Deciphering website graders - it's easier than you think

In one of our latest posters we talked about how every second counts when it comes to website loading times and that there are a few tools out there than can help you see how fast your site loads. These tools however can be a little tricky to decipher if you are not sure what exactly you’re looking at.

This blog will help you use a website grader and respond to what it’s telling you, making your website as effective as it can be. Before we being on our technological journey, a quick note: website graders are a mechanical evaluation of your site, so even if you score highly on these your website might not be optimised creatively or from a user experience standpoint. These items are visual aspects of your website and take a lot more analysis to understand and will never truly be clear - but we can try.

So let’s begin!

I am going to run you through Hubspot’s website grader, using my website as an example.

Overall score

As you can see, two-guys.co.uk is pretty much perfect, as it should be (mechanically remember). This is a great way to check your website quickly if you have made a few minor changes.

You have four sub-sections underneath the main score. These are the overall scores for each area tested by the Hubspot grader and will help you run through the scores on your website easily. What you want to be looking for is where your website is really faltering (psst. security will probably be one of them, but don’t worry about it just yet). We will go into more depth around what each of these sections mean later on in the post.

Performance

The performance section is all about how fast your website loads. It focuses on three aspects:

Page size, page requests and page speed.

Mostly you can think of it as, the smaller the page size and the less requests there are, the faster your site will be.
Page size

You can see from the screenshot here that my page size is very small which will help web browsers (Google Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer) download my website faster, resulting in a faster load time. The best part about page size is that with ever increasing internet speeds, you can get larger websites loading faster. My webpages are minimal in design and so have a small size, it is best to keep a webpage below 3MB to make sure it loads quickly.

How to reduce your page size:

Page requests

Oops! I have some ‘serious room for improvement’ here. The page requests section is all about how many items you have on a webpage. In simple terms, every block of text and image your web page has, the web browser has to ‘ask’ a server for.

Imagine ordering a pizza, the more ingredients you ‘request’ the longer it takes to assemble the pizza.

How to reduce your page requests:

Page speed

The page speed is an overall score of how fast your website loads. If you are anything 2 seconds and under your website will be fit for purpose and you shouldn’t have anyone drop off because of site speed.

How to reduce your page speed:

Other items

These items have been discussed mostly in each of the ‘how to reduce’ sections. But are just as important to a fast loading website. The only two that haven’t been discussed are page redirects and render blocking - so let’s run through those.

Page redirects

This is where you may have had old links that have been updated on your website, maybe you had an old URL that now points to a new shiny URL. Either way a few of these are fine, but the more you have, the slower the website will be (remember page requests? You’re adding more ingredients).

Two Guys have one redirect setup. We send everyone who goes onto www.two-guys.com to www.two-guys.co.uk as we want our UK address to have the authority. But you need to keep these to a minimum.

Render blocking

Unless you are a developer, you won’t be able to do much about this. This relates to parts of code, Javascript in particular, that will stop your web page from loading until it has run it’s script. This means your site could load half of your site and stop for a few seconds to load a fancy piece of script you have running.

Now Javascript does add some nice elements to your website so you don’t want to get rid of it completely, so how do you overcome this blockage? There are two main ways:

  1. Add the script into the HTML so it will only load when it is needed
  2. Move the script to the end - this will make sure the whole web page loads first and then any fancy effects come in after. You can do this with images as well, Medium is a good example of this with the blurred images loading in first so as not to slow down the whole site.

Mobile

This section is fairly self explanatory in it’s title. It is about how responsive your website is to different browsers and devices.

If your website is not responsive, you WILL lose out on business.

So many people use phones and tablets to browse the internet now in both a personal and professional capacity that not having a responsive website will harm the growth of your business.

Responsive

This is all about how well your website reacts to different devices. The great Google will reward you for having a responsive website, and so will your users.

Viewport

This is similar to responsive, but different. Confused? Good. Where responsive reacts to devices, viewport reacts to browser width.

The best way to think about it is:

If you are viewing a website on a 32inch monitor at work, then you go into a meeting and bring it up on your 13inch laptop screen, the website will scale everything down to fit inside that smaller screen.

SEO

There is a lot more that goes into your overall SEO than a website grader can test. But what it does tests all adds to the mix and is very simple to setup and change.

Page titles

The page titles are the first thing Google looks for when searching a page and helps users know what page they are on. Keeping these simple and up-to-date are great tools that can help you rank higher and help your users navigate the site.

Meta description

These are short descriptions of each page and again help Google to decide what the page is about and where to rank it, and to help users see a snapshot of what the page is about.

Headings

These are in the code for the website and, if you are using a website development programme such as WordPress, should be setup for you already. They are there as markers to help the Google bot see what is a new section or what is important in a page. They normally range from H1 tags to H6 tags, with H1 being the most important.

Sitemap

This shouldn’t have to be created by yourself if you are using a programme or a developer and are there again to mainly help Google crawl your site quickly so it can get all of your pages ranked, helping your website get the most traffic possible.

Security

Remember earlier when I said not to worry too much about security right now. You can continue this train of thought for a little while longer yet. The main issue with not having an SSL certificate is that traffic from your website server to your user is not that secure and could potentially be accessed. And if you’re not convinced about getting an SSL certificate yet, Google will soon be ranking websites with a certificate MUCH higher than those without, so it would benefit your website presence as well.

How do you know if your site (or any other) has an SSL certificate? Look for the little lock at the side of the URL:

Another factor of security that isn’t measured in these graders are breaches in software. Now I don’t want to downplay how great WordPress can be, however in its construction it is susceptible to hacks. This is because of the plugins you get, every plugin you add creates another way into your website and so could end up bringing the whole site down without you knowing until it’s too late.

The best ways to get around this are:

  1. Hire a web developer to create you a website using a different CMS
  2. Limit the use of plugins
  3. Pay for specialised WordPress protection
  4. Don’t use WordPress

And that’s it folks. Not too hard, but a lot of the ways to boost your performance require some development knowledge which is why we always advise getting your website created by a professional. Soon your website will be outperforming ours!

If you are looking to get your website into shape get in touch with me at:
Steven.t@two-guys.co.uk

Thanks for reading!

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