Here’s a truth about slow websites that business owners don’t want to hear.
Page speed directly affects how well your website supports your business objectives.
There are two critical ways that slow web pages impact your business.
First, page speed affect whether your potential customers become actual customers or not.
A 2010 study by Gomez.com discovered that customers expect your website to load in two seconds or less. After three seconds, 40% of those potential customers will abandon your site.
A similar study by the Aberdeen Group in 2008 found that a one second delay in website page response time led to a 7% decrease in conversions, an 11% drop in page views, and a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction.
Obviously, that’s not what’s best for business.
Expectations For Page Speed
Consumer expectations have grown since those studies. Mobile phones have exploded in use since the beginning of the decade. Mobile networks and wi-fi don’t always have the best connection. So it’s more important than ever to optimize for page speed and performance.
So here’s the second way that page speed affects your revenue. Page speed and page load time are minor factors in the Google ranking algorithm.
Google also tracks if searchers come to your page and bounce out. Bounce rate refers to when someone views a page and leaves after one view. If searchers leave quickly because your page isn’t loading, that can also affect your search engine rankings over time.
This is because Google wants what’s best for people using their search engine. They want to deliver the best results, and the sites with the best user experience. This means sites that are mobile-friendly and sites that load quickly.
Tools To Test Page Speed
There are three free tools I recommend to get a comprehensive view of where you can improve your page speed.
Google Page Speed Insights
The first is Google Page Speed Insights. Just enter in your web address, and it will give you a score for mobile and desktop devices, and suggestions on how you can improve.
This is a screenshot of a website that needs a lot of speed optimization.
WP Engine WordPress Speed Test
The second tool I recommend to test your page speed is the WP Engine WordPress Speed Test. This test has a little bit more information in it.
WP Engine emails you the results a few minutes after you give them the web address you want to test.
I still have a bit of work to do on my home page to get it under 2 seconds, but I’m pretty close.
The third tool I recommend you use to test page speed is the WebPageTest tool. This tool is more geared towards web developers. I like this tool, because it gives you a real-time look at the “waterfall” of how the browser loads files that make up the page.
It also lets you choose different locations and browsers to test from, so you can get a more diverse set of results.
So now you have some information on how your site performance really looks. What are some ways you can improve the page speed of your site?
Steps To Take To Improve Your Page Speed
There’s a post I published a while back on how to improve page speed for WordPress sites. The information there is still usable.
Here’s a few things that you can do.
- Invest in good hosting. You can optimize everything else on your site for speed, but if you pinch pennies on web hosting, your site still won’t be very fast. WordPress hosts that I recommend are WP Engine, Flywheel; and for sites with massive traffic, Pagely.
- Optimize your images. For many sites, images can take up a lot of page weight. WordPress version 4.4 and above now supports responsive images by default, so that’s good for mobile devices. You can use a tools like Kraken.io or WP Smush to optimize images. Be sure to use the right size images for your needs. Be careful when uploading photos directly from your phone, as these are incredibly large files.
- Use caching. Caching is where the server takes a “snapshot” of your page files, and serves those from a specific folder, instead of grabbing them fresh each time the page loads. Some hosting companies have caching built into their hosting packages, some don’t. If you need a caching plugin, W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, and WP Rocket are all solid choices.
- Use GZIP. Most hosting companies use this. If in doubt, ask to make sure.
- Minify files. When you minify files, this means you take all the white space out of the files. This saves a little bit of page weight. The caching plugins mentioned up above can do this for you.
- Use a CDN. A Content Delivery Network allows web browsers to download files in parallel, instead of waiting for the previous file to finish downloading. This reason this is possible is CDNs are outside servers, different from the one that holds your website, with redundant data centers. (On a side note: when HTTP/2 becomes fully supported in browsers and hosts everywhere, this will be somewhat less of an issue.
The Bottom Line
Slow web pages are bad for business. Your customers don’t like slow web pages. Neither does Google, Since they want what’s best for your customers, too.
If you don’t already know, find out where your website falls on the fast/slow scale. Take steps to improve your page speed, and your customer conversions will improve.