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Fast Mobile: SEO Optimization Tech Talk

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Episode Overview

When it comes to mobile, optimization and load speed are key. Mobile SEO optimization expert Cindy Krum, author and CEO, provides tech strategies for mobile code development and management—for maximum mobile performance and visibility. In this podcast, you’ll learn:

  • How to adjust and optimize your mobile code base without confusing Google
  • Strategies for legacy sites to ensure fastest load time
  • What are “sprites” and why are they important
  • Effective management of stylesheets

GUESTS & RESOURCES:

Episode Transcript

Ben:                            Welcome back to Mobile Optimization Week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro, and this week we’re going to publish an episode every day, covering what you need to know about the technical optimizations that will improve your performance and visibility on your mobile sites.

Ben:                            Joining us for Mobile Optimization Week is Cindy Krum, who’s the Founder and CEO of MobileMoxie, which is mobile-centric set of tools and APIs that help SEO’s gain better insights into their mobile site experiences. Outside of leading the charge at MobileMoxie, Cindy is also the author of Mobile Marketing: Finding Your Customers No Matter Where They Are.

Ben:                            Today we’re gonna discuss code consolidation and deprecation for mobile optimization. But before we get started I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO in content marketing platform that helps enterprise-skill businesses monitor their online presence and make data driven decisions.

Ben:                            To support you, our loyal podcast listeners, we are offering a complimentary digital diagnostic. A member of our digital strategies group will provide you with a consultation that reviews how your website content SEO strategies can all be optimized. To schedule your free digital go to searchmetrics.com/diagnostic.

Ben:                            Here’s the fourth installment of Mobile Optimization week with Cindy Krum, Founder and CEO of MobileMoxie. Cindy, welcome back to Mobile Optimization Week on the Voices of Search podcast.

Cindy Krum:                Thanks.

Ben:                            Great to have you back. We’re going to talk about a topic that, I’m gonna be totally honest, is probably over my head. We’re gonna get real technical on this one and talk about code consolidation and deprecation, which originally I thought was deprivation. Talk to me a little bit about how you can adjust your code base so you are stripping out what is not necessary for mobile without confusing Google. What’s the process here?

Cindy Krum:                Number one, you can do AMP like we talked about in the last episode. That’s a great way to streamline code, but I think that the idea with this episode topic area is a lot to do with how long the web has been around. Actually the web is growing and getting older and what that means from a development perspective is we’re kind of building on an original house, than building it out.

Cindy Krum:                If we’ve had websites since the beginning of the web, unless we’ve wiped everything clean and gone full clean slate, we have a bunch of legacy code that used to be useful and now no one knows what it does but they leave it in ’cause they don’t want to break anything and legacy code becomes a problem.

Cindy Krum:                Companies are coming up with different ways to build sites that are new and clever and potentially very useful. But, we may need to look at cleaning up the code. Some of the things that companies are doing can be great for cleaning up code, which gives you a faster load time. For instance, the easy things here that I’ve been talking about for years, are consolidating the round-trip requests needed to load a page, which would mean, instead of having 10 style sheets for every page, just having one or two, and that drastically minimizes the amount of round-trip requests from most websites.

Cindy Krum:                Websites have kind of gotten sloppy. They have a style sheet for this and a style sheet for that, and they have this style sheet, which they’re not quite sure what is does anymore but they leave it in just because it might be controlling one little piece of font somewhere.

Cindy Krum:                That’s just sloppy and that slows down the browser because … especially on a mobile phone, round-trip requests really really slow down the experience much more than they would in a desktop. It’s just a different way that mobile browsers work. They’re going over mobile networks, which might be slow, might lose connectivity, stuff like that.

Cindy Krum:                So, if you consolidate the amount of round-trip requests, the page is gonna load a lot faster, and it kind of forces you to consolidate and then look at if you have unused CSS classes or a bunch of junk CSS that’s overriding each other, things like that.

Cindy Krum:                You have one style sheet per page, let’s say, and maybe one that’s a global one for the whole website. That keeps you more neat and tidy. Same thing with JavaScript, you can do the exact same thing. Right now, a lot of websites will go get this JavaScript for that, and that JavaScript for this, and they have the separate JavaScripts that do this separate things. That makes sense from a development perspective, but it doesn’t make sense from a load time perspective because it’s too many round trip requests, too much processing time on the JavaScript.

Cindy Krum:                It’s better to go get the JavaScript early in the page load, let it process in the background, and just do that once. Then have really nice clean concise JavaScript, which again is why I do recommend using AMP JavaScript code whenever you can, even if you’re not trying to validate because it’s as streamlined as it can possibly be. But, consolidating the number of round-trip requests is good.

Cindy Krum:                The other thing that most SEOs aren’t talking about is sprites. Do you know what sprites are, Ben?

Ben:                            I have no idea.

Cindy Krum:                Oh my Go-

Ben:                            It’s a soda as far as I’m concerned.

Cindy Krum:                The sprites are great, theoretically, because what it does is, all of the little images on a website, icons, arrows, things like that, that are mostly to make it look pretty and to give kind of guidance about how the page works, all those little things used to be, back in the old days web development, they would be a separate round-trip request.

Cindy Krum:                Again, for mobile, that slows you down a lot. They developed these things called sprites. Sprites are a cluster of all of the different images on a page, and then that sprite uses a style sheet, or uses the existing style sheet, to tell those little icons where they belong on the page. Load the one sprite image and then all of the little pieces of the image find their location on the page. So that consolidates a lot of round-trip requests for images and makes it faster load time.

Cindy Krum:                The problem is, big companies, and I’ve seen like Fortune 100, Fortune 10 companies, when we’re looking at their websites, where they just go sloppy with the sprites and a developer found a sprite and he or she was like “I don’t know which of these icons are used anymore, clearly some aren’t used. You know what? I’m just gonna make a copy of this sprite and add my arrow over here because we have a new arrow in the design and then we’re gonna do a separate call for that sprite.”

Cindy Krum:                The problem is, when you’re doing that over years and years, then too many people have touched the page, and then you have 10 or 15 round-trips for different sprites. You have a sprite for the arrows, and a sprite that also includes the arrows but includes other things. No one know which sprite is controlling what and everyone’s in such a rush, that instead of keeping it neat and tidy, they just kind of replicate it and say “oh, one more round-trip request won’t kill us.”

Cindy Krum:                Well, over time when you keep doing that, it does get to be a burden and especially if you want to really fast load time, sprites are great in theory but they have to be used correctly.

Ben:                            I think the metaphor here is, this is house cleaning.

Cindy Krum:                Yup.

Ben:                            When I think about it, it’s easy when you move into a new house to lay everything out where you want it. You’re developing a new site. You use the latest technology. Everything is streamlined. There’s a clear process and place. When you live in a place for a long time, all the cupboards end up full, eventually you grow into the house and stuff starts popping out from the seams. What advise do you have for people that have large complex sites that multiple people have touched over multiple years? Is their a process for cleaning and consolidating?

Cindy Krum:                Yup. We call it site hygiene. We say it needs to be done at least every six months, maybe quarterly. Also setting up rules for pages. Even if you’re not following the AMP standards, you can have similar standards and say “listen, we have one global style sheet and one style sheet per page template and that’s it, buddy” or “we have same thing for JavaScript, one JavaScript file per page template and one global JavaScript file and the two should not replicate each other’s code, right?”

Cindy Krum:                You shouldn’t have the JavaScript that controls this, also there just in case or because it was there and now it’s moved here. It needs to be really neat and tidy and there needs to be code audits at least every six months. We need to just have rules in place for the site that says we can only have this many round-trip requests per page, and this needs to handled like this, and there can only be maximum x number of sprites per page, and no including images in one sprite and the other sprite because that leads to confusion.

Cindy Krum:                Then the confusion is what causes people to just replicate and start over. Then you have 5 calls for five sprites that have the same arrow and this call puts the arrow over here and this call is from a different version of the image but using the same arrow. It becomes very messy, right?

Ben:                            I guess the thing that goes into my head, again, you’re sure you have to go and you have to do your house cleaning and you have to clean everything up and dump everything out of the drawers and figure out what you need and only keep the stuff you want.

Ben:                            There’s the Marie Kondo version of SEO and code consolidation here. Does this sprite bring me joy?

Ben:                            Is there a notion of a code consolidation or deprecation … is there a maid available? Is there a way that you can have somebody else come into your site and evaluate it and clean out some of the stuff that’s not being used?

Cindy Krum:                Yeah, definitely. There are tools that will go in and find unused CSS classes. There are tools that will give you a score or recommendations for optimizing your JavaScript. There are sprite tools. Yes, but then the other thing, let’s say you can’t handle it, right? Can’t handle the house anymore or you just gotta move.

Ben:                            Your website is a hoarder.

Cindy Krum:                Your website is a hoarder.

Ben:                            Lots of reality TV shows [crosstalk 00:11:03]

Cindy Krum:                Google is changing a lot, like we’ve been talking about. You could just start kind of abandoned ship or emotionally abandoned ship and say “we’re gonna optimize Google My Business now, because Google My Business has all of the location optimization. You can now put products. You can now action for booking appointments.

Cindy Krum:                There’s a lot you can do in Google My Business where it does the code for you, you just provide the content. Since it’s hosted by Google, I tend to believe that they like to rank it.

Ben:                            Yeah, I think that when I think about the topic in general, some of the technical optimizations, I’ll be totally honest, are above my head and pay grade. Thank you, Jordan for suggesting this topic and making me the host. But, I do think that there is a methodology behind this where you have to build a new site using technology that has clean code. Then you have to audit it and maintain it if you’re starting from the beginning. If you’re working on a legacy site, there’s a constant amount of clean up that you have to do. You have to figure out the calculus of should I invest in rebuilding the underlining technology behind this site? Or, do I try to fix what I have?

Ben:                            Last question I have for you. For the companies that are working on legacy sites, the ones that have full closets, full drawers, stuff popping out of the scenes. They need a maid. How do you figure out whether you should be rebuilding and starting from scratch and relaunching the website? Or, how do you figure out whether you should salvage what you already have?

Cindy Krum:                It’s all about your tech resources and what they’re capable of and what they have time for because, let’s say you have a custom CMS that only five people in the world know, and you’re wanting to rebuild that. That’s gonna be slower than making updates in a common CMS that has a lot of documentation and that you can just bring on board more people to help with.

Ben:                            Yeah and to round this back in the mobile because it is Mobile Marketing Month, I think that the theme that we’re maybe not expressly mentioning to this point is as the use of mobile becomes more pervasive, site speed is more important. Having a grip on your code debt and making sure that your site is operating as quickly as possible, has a real business impact. People are expecting more on demand. There’s more inconsistencies with mobile connections and this is becoming a more and more important topic.

Cindy Krum:                Yeah and let me add one more thing. Which I think I may not expressed very well. But, when I was mentioning Google My Business, remember that, let’s say you’re an SEO who works for a company, but you don’t have access to the development team. You’ve had things in their cue for over a year and it just never gets done.

Cindy Krum:                I think it’s very interesting that Google My Business now allows you to take the information that you feed it and generate a website. I have recommended to SEOs that aren’t getting the results that they want, because their hands are tied code-wise on some of the websites, to get permission to try and optimize these GMB generated websites and see how they do. Because, the tests that SEOs have done show that those GMB websites, which is different from your GMB landing page, it’s actually got it’s own little domain, they rank well, quickly.

Ben:                            There’s another way to get around if you’re having a tremendous amount of technical debt and you’re having a hard time getting prioritized by your developers. Maybe go take a segment of your existing websites, spin out a GMB website, and then test the performance of that page as opposed to the existing category that you have that’s underperforming.

Cindy Krum:                Yeah use it prove that there’s opportunity if they’re saying “oh, it’s not worth our time” Then fine then, we’ll do it this way.

Ben:                            Look, code consolidation and deprecation is a complicated topic and it’s going to be nuanced for every single business. Hopefully we’ve given you some things to think about in terms of when you should be focusing on consolidation, when you should abandon ship and some other tools to prove that you’re going to be able to drive additional business results by making some changes.

Ben:                            That wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Cindy Krum, the Founder and CEO of MobileMoxie. We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Cindy, you can find the link to her LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can send her a tweet where her handle is @suzzicks, or you can visit her company’s website which is mobilemoxie.com.

Ben:                            If you have general marketing questions or if you want to talk about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes or you can send me a tweet at @benjshap. If you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility or to gain competitive insights, head over to searchmetrics.com/diagnostic for your complimentary advisory session with our digital strategies team.

Ben:                            If you like this podcast, you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast app, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning to discuss the future of mobile SEO optimization.

Ben:                            Lastly, if you’re enjoyed this show and you’re feeling generous, we’d love for you to leave us a review in the Apple iTunes store or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Okay. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.