Michael Utley: Hey, welcome to episode three of the Dodgeball Marketing podcast. I'm Michael, and this is Chris.
Chris Raines: I am Chris.
Michael Utley: And we're here on a Friday morning. It's looking kind of rainy today.
Chris Raines: It looks gloomy outside in Nashville, Tennessee.
Michael Utley: Yeah. Chris is super sore from some kind of boxing workout.
Chris Raines: Oh my gosh. My entire front is on fire.
Michael Utley: That's insane.
Chris Raines: And you can't tell it from my stoic face right now, but I want to scream.
Michael Utley: Well, let's get-
Chris Raines: I promise not to scream just for the duration of this podcast.
Michael Utley: Good. Well, thanks for toughing it out and being here with me. Let's talk about selecting a CMS with SEO in mind. We're just going to talk about a few high level things.
Michael Utley: CMS is a content marketing system. WordPress is sort of the most popular example of this, but page speed has never been more important than it is now. And really since, I guess, October of ... What was it, '18? With the mobile-first index. But yeah, what do you think about WordPress?
Chris Raines: WordPress is really popular, right? And at one point they were probably close to half of the website. Maybe not quite half, I don't know what the number was, but a big number of websites on the internet. CNN.com used to be hosted on WordPress.
Michael Utley: Oh, wow.
Chris Raines: It's free. If you get the wordpress.org version, you can download the software. It's open source, it's free. And so because of that, it was really popular. The fact that it's open means you buy a lot, you can get a lot of free plug-ins or paid plug-ins to kind of stitch on and build your own kind of Frankenstein, like whatever you want with the collection of plug-ins out there.
Chris Raines: But like you said, around 2018, late 2018, Google came up with an algorithm update for their organic search results that really hit WordPress sites hard. Michael, why don't you go into ... You can probably talk about this a little further. Why did it hit specifically WordPress sites and what's the drawback now for WordPress?
Michael Utley: Yeah. One of the big benefits of WordPress was because it is an open source platform, a lot of developers and a lot of companies developed large themes for WordPress, and they just got a little bloated. And so a lot of those themes that were running on sites and a lot of the design elements that WordPress made it really easy to do-
Chris Raines: When you say bloated, you mean-
Michael Utley: A lot of code.
Chris Raines: The developer will use a lot of code. Where they could have used a small amount of code, the more code there is, the longer it takes to load.
Michael Utley: Yeah. And what Google really was doing was ... I think Google was making a shift to remain a dominant search engine choice for mobile users as more internet activity was moving to phones.
Chris Raines: People click on a search result on their phone and it doesn't immediately come up.
Michael Utley: Yeah, they're out of there.
Chris Raines: And it's got to load all those plug-ins. It's got to load all that code, all that big theme stuff, they'll bounce and have a bad experience.
Michael Utley: Yeah. Yeah. That's right.
Chris Raines: I know with your company, Michael, you've moved away from WordPress in terms of building out websites and SEO programs.
Michael Utley: Yep.
Chris Raines: Tell us what you think the future is, content management systems and what's working right now for SEO.
Michael Utley: Yeah, there are a lot of choices on the market. The one that we've been excited about for the last year plus has been Craft, Craft CMS. We're not necessarily saying everybody should move from WordPress to Craft or use Craft, but it's a good example of a light page delivery CMS.
Michael Utley: It's a CMS that's really built with the end in mind, and the downside of Craft is it's not open source. You're going to pay about $600 a year in license fees.
Chris Raines: Right.
Michael Utley: You're going to need a little bit of ... You're going to need a hosting that's particular to Craft, but there are lots of choices for that. Lots of good ones like Fortrabbit and lots of other good companies. This CMS represents a category of light, fast page delivery. Everything's built on the back end to deliver those pages really fast.
Chris Raines: Yeah. And what would you think ... If you're really invested into WordPress, you really like WordPress, do you think ... And this is more of a question because I don't even know this.
Chris Raines: Would it be a good middle ground to say go with WordPress, but strip it down as much as you can and get a really good hosting package that's really fast, and maybe pay a little? Since WordPress itself is free, pay more for your hosting and really get a solid fast hosting packages. Don't do the $7 a month HostGator thing.
Michael Utley: Yeah. A lot of the cheaper hosting on WordPress is the problem. I don't want to throw any big hosting companies under the bus, but we've done-
Chris Raines: I just did.
Michael Utley: But we found that Bluehost is pretty fast for WordPress. WP Engine I think is really kind of known as the number one for WordPress. And if somebody is going to do the work, I've seen people get WordPress smoking fast. So if you can-
Chris Raines: If it takes more work than, say, Craft, it's going to be fast right away.
Michael Utley: Yeah. It sets a little bit more of a sophisticated developer approach rather than a theme purchased off the shelf or used with one of the more inexpensive hosting options. If you're making a strategic decision and you're replacing your website every two to three years, you really could go either way.
Michael Utley: You could either say, "Hey, with this next round, we're going to keep everybody trained on WordPress and stick with it because we've got it built into our workflow. But, we're going to get it on faster hosting and we're we're going to get a developer who's got a lot of expertise in page speed."
Chris Raines: Yeah.
Michael Utley: "Take a crack at getting us into the green on our page speed scores." Or you could have an iteration where you say, "Hey, we're making the big jump and we're moving over to a CMS that's known for being fast."
Chris Raines: Yeah.
Michael Utley: And there are a number of those.
Chris Raines: Great. We're talking about page speed. A really quick way to get a handle on where you stand in the eyes of Google is the Google's page speed tool. We don't have the exact URL, but literally just type in Google page speed tool. You can type in any URL, your own or anyone else's.
Chris Raines: It gives you a mobile tab and a desktop tab and a score out of 100 for each. N, not only can you tell ... This is what I like about it, Michael. Not only can you tell what your score is, so a bad site might be like a 15 or a 20 or something out of a 100. But it'll also tell you exactly why you got that score, so maybe you have images that are too large. Maybe you've got code that loads too slow in a certain part of the page or something like that.
Chris Raines: You probably know more about which categories are out there, but you can one at a time tackle those and get your page speed where it needs to be.
Michael Utley: Yeah. It's a really good tool. I would say it's very friendly to developers. A lot of the things to someone who's like a business founder, or even somebody who is a marketing executive or a marketing manager, a lot of the people that we deal with are sort of marketing directors or marketing executives or founders or owners.
Michael Utley: They tend to be the ones sort of reaching out to us, shopping for online marketing. What this page score is going to give one of those types of people is, is there opportunity for improvement? And then what you can do is work with your developer and say, "Hey, here's a link to my results."
Michael Utley: As soon as you load your URL in and run the results, the URL on the page will change. You can just copy that and share it with anybody and they'll have a link. It will run again when they try to go to the page that you send them. But if you just copy the URL of the results, it will show them exactly what you're looking at. You don't even have to print it or save it as a PDF or export it or anything.
Michael Utley: It's going to show you where a lot of stuff is being pulled in from a lot of different servers. And what they're really focused on is letting the user see the first ... They call it the first paint of content, but the first screen of content on their screen.
Michael Utley: They really want users to have the experience of knowing that something's happening, not just having that spinning wheel effect of waiting for the page to load. Yeah. A lot of it's going to be very cryptic and technical, but here's some things that it's going to be helpful on.
Michael Utley: It's going to break it down between desktop and mobile and let you know kind of a red, yellow, green score for each. It's going to give you some numbers for those two, but it's going to give you a red, yellow, or green, like a stoplight.
Michael Utley: Red is bad. Yellow is caution. Green is like, "Hey, you're okay." It's going to give you that for both desktop and mobile, and be careful not to miss those tabs. In the interface, it's really easy to miss ... It usually I think loads desktop, and it's easy to miss that there's a different score for mobile.
Chris Raines: Right.
Michael Utley: They're pretty tough on mobile.
Chris Raines: And you're usually going to have a lower score on mobile.
Michael Utley: Yeah, and you're usually going to have a lower score on mobile. That's right. Don't freak out. Everybody starts somewhere, and so don't be surprised. I would say don't feel like this is a reflection of bad work by your web developer agency. I would say that if this is the first time you're thinking about this, they probably showed you something you liked the looks of and you probably liked it.
Michael Utley: And they're probably more of a graphic design oriented web design shop, whereas we're more of a page speed, performance marketing. I do SEO. Chris does paid search.
Michael Utley: We work together on this stuff with our companies, but a lot of web design shops are really focused on how it looks. And a lot of times, page speed is kind of left behind. You can end up after a site goes live saying, "Hey, now let's work on the SEO and get some bad news."
Chris Raines: Google doesn't care what it looks like.
Michael Utley: Google doesn't care what it looks like.
Chris Raines: They want a string of text only.
Michael Utley: Yeah, that's right. And that's our next point. Yeah. Google is extreme. They would actually prefer something so stripped down. I've got a website I built, I'm not kidding, 20 years ago still hosted. It's a manufacturing company here in Nashville that makes a scientific product for measuring the flow of gas by bubbling it up through a liquid, an inert liquid.
Michael Utley: It just tips over a bucket to burp the gas out of the bucket. It's an extremely accurate, low tech way to measure flow of gas. He's a scientist from Vanderbilt. He manufactures them in his home and he's been selling these things for years, and the website has worked for him and he's never needed to change it.
Michael Utley: It has no content management system, very few images, and it gets all A's. Yeah. That's what Google would like, is low-res, small images, nothing interesting. No interactivity, nothing sophisticated. Just text. But that's not what everybody wants in terms of their website. So you got to find out what these trade-offs are going to be, and make decisions based on a balance between what Google wants or what you want to be able to do.
Chris Raines: You're never going to make the design part of you happy and Google happy at the same ... Get everything you want from those. It is [crosstalk 00:11:28] in trade-offs.
Michael Utley: That's right.
Chris Raines: Michael, what should people do when they ... You get this big screen of red things, yellow things, and green things. What's a good, I don't know, framework? What should you tackle first? You can go after the red first because that's the most on fire thing. Go after your home page first. What do you do?
Michael Utley: Yeah, I think the low-hanging fruit is looking for problem images. I think a lot of the downside of having different people in an organization loading content to a website, it's good. It's good to have things move quickly and get the right people access.
Michael Utley: But there are a lot of situations where the content management system, where someone can load an image and it's actually loading an image that's this big and squeezing it into and delivering it through an HTML window.
Chris Raines: But it still has to load.
Michael Utley: But it's unloading that full image. That's one of the things that we still find occasionally. And a lot of times it's not necessarily the fault of someone loading a blog post. Sometimes it's a header image that is actually bigger than what can possibly be displayed by the page.
Michael Utley: There are a lot of design elements that were really popular a few years ago. I know we were using a lot of this, background video in a hero area, which is kind of the above the fold, first thing you see on a website. And sliders in a hero area, we're killing off sliders left and right. And animated and ... Oh, gosh. Crazy animation.
Chris Raines: Walk-ons, welcome to my website!
Michael Utley: Yeah, yeah, yeah. All that stuff. Anything that's like a big set of media for that first content paint is low-hanging fruit for getting into the good graces of the new world of mobile first page speed.
Chris Raines: And lastly, we have to talk about, Michael, [inaudible 00:13:13] is a lot of tools that are important tools in some sense because they're lead generators. But I'm thinking about appointment setters, things where you can type in. If you're a painting company or something like that and you want to pick out your time and pick out when someone might be available to give you an estimate. How should people think about those and what kind of damage do they do to page speed?
Michael Utley: Yeah. This is kind of a good news, bad news situation. Bad news first, the bad news is we've seen third party tools like appointment setting software that are industry specific. Maybe they're kind of low-tech, but they're really well-crafted to a specific kind of industry where someone wants ... We do a lot of work in healthcare. We do a lot of work in construction.
Michael Utley: We work with a lot of painters and we use them as examples quite often. But one of the popular CRMs for trades companies has a form that can be loaded, but it's just a bear on load time. And so we've seen it just absolutely tank the results. The good news is there's a hack.
Michael Utley: Your homepage is a significant portion of your incoming traffic's first page. So here's the hack: either link offsite to that CRMs page for shooting leads directly into your system, or just get it off the homepage. Get that third party script.
Michael Utley: And if the script is loaded in the header of the site or the footer of the site, it's probably running site-wide. If you can isolate it, if their technology allows for it to be loaded in a place that's specific to just one page.
Michael Utley: Or you can have a header that site-wide and an alternate header, then you can generally isolate that from having to load for every page on your site, or at least for your homepage. That's the hack to try to navigate that. But we've seen problems with some pretty good marketing automation software not being awesome when it comes to lead forms on the homepage of a site. It's a problem, and they're going to have to fix it.
Chris Raines: Yep. Yep. All right. Well, that's all we have for CMS.
Michael Utley: Yeah. Cool. Thank you. Thanks, and we'll see you on the next one.
Chris Raines: All right.