What’s the most important page on your website? Your home page? Your contact page? If you’re just starting out, chances are it’s your about page or your about us page, which means that site speed is probably not on your mind at all yet. But as soon as you have real traffic and start generating revenue from your business, site speed will become increasingly important to ensure that you stay ahead of the curve and continue making money in the future.
Establishing website speed as a key part of your company’s digital strategy can reap huge rewards in the long run, including an increase in customer satisfaction and conversion rates, as well as an increase in overall revenue. However, knowing how much speed matters can be difficult to figure out on your own, even with all the analytics data you have at your disposal.
How quickly your website loads plays an important role in the way you’re viewed by your customers, search engines, and social media audiences alike. The faster your site loads, the happier your customers will be.
An optimized website will allow you to rank higher on search engines and social media pages, bringing you more traffic that you can turn into loyal customers who are eager to buy from you. Make sure you’re aware of these three reasons site speed is important so that you can optimize yours before it’s too late!
1) Site speed improves conversion
According to Pingdom, the top 10 slowest web pages we tested were two times more likely to lose visitors than fast pages. In other words, even if your competitors offer exactly what you do at half your price, customers still choose you if your site loads faster. When comparing apples-to-apples (e.g., a local online ordering app vs. takeout delivery), one company found that increasing site speed by one second led to an increase in conversion of $30-$50 million!
Bottom line: For every 100ms improvement in site load time, the conversion rate increases 1%. That could mean thousands of dollars in increased revenue from better customer experience alone. And given that 40% of consumers expect a site to load within 2 seconds or less, it’s clear that customer expectations are rising fast.
Don’t know how long your site takes? Use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights and GTMetrix for free insights on how you can optimize page speed.
2) Site load improves loyalty (repeat business)
Nearly half of visitors expect a page to load in two seconds or less. Even worse, 45% of visitors will abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. Site speed is especially important for e-commerce websites where every second spent waiting for pages to load decreases conversion rates by 7%. Shoppers have high expectations and if they can’t get through your site quickly and easily, you’ll lose them.
Site load time is one of those soft metrics, like loyalty or engagement, that seems a bit nebulous. That said, site speed can have a direct impact on important hard metrics, such as repeat business and revenue. You don’t need to look any further than Google or Amazon to see how site speed directly impacts revenue.
The faster your site loads (and especially in less-than-ideal conditions), the customers are more likely to come back to your site again and again—especially if they also notice it has improved load times.
3) Site speed impact Google search ranking
If a user doesn’t feel that your website is fast enough, they may hit back or go somewhere else. In fact, according to a recent study from WebPageTest and Google, 53% of users expect a page to load in 2 seconds or less.
Sites that took longer than 3 seconds were penalized by Panda algorithm changes (more on Panda below). That said, there are many technical aspects that you should focus on when optimizing your site speed.
Site speed can affect every part of your search visibility—particularly your bounce rate and time on page, which can negatively impact keyword rankings. Faster sites not only tend to have higher engagement rates (resulting in more traffic), they also load faster across devices and platforms; improve load times by just half a second, and you could double your conversion rate. Along with site speed, you should hire professional seo experts who can catalyze your good ranking efforts.
The 5 Best Ways to Improve Your Site Speed
Luckily, there are several simple and effective steps you can take to improve your site speed and ensure that your web presence is fast and efficient. Here are five of the best ways to improve your site speed today.
1) Use a Content Delivery Network
Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) are a big part of improving site speed. CDNs work by storing content, like images and scripts, on servers located in different geographic areas. This allows your content to load faster because it’s closer to your users—and with content coming from multiple servers all over, there’s less likelihood that any one server will be slow.
When choosing a CDN, consider factors like amount of traffic you get and expected growth rates. It might be worth investing in a larger plan than you initially need if you expect traffic will increase quickly. If not, start small and purchase more as needed.
2) Create a Caching Plugin
If your site is on WordPress, consider creating a caching plugin—WordPress has an API specifically for developing plugins, which makes it easier than ever. Caching is a huge help in speeding up your site—it keeps some of your most commonly-used files on a server closer to your visitor’s computer so that when they request one of these files, their computer doesn’t have to contact yours first.
3) Compress Your Images
You’ll also want to make sure you aren’t serving large image files to mobile users or those that have poor connections. For many sites, optimizing imagery is one of the best ways to improve site speed. Google provides a list of tools that can help compress and resize your images for free—from JPEGmini and TinyPNG to RIOT (Radical Image Optimization Tool) and SWFObject.
If you’re using WordPress, consider using a plugin such as WP Smush or EWWW Image Optimizer, which will do all of your work for you. Both plugins allow you to automatically compress images as they’re uploaded, saving you time and space in exchange for a one-time setup process. You can also manually convert your images into smaller file sizes before uploading; here are some handy guides on how to do that with Photoshop and GIMP.
4) Use good hosting provider
Choosing a good hosting provider that specializes in website speed is an important step when it comes to site speed. Most people don’t realize just how crucial your hosting provider really is for loading times and performance.
When you choose a shared host (the most popular option), you’re getting one of hundreds or thousands of servers in their data center, meaning you’ll have only limited resources at your disposal and everyone else on that server will be taking up bandwidth as well.
A dedicated host ensures your site won’t slow down under heavy traffic because there are no other sites hosted on that server eating up processing power and disk space. However, dedicated hosts are typically more expensive than shared, so if you’re not expecting to have high traffic right away, stick with shared hosting until you know for sure.
5) Set Browser Cache Expiration Times
The browser cache is essentially a temporary file storage area for web pages. When you visit a web page, your browser first loads it from your internet service provider (ISP) through what’s called a TCP connection. Once it’s received all of that information, it saves it to your local hard drive as a cached version (think of it like an electronic bookmark).
This allows you to access websites without having to connect every time from scratch. There are two ways that you can set expiration times: The first is for all sites—the cache will expire after 24 hours. The second option allows you to set individual expiration times based on URL parameters, giving you full control over when cached versions of specific pages expire.
When you run a website, you have a goal to get as many page views as possible. Well, if your page takes too long to load, people aren’t going to hang around and wait for it. This can cost you dearly in terms of traffic—and even revenue when you factor in lost ad revenue and shopping cart abandonment because of slow-loading pages.
There are many ways to improve your site speed. At a basic level, using a content delivery network or moving your site hosting closer to your users will have an immediate impact on performance.
Beyond that, there’s a bevy of other tools and strategies for speeding up your site. A/B testing, caching and minification are just some of them. The best way to find out which ones work best for you is trial and error. When in doubt, consult Google’s PageSpeed insights tool which will test your website on its PageSpeed score and give you suggestions on how you can improve it.