Why Website Speed Matters and How to Improve It
Technology has come a long way since the days of dial-up internet. Now, almost everybody has a high-speed internet connection, both on their desktop computers and mobile devices. And with higher speeds come higher expectations.
In the recent years, website speed has become one of the main issues website owners face. Both everyday internet users and experts agree that a web page should take no more than 3 seconds to load. This is not an outrageous proposition. If your internet connection is fast enough to stream movies in 4k, then there’s no reason it shouldn’t open a simple web page quickly.
However, research has shown that most websites do not load this quickly. The average page load time for desktop sites is 9.3 seconds and 22 seconds for mobile ones. Saying that these speeds are inadequate would be an understatement. And yet, even though there has never been more competition on the World Wide Web, website owners seem to ignore website speed
There is a famous SEO mantra—content is king. And it’s famous because it’s true. Content is what the visitors are looking for and it is what attracts them and keeps them on a website. Even Google have stated that quality content is super ordinate to page speed in search ranking.
Still, as the professionals at the Hosting Tribunal point out, there is a precondition for content to reach its audience – it must load quickly enough for the audience to actually see it. It might seem ridiculous that low speed can undo all the work put into a page. And yet, research shows that high load times can easily put off visitors.
We will further discuss this and other facts concerning website speed. We will also touch on how to improve website load times.
This information can be hard to find, as it is often scattered over various pages. We will put all the essential facts here. You can think of it as a starting guide to website speed.
The Impact of Website Speed
Website owners spend so much time and resources on creating quality content to appeal to the visitors. If the visitors are not happy, the website will quickly dwindle into oblivion.
Unfortunately for some website owners, website speed can factor heavily into the user experience.
We have already mentioned that the recommended page load time is 3 seconds. This number is not arbitrary—if a desktop page loads slower than that, more than half of the visitors will consider leaving. The expectations are a little lower for mobile pages, but the results are similar—pages that take over 4 seconds to load lose about half of the visitors. After 5 seconds of waiting, nearly three quarters leave.
And it doesn’t stop there. The majority of visitors avoid visiting slow pages again and 44% advise their friends to do the same. On the internet, there is definitely such a thing as bad publicity. As you can see, having web pages that take too long to load is a great way to lose most of your traffic.
If these numbers did not convince you, here’s a real-life example. The researchers at Google asked users if they would prefer to get 30 results per page over the usual 10. Most of the interviewed user opted for more results per page.
However, in actual testing, it turned out that increasing the number of search results lowered user satisfaction. This is because pages with more search results took longer to render. Mind you, page load time increased only from 0.4 seconds to 0.9. Still, that 0.5 second increase resulted in a 20% drop in traffic.
It’s difficult to believe website speed matters this much.
Still, here’s what you can do to put things in perspective. Next time you perform a Google search, take a closer look under the search bar. What do you see there? It’s the time it took to get the results. And if it’s there, they are mighty proud of it. Because it is extremely low.
The bottom line is, if a site like Google can suffer from high page load times, then so can all the others. High page load times are definitely nothing to sneeze at and should be addressed.
How Load Speed Affects Online Stores
Loading speed is even more impactful on e-commerce websites. Namely, slow stores suffer the same drawbacks as regular websites and more. Statistics show that website speed reflects directly on conversions and sales.
Each second of delay means a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction. This causes numerous other side-effects. 79% of dissatisfied users won’t buy from the same website again. Also, 43% will consider the competitor’s website as the alternative.
Reducing delay during checkout is especially important as it determines whether 46% of buyers will come back to the website; 44% worry about the success of the transaction if checkout takes too long.
What’s more, high load times are the top reason for customers to abandon their shopping carts in the U.S. This accounts for about $18 billion of lost revenue. All in all, online stores get 7% fewer conversions per each second of delay.
To explain what this means for a single website, Viki Green at <a href=”https://medium.com/”>Medium Corporation</a> estimates that a website that makes $100,000 a day, would annually lose $2.5 million for an additional second of delay. Admittedly, most online stores do not earn this much, but the effect remains similar.
Still, if you need a concrete example, you can look at Amazon. The e-commerce company has estimated that a delay of a second would cost them a whopping
$1.6 billion a year. Another example is AliExpress, who improved their page load time by 36% and experienced 10.5% more orders and 27% more conversions from new customers.
Clearly, high load times can be detrimental for an online store. Likewise, reducing the load times can exponentially increase the store’s profits.
Page Load Speed and Search Engine Rankings
With market share of 72.87% for desktop and 92.59% for mobile searches, Google rules the search engine business. Consequently, it is Google that dictates which factors are most important for search rankings.
In 2010, Google announced website speed would be a ranking factor in searches. More recently, they announced that mobile websites would be subject to this as well.
However, they did not disclose the exact way speed affects ranking. Still, after considerable research, we can determine this with a reasonable degree of accuracy.
To begin with, let’s clarify that there are three ways to measure website speed—time to first byte, document complete time, and fully rendered time.
Time to first byte, or TTFB for short, is the time it takes for the browser to get the first byte of the web page after sending an HTTP request to the server.
Document complete and fully rendered times are relatively similar to one another. Document complete time is the time it takes before we can interact with the page—some images or ads might not be there yet, but we still get the key parts of the content. Fully rendered time is the time it takes before each element of the page has loaded completely in the browser.
So how does this relate to search engine rankings? Well, the analysts at Moz have determined that fully rendered time and document complete time do not correlate directly with search rankings. But pages with lower TTFB get prioritized by Google search rankings and show up higher on lists of search results.
However, time for a page to fully load also influences rankings. To explain, we have already mentioned that websites with high load times risk immediately losing visitors. Coincidentally, visitors also leave websites quickly if the content they are looking for is not there.
This means that if many visitors leave because a page is too slow, the search engine eventually assumes its content is irrelevant to the search. As the primary task of search engines is to efficiently provide relevant content, this can make a website score much lower in search rankings.
Obviously, all aspects of website speed influence search engine ranking. So, if you want your website to rank well, the proper course of action is to make your entire website faster.
How to Improve Page Load Time
Luckily, no website needs to be slow. Each day, the number of tools and tricks for making your website load faster increases. Even so, with so many options, it is understandable for relatively inexperienced users not to know where to begin.
Here we will list several easy ways anyone can improve their website’s load time.
Enabling compression is a way to lower load times by reducing the amount of data that has to be sent to the client’s browser. As images usually take up the most space, there are numerous tools which can compress them automatically without compromising their quality.
There are also ways to compress an entire website. Implementing Gzip compression has become a standard way for many web developers to reduce load times of their websites.
Server caching is also great for reducing load times. Enabling server caching means the server stores static content of the web pages—parts that don’t change without approval—in its own memory.
That way, it will have a ready HTML of the web page to send to the client. Server won‘t have to waste resources to repeatedly generate the same content from the source code. This is especially useful for reducing TTFB as the server can start sending data almost immediately after receiving the HTTP request.
Finding a good CDN provider can also prove useful for websites with a wider audience. Content delivery networks store your website on multiple servers at different locations.
This means visitors in a remote location can access the website from a server closer to them, reducing the time it takes to send the data. Another benefit is that other servers can help if one of them is experiencing a traffic spike. That way, a CDN can mitigate increases in website load time due to higher traffic.
Another thing to do is uninstall all unnecessary plugins. Admittedly, plugins can be useful, and many are designed to speed up your website. This is precisely what makes it easy to lose track and install too many of them.
Side-effects of redundant plugins include lower speeds, compromised website security, and website crashes. So the best thing to do is make sure you have deactivated and removed any plugins which you are not using.
To conclude, there is definitely a reason behind the recommendation to keep page load times below 3 seconds. Neither search engines nor visitors like websites that take too long to load.
If your website is slower than this you are risking scoring much lower in search rankings. Your website will lose half of the visitors right off the bat and have fewer recurring visitors. The visitors’ bad experiences might even reach others and keep them away from your website.
For online stores, high page load times also entail reduced brand loyalty and fewer conversions. Furthermore, slow speed during checkouts causes even more customers to give up on the website. All of this, of course, means a significant drop in profits.
Website speed should not be neglected. Instead, you should pull more visitors your way by making your website load faster. Other website owners are bound to come to the same idea sooner or later and it won’t hurt to get a head start.
Luckily, there are many tools and techniques to choose from when trying to boost your website’s speed. This is especially true for WordPress sites as there are numerous plugins for making a website faster. It might seem daunting at first, but many of the tools were built for people who are not professional web programmers. And, if all else fails, you can always ask your hosting provider’s support team for the best course of action.
If you are interested in more in-depth information and statistics about website speed and its impact, you can find everything you need in the info-graphic below.
As for our little guide, you now have all the knowledge you need to set off on the path to making your website faster and more efficient.