although be aware that these tools won’t necessarily find all the links - especially if the links are live but the page itself is broken or outdated. Be sure to check your analytical data for sources of external broken backlinks.

Along with checking links, don’t forget about the buttons and forms. Make sure the forms on every page work properly, display appropriate notification and error messages and are sent to the correct email accounts.

If the website has been transferred from a developmental server or from one domain to another you'll want to open the browsers developer tools; inspect the the page and search for the previous domain as you could have links pointing to pages on an old server that were never updated.

Studies found that out of 70,000 links on Fortune 500 company websites, 20% of the links were broken.

88% of users are less likely to return to a website after a bad experience.

Further Reading

Error Messages

Your website should be free of all error messages, which can arise from a variety of issues. These errors can range from simple code bugs and server issues to visibly displayed short codes and javascript errors. Not only can these errors increase security vulnerabilities, but they can also cause a user to distrust your website content, and potentially hurt your rankings in search results.

Along with fixing the error messages on the front end, you’ll also want to fix any issues that arise in the backend. To keep everything running smoothly, you’ll want to consistently check your error log files in your website’s root directory for any potential issues.

46% of web applications have critical vulnerabilities.

On average 30,000 new websites are hacked every day. These 30 000 sites are usually legitimate small businesses sites, that are unwittingly distributing malware.

Further Reading

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