Franco Valentino on Website Speed as an SEO & Business Strategy

In this 15-Minute Strategy Podcast episode, we talk with Franco Valentino from SEO Narrative about the four ways you can speed up your website and stop losing revenue dollars.

Franco shares some amazing tips on server selection, image optimization, tools to measure your site speed and so much more.

He even talks about adding a CDN to the mix and how that can dramatically change your site's performance as well as enable some additional features your sire does not have as a standalone location.

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About the Expert

Franco Valentino

Franco Valentino, Founder of NarrativeSEO.com, is a Cisco CCNA and Programmer with 24 years of experience in IT and Marketing. His Website Ecosystem Model® is used by the world’s top content marketers and agencies to boost their keyword densities & traffic. On weekends he's either flying in small airplanes, or trying to catch fish with his 2 boys.

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Full Transcript

Dan Moyle 0:08
Ready to spend 15 minutes with the experts you admire need strategy sessions from thought leaders brought directly to your ears. Welcome to the sprocket talk 15 minute strategy podcast where every week George B Thomas uncovers the challenges that sales, marketing and service professionals face and of course, the strategies to help them overcome their biggest hurdles. So sit back and set your sights on growth with these bite sized conversations build with your strategy goals. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 15 minute strategy podcast.

George Thomas 0:37
Hey sprocket cheers It's your boy George V. Thomas. And as much as the internet is trying to stop us today we're going to get nerdy we're going to get technical because we have the SEO Samurai the ninja here to talk to us about something well, very nerdy. But before we get started Franco, why don't you explain to folks who you are, what you do and where you do it.

Franco Valentino 0:55
Awesome. Thank you George, I'm super excited to be here with you and nerd out as we tend Do thank you so much for having me. My name is Franco Valentino. I'm the founder of narrative SEO or a technical SEO firm in out of Nashville and what we do is we look at the the underlying technology that all the wiring that sits underneath your website not necessarily on page stuff but more like engine Tron and the things that that make our websites fast and reliable and responsive for people.

George Thomas 1:23
Yeah, Franco I love the movie Tron. Oh, wait, that's not what you're probably talking about. But I still love the movie and viewers, listeners sprockets years, don't worry, because we are going to get Franco on another episode to talk about off page SEO on page SEO, the things that mere mortals typically think about. But today, Franco, we want to talk about site speed. And when you think about those two words, site speed, like what's the foundational conversation that we need to have to get started?

Franco Valentino 1:49
Sure. So let's think about it from the high level, right? We all sort of intuitively know when site speed is bad, right? we land on a website, and we get really ticked off right? This doesn't respond and we typically blow Right, we go and we leave and go somewhere else. So the challenge here is, we know that a lot smarter researchers than than we are, have figured this out and said, look for every, for every second of slowdown on a website, you're losing 7% of your potential leads conversion sales, which is massive in different industries like e commerce, it's more like 20%. And to give you just a real quick stat for every second that Amazon loses, they lose about $20 million for every second of slowdown.

George Thomas 2:28
So that's crazy. So a lot of us listening to this watching this. We're not Amazon, we we don't want to lose money, we can't afford to lose that kind of money. So where do we get started? Like you kind of referenced some tools. You know, I just I don't even know where to start this. And I feel like that's where the viewers and listeners are like, how do we fix this? What do we look at? How do we even know we have a sneaking problem?

Franco Valentino 2:55
Right? So and that's the beauty of the internet right now. There are a lot of testing tools that can tell us How our pages are responding. And you know, you can test a specific page, if you have a giant blog post, you can run it through one of these testing tools. And I'll just mention the one that we use primarily, which is web page test.org. That's an open source tool that came up during the AOL days, which is now open source, obviously, and supported by all the major players. It'll tell you exactly what's wrong with your website. And let's start from the lowest hanging fruit and then kind of work up the chain of how you would optimize a website to be best in class. The very first thing is you're going to need really good hosting space. If you're paying $3 a month for a host. That's never going to be fast enough for anyone. Period, end of sentence. So the next thing is when you let's say that you have a good host, and I'll just mention a couple names. WP Engine is fantastic, relatively inexpensive. Liquid web is really good flywheel and does another really good players, I would in the space that we live in, even with medium sized businesses, right where we're talking, you know, a few million dollars a year of revenue, we still see them on, you know, GoDaddy hosting, or or a Wix or website like that, in our world that is a no go, we always tell them you need to have and control your own server. So that's number one. That's the most critical piece. The second piece is images. Everybody always uploads raw camera images to their website. And that's 80% of the very first thing we recommend during a technical SEO audit is you need to go fix your images. And that's sometimes we see improvements of 50% or more, just by cleaning up the images.

George Thomas 4:31
So there's a couple of things I want to unpack there. First of all, both of those are easily controllable. Meaning you can choose to change to a different server, which actually now we might have to have you on for a third episode with the errors and issues of changing server migration, right like I see that big deal as well. But but you have the ability to change that as the owner as the CTO and whoever's in charge of this. Also image optimization, meaning compressing those images so that they load faster. And even focusing on the ability to have it for like desktop or tablet or even mobile like having those fail safes in place. And honestly, Frank, I think, historically, a lot of this not being done comes down to a either not knowing it needs to be done, or B, and probably BB being bigger than a laziness of like, I'm just going to upload this image, it's not going to make a difference. But when you think about the amount of money per second, that companies are losing, because Jimmy didn't optimize his image that gets a little crazy. So is there is there a tool or a way or something easy? Because if we do if we know what's easy, we do it right, that we can start to optimize those images, or if we have a bunch of images on our website already, and we're like, oh, no, like, where do we get with that?

Franco Valentino 5:46
Right. And that's great. So that that really is platform dependent, right, because let's say the majority of the listeners are probably on WordPress. So that's a wonderful thing. And we're going to talk about those first. If you're on HubSpot, or if you're on Magento or a different type of CMS. The story is a little bit different. So Let's, let's take care of our friends here, right? If you're on WordPress, there's two primary plugins that we as SEOs recommend technical SEO is recommend. Imagine phi. And magic phi is fantastic. It's very inexpensive. There's a very minor yearly fee. But when you when you compare, you know, 60 to 100 bucks a year, versus, you know, one sale being $500 or 1500 dollars, whatever it is, it's a no brainer. Imagine if I will run through your entire WordPress database, including your theme files and optimize all of the images not only let's say you have WooCommerce and you have a light ecommerce shop, not only the featured image, but all of the thumbnail images will get optimized at well as well and it keeps the originals. Great tool. Another one that will do that for you Is he triple w image optimizer, he basically right image optimizer, they actually run a cloud service as well and it's very rare. It's pennies, pennies per image basically an optimization. One tool sometimes will work better than the other depending on the structure of your WordPress database. So if you have an e commerce Sometimes the triple w works better sometimes imagine those two are the ones we always fall back on. There's other ones WP smush it a couple of there's a handful other ones but those are really the surgical tools that we prefer to use.

George Thomas 7:12
So Franco if you're cuz you tickled my ears, you said HubSpot, HubSpot, CMS agenda, things like that. If you're on a different platform other than WordPress, like what What challenges do we face and what tools might might be use there?

Franco Valentino 7:24
Sure. So, um, HubSpot actually has, if I remember correctly, last time, we checked with their text, image magic on a rolling under the covers, so they do a level of image optimization. But the problem with it is it's not as good as these other tools that are built for WordPress because they're building API's into them. They're sort of you know, bleeding edge. With HubSpot, you really need to make sure that you don't upload an image that's not optimized first, and then it does a really good job of it. So a little bit of a change of process. But there's not really a good way to run through unless you write a grep script and these kind of things for HubSpot to do it yourself. It does some level of it, but you have to be a little bit more careful. So in content development during that process, just bake that into your checklist that makes sure it's a progressive JPEG. If you're using a JPEG use, if you're using a PNG make sure you only using it for images that eat transparencies, right? Because that's they're actually a little bit larger and where you can you should use web p formats, what P is a new format that doesn't that works in the majority browser, but they don't work on the apple one. So as far as, so you need the JPEG as a fallback, but web P is a 10th of the size of a JPEG. So it was specifically built for web delivery.

George Thomas 8:34
So sprockets ears, rewind that, get the notepad out, start jotting down and think about how that changes your process. I'm I'm just gonna say there's a lot of nuggets right there that people should be paying attention to. So we we can change the server. We can optimize the images when you think about site speed and and closing more leads closing more sales, giving the user What they want where else does your brain go Franco?

Franco Valentino 9:02
So the next the next massive optimization, this is a great another low hanging fruit opportunity. We just talked about something called the origin server. This is where you upload a you've got hosting space, you've built WordPress, you built your blogs and it's on the web. Okay? The next level of this from a technical when we're when we're again trying to make our websites hit the 99 Lighthouse kind of scores is you put CloudFlare content delivery network on top of your website. HubSpot does it for you automatically, with HubSpot, SEO s. for WordPress, you have to set up a free account at CloudFlare. But what it does is it layers it actually stops your database from having to crawl through itself to deliver content to users. It caches your pages of static pages just like straight HTML, distributes it around the world and does these things if you want it to image optimization, the web p formats and such. The trick to it is that adds one other layer and this is where we talked about engine Tron or engine x in this case, engine x is something called reverse proxy, it's sort of mirrors your server. If your website goes down, if your host goes down, your website will stay on the internet, basically, with CloudFlare. And that's a one click setting, it also does something called brotli compression, the the speed, when when you connect to a web server, you ask, you go to a website, that server sends you the file, there's actually a protocol that compresses that image to go down the wire, which is the internet into your browser, the typical way in 90% of the cases called jesup. CloudFlare, add something called brotli compression, which is the 30% speed improvement over the old version. So massive, again, massive improvement just for you opening account CloudFlare and holding your DNS over there.

George Thomas 10:40
So if you're listening to this podcast on 1.5 or two, you're gonna want to go back you're gonna want to play that on one because that got super technical, but it's amazing. And let me just say, listeners, viewers, when I did this to my personal speaker page, George B Thomas calm, it was an OMG moment like the amount of change that what Franco just told you to do did to that site was amazing. Absolutely amazing. So Franco, I want to give at least maybe one, maybe two, we're running up against the 15 minute strategy, podcast timeframe here. Maybe one or two other things. I don't know if it's cash. I don't know if it's like some other nerdy thing that you want to share. But what else could the listeners and viewers be doing to get a better site speed?

Franco Valentino 11:23
All right, let's give them the let's give them a high level of 123 and four, let's say all right, number one, get really good hosting. Again, WP Engine liquidweb flywheel one of those guys. Okay, number two, optimize your images. Try to do before you upload it and then add a triple w or a magnifying huge, huge, huge that's the 8020 right there. Okay, number three, add CloudFlare content delivery network if you're a little bit more technical. There are other content delivery networks out there, especially for e commerce and different platforms. But for WordPress, it's it's a it's a wonderful platform, and you lightly optimize number four, the biggest thing you can do is optimize your WordPress database. Go have somebody on open a ticket and your host if you don't know how to do it and say, I just need you to optimize my tables, because the indexes get out of whack and it becomes a WordPress has to run through instead of a blueprint, it actually has to run through a bowl of spaghetti to find the blog post. Sometimes we do that and all of a sudden the website gets 20% faster. So those are the top four things you can do right now to speed up your website.

George Thomas 12:20
I love it and here's what I love about it too is because right now 90% of our audience went whoa, I'm gonna break something help and they're raising their hand they're they're waving the white flag like I surrender I surrender. So Franco if people want to reach out to you if they have questions if they want to focus in on this site speed and learn more about things like amp and cache because really listeners viewers, we've only scratched the surface. Where can they reach out to you where do you want to send them?

Franco Valentino 12:48
Sure, sir, I'm all over the internet at Franco at narrative SEO calm. That's my email. I'm happy to happy to talk to anybody. And our website is narrative SEO calm also LinkedIn, Twitter, and all any of your favorite social media tools.

George Thomas 13:01
Well there you go sprockets here. Start with that four things, well, maybe three things because you might get to the fourth and be like, I have no clue. But either way, focus on site speed, focus on giving the user what they want. Focus on not losing money, every second that your site starts to load, and we'll see you on the next episode.

Franco Valentino 13:24
Bingo.

Dan Moyle 13:24
Did you enjoy this episode of the 15 minute strategy podcast, we'd love to know. leave a rating and written review wherever you listen to your favorite shows, and keep that learning going by visiting sprocket talk comm sign up for your free membership. And in that membership area, you can find bundled episodes where we combined like strategies to help you grow better make the world better and share this episode with your friends and co workers who may be battling this same obstacle. You can always reach out to George B. Thomas on Twitter with questions or guest suggestions or just to talk about your favorite Marvel superhero and go out into the world and leverage this strategy for your success. And we'll see you on the next episode of the 15th minute strategy podcast.