The speed that a site will have an impact in different ways, although many people underestimate it; website owners can spend a lot of money and time on ensuring their sites looks perfect, with an effective call to action, informative design, intuitive navigation, yet they might not realize how the speed of the page loading is.
Website load time vs Conversion
Why should you have a website that loads fast?
There are many different factors that play part in page rankings on the results page, and load speed is one of them.
Google will not only use the time it will take for the server of your website to make the data available, it will also consider how long it takes for the data to load from the point of view of the user; if their connection is slow and the website needs a lot of data because of the size, it will result in a slower load time and can harm your SEO efforts easily. This can seem like a point to get worried about, but this is only a scratch on the surface of the many issues that can result from having a website with a slow speed when loading. The main among this being that the user is not able to get access to what they want in a short period of time, then it causes them not to engage with your website, and many of them end giving up and looking for other options. This will have a lot of negative effects on your bounce rate and the overall time users are spending on your page; if there is no content to see, then why remain around?
Going away from the user a little bit, another important issue that rises when it comes to a page not being able to load at the right timeframe then there is the risk that the indexing of the website will run into problem; when the search engines robots are trying to connect to a page and don’t get any data within a short period of time, it will ignore the content, which will have a lot of negative effects for your website. Many people get worried about their rankings, but if pages are not properly indexed it means the content and the keywords in the page will not be put into account when it comes to generating search results, which can affect the traffic of your website.
According to Matthew Woodward another factor that Google uses when it comes to ranking pages is the user engagement index. Google will make the assumption that the website is not legitimate or is trying to misrepresent itself in some way, and this means getting pushed further down in the rankings.
The real-world impact of a slow website
The technical risks that come with a slow website are important, but they are nothing when compared to the fact that a website that has a fast load speed is able to improve the user experience, which can have a big impact on conversions. Imagine feeling hungry then deciding you want to buy a hotdog, then you go to a stand near you then find there is a long queue. Even if the hot dogs sold in this particular location are better when compared to the others, there is a good chance you will prefer going to the other provided you get it fast without wasting time queuing. You will not worry too much about the quality.
This same principle can be applied to the website too; we can have a talk about SEO the entire day, but usually, it does not take into account the emotional and impulsive nature of many people. There is nothing worse than having a website that slowly loads. Imagine a visitor reading articles or trying to buy a product from your website, but the page is taking longer than usual to load. There is a good chance that the visitor is going to give up and start looking for other options. They might have to deal with a drop in quality, but many people usually try to find the perfect balance between time and quality, accepting to go with the poor quality provided it can be delivered faster.
Every second is important when it comes to conversion.
It might sound hard to believe this, but this actually the normal ”seconds”. When talking about time, we mean the few seconds it’s going to take, like a blink of an eye, but when it comes to loading a page, a couple of seconds can seem like an eternity. There are many studies that have been done to show if there is a link between the load time of a website with the sales conversion, which affects profit margins and they have shown there is a relation.
Brand Perfect’s did survey of 2500 online shoppers from the UK and USA where they discovered that two thirds of the respondents (67%) from the United Kingdom while more than half (51%) of respondents from the US said that slow speed was the main reason why they abandoned a purchase they were about to make. Mozilla also found at by reducing the load time by 2.2 seconds they improved the rate of conversion by more than 15%, and this led them to get 10 million more downloads in a period of one year.
Delving further into the impact of site speed, Amazon reported that a 100ms extra delay (this is a fraction of a second) it caused a 1% decline in sales; which is a sobering thought. Google has been able to discover that delays can affect more than just the sales; they realized that by delaying the search results by a half a second, it resulted in a 20% increase of traffic. Imagine just a delay of a mere 0.5 second can result in a drop in traffic by one fifth. During the Velocity conference in 2013, the theory got further support from results that were gathered during the process of website updates based on Intuit, which offer support for older websites that came before the pre-Web standards era. There were some clear A/B tests done to see how SEO and conversion were being affected by the load speed.
What they were able to discover was very significant; older, slower sites that had load times of fifteen seconds and more were reduced into seven seconds load, and each second they saved in the load time, there was an increase in conversion by about 3% (which means there was a total of 24% increase when the load time hit seven seconds). When they reduced the time from the 7 seconds to 5 seconds, there was an increase in conversion by 2% every second they saved. When the load time was reduced from five seconds to two seconds, there was 1% increase in conversion rate for each of the second saved; this shows that improving the load time should be a priority because it has many benefits that you will be able to see.
Looking for ways you can speed up the load time of your website?
As seen from above, having a slow load speed will prove to be a problem for your website, not only for e-commerce stores, although it is far much more influential in online stores, and this can be seen as a matter of life and death. You will get a lot of benefits when you improve the load speed, but one questions that remain is how can you reduce the load time?
I will present detailed information covering ways of overcoming these obstacles in future articles. The information will cover how you can analyze your website, the right tools to use, and the solutions that can be applied for the best results.
In a short summary, based on experience I can some factors that will impact your load time are;
- Lack of browser cache and Gzip compression
- Slow hosting (this will also involve the configuration of the server; many websites will use Apache, but the question is why does it load a lot of redundant modules? Why not go with faster options such as NGix or LifeSpeed)
- Using an excessive number of fonts and scripts; there are some websites we have seen that load 6-7 different fonts with many scripts, some of which were loaded more than once.
- epeated scripts or CSS files – there are instances where a common script will run over and over by different extension.
- Images have the highest volume; we have been able to see different cases of horror stories where images that should have loaded just 300px by 300px are being loaded at the original which was 2560px by 1600px resolution, instead of the page loading an image that was supposed to be 15kb in size, it ends up being 800kb. One good example is a post on GavickPro’s blog that we posted on when the images were optimized, they came down by 65 Megabytes
Too many extensions/plugins in the CMS- – most of the plugins for popular CMSs will not only send the requests to the database; it will also send them out to external sources, which can result in a delay when loading the webpage.
There are many other factors that have been shown to have an effect on load time, but the above list is a good place to start. If you are looking for more details, keep an eye because there will be a follow-up post which will provide you with the information in details and the approaches you can employ to improve the loading speed of your website.