The 1990s have faded into memory, and clunky web design has faded with them -- mostly. Still, some people continue to stick to pure HTML/CSS websites, and refuse to get on board with platforms that generate more dynamic content.
Most people today assume that building an HTML website is an archaic practice, but it retains appeal to some. There are even professional web development firms that build only in HTML and steer clear of content management systems such as WordPress and Magento.
Everyone else may regard such folks as behind the times, but in fact, they have a good reason to stick to HTML. Pure HTML/CSS websites possess SEO advantages that dynamic content management systems do not.
Dynamic Content Takes Longer To Compile, Which May Affect SEO
Since Google’s April 2012 announcement of “site speed” as a search-ranking factor, people have been trying to deduce exactly how that works. They have proposed all sorts of theories, but the common assumption is that site speed refers to the amount of time it takes for a webpage to load.
Slow-loading pages have a negative impact a website’s search ranking, so the conclusion makes sense. But it’s inaccurate.
The misconception derives from the fact that Google never disclosed its exact definition of “site speed” and left it open to interpretation. Thanks to research conducted by Moz, we now know the metric used to determine site speed is more than likely “time to first byte” … in other words, the amount of time it takes for a web browser to receive the first byte of the response from the server.
Given this clarification, one of the main obstacles becomes clear. Dynamically generated content entails a much (comparatively) longer time to first byte than static HTML. This puts websites that use content management systems -- like WordPress -- at a slight disadvantage.
What TTFB Looks Like For Html Vs. Dynamic Content
Using Bytecheck.com, you can identify the TTFB for any website. For example, CSS Zen Garden is a pure HTML website and has a TTFB of 199 milliseconds. Theme Forest and Facebook both generate dynamic content and have a TTFB of 466 and 615 milliseconds, respectively.
A faster TTFB doesn’t necessarily make all the difference for the user. But in terms of Google search and ranking, if two websites are on an even playing field with SEO, the site that has a faster TTFB will prevail.
What To Do When You Can’t Use HTML
It’s impossible to maintain a large website without a content management system. But it’s also understandable to go that route if you have a small site and don’t want to switch to HTML.
The good news is, you don’t have to switch. There are several things you can do with your CMS to increase your SEO advantage:
- Utilize caching. When a site has dynamically generated content, each time a page is requested, it needs to be compiled from scratch. That takes time. By using a plugin to cache your pages, you can serve static content to your visitors instead.
- Host all videos on YouTube or Vimeo. Self-hosting just one video can significantly slow down your page load time.
Video marketing is obviously effective; many industries that were once text-only are now taking advantage of it. For instance, car dealerships have started offering tutorials for basic car maintenance as part of their content marketing strategy.
Dealerships often publish a large number of videos on one page, but this one uses Vimeo to host videos. Given a total of 38 videos, there’s no way the page would load fast enough if the videos were self-hosted.
- Get managed hosting. Shared hosting is fine when you’re starting out, but you can’t beat the speed of a managed hosting account. Managed hosts use load balancers to distribute traffic, which will significantly boost your site speed.
WP Curve talks about seeing a 54% increase in speed just from switching to a managed host over at WP Engine.
- Keep your WordPress database clean. One reason WordPress sites load slowly is because old post revisions are never deleted from the database. If you’ve got 200 posts and each post has 10 revisions, that’s 2,000 unnecessary copies of posts stored in your database. The larger your database, the slower your site loads.
The plugin called Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions is regularly updated and will help you manage the number of revisions you keep. It will also delete items left in the trash automatically after a specified amount of time.
Don’t Get Lost In Focusing On Any One Ranking Factor
Although it’s important to optimize for as many factors as you can, remember to take a balanced approach to SEO. It’s impossible to figure out everything about every search-ranking factor, and those factors constantly change.
Stay open to new factors, and remember that experiments conducted today might show different results six months from now.