If you are a blogger and have a self-hosted website, you are considered a webmaster. As a webmaster, you are responsible for the smooth operations of your site.
To improve your site (for both yourself and for your audience), there are several things you need to do. These include optimizing your images, increasing your page speed, and adding an SSL certificate to your site. It also includes using a responsive theme and eliminating pop-ups. This last point is particularly important because Google’s algorithm update in January 2017 is going to penalize websites that have specific types of pop-ups. (We will get into this more in Point #5.)
In this article, we will look at why you should make these changes and how you can make them.
Once you have made the recommended changes, the end result will give you a better website and improve your users’ experiences! You will also avoid penalization from Google!
The following is an outline of the 5 website changes you need to make, and the sub-points included in this article:
- some notes on image optimization
- which plugin you can use to Bulk Optimize your existing website images
- screenshots that show you how to do this
- How to use Pixlr Express to compress your images (a step-by-step tutorial)
- How to Optimize Your Site and Make it Faster
- 3 Reasons Why You Need An SSL
- How and Why I Installed an SSL on Wording Well
- How You Can Get SSL-Certified
- 3 tests/tools to use to check how your site looks on all devices
- a history of Google’s algorithm updates
- which pop-ups will be penalized
- which pop-ups will be allowed
Website Change #1: Optimize and Compress Your Images
We all know images can improve your content marketing.
But how we handle these images can have a negative effect on our websites!
While I was reading Elna Cain’s article on Adam Connell’s site, Blogging Wizard, The Blogger’s Guide To Optimizing Images For The Web, I realized that I have not been optimizing my images as much as I should be.
Sure, I’m aptly naming my images and adding alt tags to them. I’m also adding a description. But I rarely caption them, and I keep forgetting to compress them before I upload them to my website.
I knew I needed to change this, especially the part about compressing them.
Images take up space on your server. They also can slow down your website loading speed.
This is why it is so important to compress your blog post images!
I then had a conversation on Facebook with Ashley Faulkes from MadLemmings. I’ve known this guy for years. In fact, we both began blogging around the same time. We met in a LinkedIn group called Bloggers Helping Bloggers. (When I first started blogging in 2013, I needed all the help I could get!)
In a recent conversation on Facebook, the subject of images arose.
I re-read Ashley’s post SEO Image Optimization: 10 Proven Ways To Boost Yours.
I then asked Ashley for some advice, because I stopped compressing my images long ago. (I found a plugin that would do it for me, but this is the lazy blogger’s way of fixing things… and it’s not always the best solution.)
So… I realized I needed a solution to fix my images. I certainly didn’t want to have to re-do all of the images on my website. This would take for-e-v-e-r!
Ashley told me that I could optimize all the images on my website by performing a bulk optimize action using a WordPress plugin called EWWW Image Optimizer.
So… I used the EWWW Image Optimizer to optimize 1177 images on my website. Yeah, almost 1200 images needed compressing! Ouch!
It took about 5 hours to do this… but I didn’t have to do a thing except wait. All I had to do was install and activate this plugin, then click two things.
The following screenshot shows you the first thing I clicked. It was the Bulk Optimize option.
This next screenshot shows you the second thing I clicked. It is the Start optimizing button on the page you get when you click the Bulk Optimize link.
In case you are interested, here is some proof of how many images I optimized (1177!) and some samples of how much this plugin saved me in file sizes:
Although the above image shows a small reduction size for that particular image, not all images showed a small reduction.
The next screenshot shows a huge reduction, of 341.8 KB!
And this one shows a reduction of 218.6 KB!
Moving Forward with Image Optimization
Back in 2013, Ashley wrote a post called How to Make Your Blog Images Awesome: Even If You Aren’t Picasso. In this blog post, he explains how to create blog post images yourself. He also explains how to use Pixlr Express to compress images.
Back then, when I read that post, I was a fairly new blogger, I thought this extra step was a bit too much work to do… even though it’s not hard. So I did it for a few images, then stopped. I simply didn’t think it was a big deal to compress my images.
I know differently now.
So now I am going to make sure I both optimize AND compress my blog post images!
I will use Pixlr Express to do this. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not hard to do.
How to Use Pixlr Express to Compress Your Images (AKA the Tutorial I Promised You!)
Open Pixlr Express in your browser.
Choose the Browse option. Then upload your image.
Resize your image if necessary. It is recommended that you make it smaller.
To do this, choose Adjustment and then Resize.
Then save your image.
When you are saving your image, a box pops up.
Put your cursor on the white rectangular slider and move it down a bit.
You will see 2 changes occur: the number for the quality of the image will go down, and the number of the file size will decrease too.
It is recommended to choose a number between 60 and 70 for the quality. The image size will change according to this. Ashley says to aim for a reasonable file size with a quality above 50%.
Then just save your new image to your computer and upload this image to your blog post.
Learn more about optimizing your images from How to Optimize Images for WordPress Without A Steep Learning Curve.
Website Change #2: Increase Your Page Speed
Having a fast-loading website is beneficial for you because internet users now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish. Studies have shown that the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds.
In addition, when someone lands on your website for the first time, you have only a few seconds to capture their attention.
People have become so impatient that they don’t want to wait for web pages to load.
So your site has to be fast!
You need to speed up everything on your site – from page load times to the signup process to your shopping cart checkout. You need to both optimize your site and find a fast web host for your site.
How to Optimize Your Site and Make it Faster
There are 6 Tips for How to Improve Your Website Speed. This is basically all you need to know.
You also need to find a good host for your website.
I use Abivia Inc. to host my sites, and I am happy with them. They are a little more expensive than Bluehost or CanSpace, but I receive excellent support and service from them. (These are affiliate links, and if you purchase hosting from any of these companies, I will receive a small commission from them.)
You can search for a good host yourself… but I did a whole shitload of research on web hosts already. It took me weeks to put this hosting guide together!
GO BACK TO THE OUTLINE
Website Change #3: Add an SSL Certificate to Your Website
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. What this does is provide an encrypted connection between your website server and your client’s web browser, allowing for private or sensitive identification information to be used safely and transmitted securely, without the risk of an attacker or hacker eavesdropping upon or tampering with the data being sent. (Such information can include social security numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, etc.)
When you have an SSL certificate installed on your site, it will change your URL from http:// to https://.
And in the space where the URL shows up, a green lock will appear.
This is how you know if someone has an SSL on their site.
Why Do You Need an SSL?
1: You need an SSL to establish (or increase) customer trust.
Your customers need to trust you before they buy something from you. It doesn’t matter what you’re selling! If you don’t have their trust, you’re not going to make a sale.
Having an SSL certificate is particularly important if you are selling something on your website.
2: HTTPS is used a ranking signal.
Google will rank your site higher if it is a trusted site.
Google will rank sites that are secured higher than sites that aren’t.
Google will also index your pages by default if they are secured.
For more information on this, read Google’s article that describes HTTPS and best practices for using it.
You can also refer to Ahref’s article HTTP vs. HTTPS for SEO: What You Need to Know to Stay in Google’s Good Graces.
3: SSLs Boost Your Credibility and Sales Conversions
By using an SSL certificate on your website, your site credibility is boosted. Customers will not hesitate to give you their credit card numbers when they see the little green “lock” in the URL.
They know you can be trusted.
Research has shown that the use of SSL certificates improve business sales conversions, too.
In 2008, it was found that SSLs boosted sales by 30% and ROI (return on investment) by 48,000%.
In 2014, similar results were found for using Trust Seals, which are badges or images that can be displayed on your site to show that your website is legitimate, protected, and authentic.
Many Trust Seals exist, with the Norton Secured Seal (powered by Verisign) being the best-converting one.
Research has shown that multiple badges or seals convert best.
However, this research is more applicable to e-commerce sites than regular sites (such as mine).
That’s why I don’t display such trust seals here. Most of my readers know me and know they can trust me.
But my new visitors don’t know me at all!
How and Why I Installed an SSL on Wording Well
It’s no secret that I am a freelance writer and editor for hire.
I like making things easy for my clients, and so I installed PayPal buttons on my site to make paying me easier.
Because clients have the option of paying with their credit card, I wanted to prove to them that my site is trustworthy, that they won’t have any problem if they order using my PayPal buttons, and so I decided to install the SSL on Wording Well.
But I’m not techie… and so I had help doing this.
I did some of my own research and talked to my hosting company, too. I use Abivia Inc. (aff link) and know the owner, Alan Langford. I am friends with him on Facebook, too. He has always provided me with excellent service and he even helped me one-on-one with some technical things I could not do myself!
I also regularly get help from another Facebook friend, Shahid Khan. This guy is totally amazing, super-smart, really techie, and a life-saver when it comes to tech stuff. Shahid has fixed several of my tech issues, including 712 crawl errors I got after switching themes!
You can hire him through his website, PBN Magic. Or you can message him on Facebook.
When I received an email from Abivia saying that I was being given a free SSL certificate, I contacted Shahid to help me install it on my sites (because, as you know, I’m not techie!).
This was back in October 2016. I was actually sick with a really bad cold then, which lasted about 5 weeks.
Anyway, I was able to sit back and let Shahid work his magic.
Poof! The next thing I knew, I had a little green lock in my URL!
How You Can Get SSL-Certified
There are many different ways you can get SSL-certified.
1: Contact your hosting company and see if they offer this service to you.
2: Visit Let’s Encrypt. You can read about this and get a free SSL certificate there.
3: You can search for others who also offer free SSL certificates. You can even learn how to install them yourself (if you’re techie!). This site offers both of these things!
4: You can use the Really Simple SSL plugin to help you install it on your site. But you will need to get an SSL from somewhere else first.
5: If you are non-techie (like me), then I would recommend hiring someone to help you… like Shahid Khan. The guy is awesome!
6: If you are techie, you can use the BONUS section that is included in the PDF version of this blog post. Just click on the yellow box below to get it!
It was shared in a secret group on Facebook (which I am a part of, although I don’t know why, because I don’t understand all the tech talk that happens there!) and I was given permission to use it as a bonus to give to you! It was contributed by Nirmal Sarkar of HiTricks.
Website Change #4: Ensure You Are Using a Responsive Theme
If you are using a responsive theme, then your site will be clearly visible on all devices — phones, tablets, iPads, and computers.
To check if your theme is responsive, you can test it using any of these tools:
Website Change #5: Delete Pop-Ups to Avoid Penalization from Google
Google decides the fates of our websites… with their algorithms.
Every few months, Google updates their algorithms in an attempt to show others which websites are the best.
Let me give a brief history of Google before we get into why you need to delete your website pop-ups.
According to Google, “Google exists to provide the world’s best Internet search experience.” That’s why, back in 2000, Google launched its toolbar. Between 2000 and 2005, an influx of information was published on the internet, and people began blogging on their own sites. In 2005, Google introduced XML Sitemaps. In 2010, Google realized that a lot of webmasters were using black hat tricks to rank their sites, so Google decided to start penalizing them, and did so with their 2011 Panda algorithm update. This update hurt many webmasters by de-ranking their sites. (They deserved it!)
Since then, Google has released many updates.
Many of these updates hurt bloggers, even white hat ones! (It is hard to keep Google happy.)
Now, every 3-4 months, Google updates its algorithms. The last update was the Penguin 4.0 update on September 23rd, 2016. The next one will be on January 10, 2017.
These updates affect all bloggers and webmasters. Sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. It depends on how good of a webmaster you are, and if you comply with the “rules.”
If you remember, in April 2015, Google updated its algorithm to include mobile friendliness as a ranking signal.
I wrote about this mandate in March 2015.
As I mentioned earlier, Google’s algorithm update in January 2017 is going to penalize websites that have specific types of pop-ups.
Many people have written about what this means.
Essentially, what is means is this:
If you use pop-ups on your site (to gain new subscribers, for example), you are probably going to be penalized for it.
Google wants us to make our websites more user-friendly. (And we all know that pop-ups are annoying!)
Google has been calling these pop-ups “interstitials,” and their upcoming update is going to focus on websites that use three types:
1: pop-ups that cover the main content after the user navigates to a page from the search results (either immediately or while the user is browsing the page)
2: stand-alone popups that must be dismissed before accessing content, and the use of a layout where the popup mimics the above-the-fold content but
3: the use of a layout where the popup mimics the above-the-fold content but where original content has been inlined underneath the fold
For an image showing samples of these types, visit Google is Cracking Down on Intrusive Mobile Pop-Ups: Here’s What Marketers Need to Know.
The only pop-ups that will be allowed are:
1: pop-ups that ask you to verify your age (or manage legal obligations such as cookie usage)
2: login boxes for pages that are not indexed
3: banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible
Webmasters (oh, I hate that word used to describe us!) are going to have to make some serious changes to our websites. Most of us use a pop-up of some kind!
What are we to do?
Solutions to Avoid Penalization by Google:
According to Google’s New Popup Penalty & What it Means, we need to start putting our opt-ins in other places on our website.
- We can insert a link directly in our blog posts to our “offer.”
- We can use a “sticky widget” to display our “offer.”
- We can put a signup footer across your website that contains a strong call-to-action.
- We can use non-intrusive banners at the top or bottom of our website that won’t interfere with our users’ website usage.
Your Webmaster Responsibilities
As a webmaster or blog owner, you have many responsibilities.
It is up to you to ensure the smooth operations of your site… from optimizing your images to increasing your page speed to increasing your customer trust by adding an SSL certificate to your site to using a responsive theme to eliminating pop-ups.
But if you do all of these things — and you do them well — then you will get more traffic, please your users, acquire loyal readers, increase your customer trust, make more sales, and avoid any kind of penalties from Google.