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WordPress Proposes Performance Team For Core Web Vitals

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A WordPress proposal admits it is falling behind Wix and similar platforms and suggests they need to create a performance team to coordinate speed improvements.

While some may find it controversial for someone at WordPress to admit they were falling behind in the race to improve speed scores, it’s a fact that platforms that manage the technical side of publishing are pulling ahead of WordPress in terms of speed.

Objective speed metrics from Chrome users, reported in Google’s monthly CrUX (Chrome User Experience Report) unquestionably shows that WordPress is slowly being left behind by platforms that are better able to control software development so that it conforms to best practices for speed.

Because the WordPress platform is relatively decentralized compared to platforms like Wix and Squarespace they are less able to influence best practices for speed performance across the entire WordPress ecosystem.

WordPress Admits Falling Behind Wix, Shopify and Squarespace

The proposal was blunt in its assessment that WordPress was falling behind:

“Compared to other platforms (e.g., Wix, Shopify, Squarespace), WordPress is falling behind.

Other platforms are on average faster – and becoming increasingly faster – than WordPress websites…”

That’s not an opinion, it’s a statement of fact that WordPress is falling behind Wix.

The Core Web Vitals Scores revealed from the Chrome User Experience Report show that it is a fact that WordPress is gradually falling behind Wix in terms of Core Web Vitals.

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This proposal aims to take action to change that situation.

Being open-minded to the possibility that things need to improve is a positive sign because the first step to becoming the best often involves identifying areas of improvement.

The proposal is being spearheaded by WordPress developers from Google and Yoast.

WordPress Needs a Performance Team

The proposal states that it needs an official team to coordinate the performance side of WordPress core development.

So instead of performance being almost an afterthought to improvements to other areas of WordPress, speed performance can move to the front because of advocates who can now help coordinate improvements.

The proposal states:

“We believe that WordPress needs an official Performance Team responsible for coordinating efforts to increase the performance (speed) of WordPress.”

Why WordPress Needs a Performance Team

The next section of the proposal outlines why they feel a Performance Team is necessary.

The statement references user experience, user expectations, SEO and also economic and ecological benefits.

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That last part is a reference to the little known fact that websites that are difficult to render are said to be “expensive.”

That means that devices need to expend more resources to build web pages that are complex and have multiple resources necessary for rendering the web page.

This in turn impacts energy consumption of the mobile device downloading the web page.

The impact is not only to the battery but also influences how much energy society needs to generate to keep on downloading inefficiently coded websites.

The proposal notes:

“Users expect and prefer fast experiences (consciously or otherwise). Research shows that fast websites can provide a better user experience, increase engagement, benefit SEO, increase conversion, and be more economically and ecologically friendly.”

WordPress Speed Should Not be the Job of a Plugin

The proposal says that the job of optimizing WordPress should not fall to third party plugins and that it should not be the burden of those who use WordPress to fix it and make it better.

It states:

“Average end-users can’t be expected to be performance experts.”

This is something that I suggested in February 2021 in the article:

Core Web Vitals Not Really Your Problem?
Google is burdening the USERS of software like WordPress and not the developers to fix it for Core Web Vitals. Is that fair?

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Core Web Vitals Not Really Your Problem?

Software publishers have created plugins to help WordPress cache files in order to serve the faster, plugins that shrink CSS files and some plugins that remove JavaScript so that it is only downloaded when it is needed.

WordPress is proposing that this job of optimizing WordPress should be performed natively by WordPress itself instead of relying on third party plugins.

The proposal introduces the concept of “performance by default” as a way to internalize a focus on speed throughout the development ecosystem.

“Achieving reasonable performance levels shouldn’t be plugin territory, but part of core (aka, “performance by default”)

Highlights of the proposal:

  • Average end-users can’t be expected to be performance experts.
  • Achieving high levels of performance requires technical considerations to be ‘built-in’ across the whole stack;
  • The plugin ecosystem doesn’t help users who don’t know that they need help, or who are poorly served by the plugin ecosystem.
  • Users determining which CMS to choose are / will be increasingly influenced by performance (and the associated UX/SEO/conversion factors), and we’ll lose ground to faster platforms.
  • Democratizing publishing’ requires that published content be discoverable; which will be less likely to occur via search engines (which influence or account for the majority of new content discovery) for slow(er) sites”

WordPress Proposes Reconsidering Role of Plugins for Optimization

The proposal also suggests a reconsideration of dependence on third party plugins for optimization issues while also stating that there are some areas where plugins are better suited.

The WordPress proposal offered examples of where plugins were the preferred solution:

  • “Integrations with specific CDNs
  • Template transformation processes (e.g., AMP)
  • Any non-standardized performance technology
  • Any experimental standards (e.g., browser APIs / capabilities with limited adoption)
    These distinctions will need exploring and lines will need drawing (and maintaining) as part of the team’s activity.”

How WordPress Performance Team May Proceed

If the proposal is accepted the proposal suggests steps to get the project organized:

  • “Set up Slack channel and meeting schedule, and make.wordpress.org infrastructure.
  • Benchmark performance and define ongoing/future measurement & success criteria
  • Identify priority projects for CWV improvements with high-level timelines
  • Assign responsibilities for the projects identified”

Response to the Proposal by the WordPress Community

Joost de Valk, founder of Yoast SEO Plugin underlined that this is a proposal and not a done-deal.

“This isn’t saying “we’re going to do this, just so you know”, it is: “we want to do this, will you join us?””

The response to the proposal was overwhelmingly positive.

Typical responses:

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“This is a great initiative. It might finally get the attention it deserves.

I am deeply excited by this proposal! Looking forward to the discussion here and being able to pitch in as things…

Excellent proposal! In the past year(s) WordPress has been making a lot of steps to tackle some front-end performance problems: lazy loading, WebP support, Gutenberg (yes, I will put this here). But overall there is much more potential and opportunities here. Sign me up”

A non-developer member of the WordPress community noted all the plugins they currently used and expressed how it would be an improvement to not have to rely on so many third party plugins:

“As someone who is not a developer but uses an array of plugins (Autoptimize, ASYNC CriticalCSS, Page Speed Booster, CAOS, OMFG, and ShortPixel – all in combination with WP Engine hosting and Cloudflare CDN, as well as now native Lazy Load feature of WordPress) to optimize my sites and those of my clients, I would like not to have to depend on this suite of tools all the time to increase performance.”

WordPress Performance Team is a Great Idea

The formation of a WordPress Performance Team is not just a good idea, it’s a great idea.

It’s arguable that WordPress should have had a performance team since day one. Nevertheless it’s super exciting to see this initiative given a breath of life.

Citation

Read the WordPress Proposal

Proposal for a Performance Team

Searchenginejournal.com

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SEO

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO): How To Get Started

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Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO): How To Get Started

Right now, the internet has more than 1.1 billion websites operating across more than 271 million unique domains. That’s a nearly unfathomable number of pages competing for a finite amount of traffic, views, and clicks.

If you’re getting your fair share of them, congratulations – you’re on the right path. But just getting visitors to your website isn’t enough, particularly if you’re running any type of business.

No, you need to convert those visitors once they end up on your site. And you need to do this effectively and efficiently.

One of the best ways to do that is by implementing a conversion rate optimization (CRO) strategy.

If you do this right, you’ll not only improve your quality of leads, but you’ll also increase revenue and lower your customer acquisition cost. In other words, it will help you grow. 

In this piece, we’ll dig deeper into CRO, discuss why you should care about it, and provide some best practices for maximizing your conversion rate. 

What Is Conversion Rate Optimization?

Conversion rate optimization is the systematic process of increasing the percentage of users and visitors who take a specific action on your website, social channels, or other online marketing campaigns.

To successfully improve your conversion rate, you must deeply understand your users. You need to understand how they navigate your website, interact with your content, and ultimately take action.

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Examples Of Conversions

Conversions can be any number of things, but some of the most common are:

  • Making a purchase.
  • Filling out a form.
  • Signing up for a newsletter.
  • Adding a product to their shopping cart.
  • Clicking a link.
  • Downloading a piece of content.
  • Turning an occasional customer into a regular customer.

In other words, a conversion can be any action a user performs that results in you collecting their information, making a sale, or otherwise gaining insight into how they interact with your campaigns.

Key Benefits Of Conversion Rate Optimization

Okay, you might be saying right now, I get the importance of CRO as an overall part of a digital marketing strategy, but what does this have to do with SEO?

A lot, actually, both for SEO professionals and the businesses they work for. 

Some of the benefits of CRO include:

Increased User Engagement

Conversion rate optimization improves the way visitors interact with your website and within your campaigns, leading to better engagement and, ultimately, conversions.

An increase in engagement metrics can provide valuable insights into your campaigns’ performance and what entices users to take action.

Better ROI

CRO leads to higher conversion rates, which means you are getting more bang for your marketing buck.

It allows you to land more customers without necessarily generating more traffic or increasing your marketing budget.

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Valuable User Insights

The process of CRO requires you to develop a better understanding of your audience. And this, in turn, improves your overall marketing efforts and content.

It helps you be better prepared to reach the right types of customers with the right messaging at the right time.

Enhanced Customer Trust

Many conversions require users to provide their contact information (email address, name, phone number, etc.) in exchange for content like an ebook or information about your services.

But before they’re willing to hand over their info, they need to trust your site. CRO helps you build customer trust and leaves a positive impression on potential customers.

Scalability

Even the biggest markets only have a finite pool of prospects you can tap into – and the more specialized your niche, the smaller that pool is. CRO allows you to make the most of your existing audience (i.e., traffic) to attract new customers.

By improving your conversion rate, you’ll scale your business without running out of potential customers.

How To Calculate Conversion Rate

Before we can get optimizing, we need to first discuss how to arrive at your conversion rate. Don’t worry – no higher math is required.

The conversion rate is calculated by dividing the number of conversions by the total number of users or website visitors, then multiplying this figure by 100 to generate a percentage.

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For example, if your website generated 20 contact form fills and 1,000 visitors in one month, your conversion rate would be: 20 / 1,000 = 0.02 x 100 = 2%.

Calculating your conversion rate enables you to set a benchmark for how your webpage or campaign is currently performing.

This means you can compare the results of any changes you make and the corresponding results you generate to your original conversion rate, letting you know what’s working – and what isn’t.

What’s Considered A “Good” Conversion Rate?

There is no single, universal figure that qualifies as a “good” conversion rate. What’s even considered an “average” conversion rate varies across industries, niches, campaigns, and specific conversion goals.

Depending on who you ask, however, a rough global average is anywhere from 1-4%.

This might not necessarily be true for you. In reality, the best measure of what’s considered average is to calculate your past and current conversion rates and compare them to future results.

Instead of obsessing over what’s considered a “good” conversion rate (most businesses don’t publish this information, anyway), you’re better off digging into what drives your particular audience – and then delivering the value they’re searching for.

What Is The CRO Process?

Now that we have that all out of the way, let’s talk about the CRO process.

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Conversion rate optimization is the process of optimizing your website, landing page, or marketing campaign to improve the probability of a user taking a desired action.

This optimization process is informed by past user behavior, customer insights, and CRO best practices.

The basic process is as follows:

Audience Research

Surveying your audience and digging into past customer behavior analytics to understand what users are interested in, what they’re struggling with, and how they interact with your brand.

Optimization

Using these new insights to optimize your campaigns or webpages for conversions.

These might include writing more compelling web copy, adding enticing calls-to-action, redesigning your site for better user experience (UX), or removing bottlenecks from your sales funnel.

A/B Testing

Most CRO changes are not one and done. You will want to measure your adjustments against different components to see which ones truly move the needle.

For example, you may test one call-to-action versus another to see which performs better (i.e., has a higher conversion rate).

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It may be tempting to skip this step, but don’t – that can lead to false positives.

Let’s say, for example, you changed your CTA like we just described, but you also changed your product descriptions. Which one do you attribute your sales increase to? A/B testing lets you know.

Measurement

Use analytics software (like Google Analytics) to measure the success of your campaigns.

Create goals to track conversions and then calculate your conversion rate by comparing this to your total traffic numbers.

Ongoing Adjustments

Monitor your analytics to track the success (or failure) of your campaigns or webpages. Make adjustments as needed to improve your conversion rate.

Components Of Successful CRO

CRO is a comprehensive process involving various components, from the design of your landing page to the contact forms you use.

A successful CRO campaign requires an in-depth analysis of your target audience, multiple tests to measure performance, and ongoing optimization to ensure maximum results.

There are a limitless number of things you can experiment with to optimize your conversion rate. Still, throughout this process, you’re likely to address a few core elements, regardless of industry:

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Design

How your website and landing pages look plays an important role in CRO. An aesthetically pleasing and easy-to-navigate design will improve usability and make it easier for users to convert.

When designing your landing pages, work with a web designer who understands CRO and how users typically navigate a website.

Your site should be responsive and accessible, making it easy for visitors to find what they want. Your fonts and include interactive menus should be easily readable to anyone.

Site Speed

Fast website load speed is an essential part of both SEO and CRO. The longer it takes for your website to load, the more likely users will drop off and go elsewhere.

Ideally, your website should load in under three seconds on both desktop and mobile devices. Decrease image file sizes and remove slow-loading website elements to ensure fast load time. This alone can increase conversions to your site.

Copy

Web copy refers to the words users read on your website and landing pages. Skilled copywriters can craft copy that speaks to the unique needs of your target audience. It’s not enough to simply write “off the cuff” and hope for the best.

This is another place where audience research comes into play. If you know what your audience is struggling with and the solutions they’re looking for, you’ll be able to communicate the value of your offer.

Ultimately, you’re trying to convince users that your service or product is the best solution for their needs.

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Call-To-Action

A call-to-action is an often short, concise appeal to users to take some sort of action on your site. The most commonly seen phrases are things like “Contact Us,” “Buy Now,” and “Work With Us.” However, you can get as creative as you like as long as you’re asking the visitor to perform an action.

For example, if you know your audience is interested in a particular offer, your CTA can be more obvious, like “Buy X Here” or “Download Y Now.”

A best practice is to make it obvious what users will get once they click on a link or submit their information.

Navigation

Your site’s structure should be built with the primary goal of making your website easy for users to navigate. You should have a logical layout of where your pages exist on your site and how they interact with each other.

Most sites adopt a hierarchical site structure, with the most important pages living in the main menu and subpages in the dropdown menu. Ideally, your web pages should not be “buried” more than three clicks away from the home page.

Consider how a typical user might navigate your site. Even better, look at a content drill-down report of your site to see how users journey from one page to another.

This might look something like:

  1. Home.
  2. Services page.
  3. Individual service page.
  4. Contact page.
  5. Goal completion (form fill).

Or, for an ecommerce site:

  1. Home.
  2. Products page.
  3. Product category page.
  4. Individual product page.
  5. Add to cart.
  6. Cart checkout.
  7. Thank You page.

Overall, creating an easy-to-navigate website is key to increasing conversions, building customer trust, and improving customer loyalty over time.

Forms

Contact forms are the most popular tool website owners use to collect user information, particularly for service and agency sites. Ecommerce sites, on the other hand, might have individual product pages and a typical shopping cart function.

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Your contact forms should be functional and easy to use. By this, we mean that users should easily be able to submit their information. These form fills should be collected within your website to ensure quick follow-up.

Here are a few CRO best practices for using contact forms:

  • The fewer the fields, the better (typically). At the very least, you should collect information that allows you to follow up with leads promptly. If you want to better qualify your leads, you can add additional fields, like Industry or Budget.
  • Design matters. Good-looking forms typically equate to a better user experience. Make your text easy to read, use consistent styling, and make sure the submission button is clickable.
  • Consider customer privacy. With the introduction of GDPR and other consumer privacy laws, it’s become increasingly important to let users know how their information will be collected and used. You should always include a disclaimer that states what users are subscribing to, how you will be in contact with them, and whether they can unsubscribe at any time.

How To Measure Conversion Rate

Several quantitative tools allow you to collect data to track conversions on your website. These include general analytics tools like Google Analytics, website heat map tools like Hotjar, sales funnel tools, and contact form analytics tools.

Basically, any tool that allows you to:

  1. Track conversions or goal completions
  2. See website traffic data (which can be used to calculate your conversion rates).

By measuring your conversion rate, you’ll have data on how your site has performed in the past and how it’s performing now.

Then you can use a variety of CRO tactics to generate even more leads, customers, and revenue for your business.

Conversion Rate Optimization Best Practices – Do They Work?

CRO best practices are, by definition, practices that have worked for businesses in the past. This means that the quick CRO “hacks” may not necessarily apply to your business, nor might they be relevant to businesses in the modern day.

With this in mind, businesses should be wary of adopting any CRO best practices without proper measurement and an in-depth understanding of their target audience.

For example, it’s commonly believed that a few simple tweaks are all it takes to improve conversions. These “tips” often include:

  • A/B testing headlines.
  • Changing the color of CTAs.
  • Including contact forms on every page.
  • Always adding customer testimonials.
  • Offering discounts.

Just because something worked for one business doesn’t mean it will work for yours.

Your best bet is to focus on what’s working with your particular audience and then use your own creativity to make adjustments that will improve your conversion rates over time.

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Uncommon CRO Tactics

Today’s most progressive brands aren’t following trends – they’re setting them.

To stay ahead of the curve, you might want to adopt some uncommon CRO tactics and measure their impact on your business.

At the same time, keep a close eye on how users interact with your site and use these insights to make adjustments over time.

For example, some CRO-related technology and tactics to look into include:

  • AI-driven CRO tools.
  • Keyword research tools.
  • On-site customer surveys.
  • Mouse tracking and website heat maps.
  • Personalized product suggestions.

How To Improve Your Conversion Rate

By this point, it should be clear: CRO depends on carefully monitoring your customers, tracking their behavior and how they interact with your site, and comparing that information over time.

And while there are tools available for measuring traffic, engagement, and goal completions, no single CRO strategy will work for every site.

No, what works for your website depends entirely on your target audience, what you’re promoting, and user experiences.

For example, you wouldn’t expect a target audience of upper-middle-class men shopping for luxury sedans to behave like teenage girls looking for hoodies.

So, what works for the first audience may have no impact on the second, and vice versa.

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But I will promise you this: If you fine-tune your UX, implement A/B testing, improve your website copy, and experiment with CTAs. Eventually, you’ll hit on the conversion formula you need.

More Resources:


Featured Image: 3rdtimeluckystudio/Shutterstock

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