Since 2010, Google has included page speed among the most important signals determining a website’s search ranking. Page speed is the wait-time for your site to load that visitors have to endure. On average, eCommerce websites take about 7 seconds to load; the optimal time is around 3 seconds or less.
In this competitive market, where engaging customers to make sales is the top priority, it is crystal clear that if your page speed is mediocre both your traffic and your conversions will suffer.
One survey revealed that 47% of consumers expect websites to load in two seconds or less, and that 40% will abandon a page that takes three or more seconds to load. The same survey revealed that 79% of customers would not return to a site with poor performance. Even a one-second delay in page load time can result in negative results:
- 11% fewer page views
- 16% decrease in customer satisfaction
- 7% loss in conversions
The faster your page speed, the higher your website will be ranked in Google SERPs—which is important, since many customers will never go beyond the very first page of search results. All of the top-ranking sites on Google have the same things in common: well-optimized code designed for speed, great content, and mobile-friendly design.
Umm . . . Is my website slow?
Google offers a free tool, PageSpeed Insights, that will help you figure out if your website is slow, tell you how slow it is, and give you some ideas about how to make it faster. (If you run your website through PageSpeed Insights and you score 100%, you need not continue reading this article—go get a cup of coffee or take a nap, instead.)
The good news: the PageSpeed tool is easy. Simply open it up and enter your website URL into the bar, then click “Analyze.” The finished test will give you a score and a full report for your site and what might be slowing it down for your customers. The only bad news? A recent update to the PageSpeed insights may have upped the ante for businesses whose scores were previously high.
No resting on your laurels: 2018 update affects digital marketers
Google’s dramatic core update to the PageSpeed Insights algorithm in late 2018 sent the digital marketing world into an agitated frenzy (although the update does provide a wealth of new information). The new update, Version 5, uses Lighthouse, one of Google’s speed tools, as its analysis engine and also incorporates field data provided by the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX) into the tool. Lighthouse computes a website’s Performance Score based on the following metrics*.
- First Contentful Paint (FCP): Time taken by a browser to render the first bit of content from the DOM
- First Meaningful Paint (FMP): Time at which the user feels that the primary content of the page is visible
- Speed Index: Average time at which visible parts of the page are displayed
- First CPU Idle: (Previously called First Interactive) Time when a page is minimally interactive – most UI elements are interactive, and page responds to user inputs
- Time to Interactive: How long it takes a page to become interactive – displays useful content, event handlers registered for visible elements, responds to user interactions within 50 milliseconds
- Estimated Input Latency: Input responsiveness of the application
*Explanations derived from developers.google.com
The bottom line: Tips for speeding up your website
If one compares their before-and-after scores post-PageSpeed V5 update, it is clear that Google is putting more pressure on websites to focus on delivering faster user experiences while being truly mobile-first. Some of the top directives include:
- Streamline your design. Avoid cumbersome images, stylesheets, and other pieces of code, since the more elements you have, the more HTTP requests you have the longer it will take your site to load.
- Leverage browser caching. Enabling browser caching lessens the impact on your server by pulling resources already cached in a user’s browser. For WordPress pages, you can use a plugin like WP Rocket to enable browser caching and website optimization, for example.
- Optimize images. Images can slow down loading time considerably. If not necessary for your audience, make sure to remove metadata, like the camera model and date photo was taken; Keep your image size below 100 KB, if possible; compress images and use JPGs instead of PNGs, if you need to reduce image size even more.
- Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN). Leveraging a CDN can improve your site speed by hosting website files across a large network of servers around the world, allowing users to download files from servers that are close to them; it also spreads the bandwidth to decrease page load time.
- Configure your server settings. Out-of-the-box server software is not always set up for optimal website performance. Consult with your hosting provider to see how your server for your website can benefit from a “performance tune-up”
Having a fast site is essential in 2019 and beyond—not just for ranking well with Google, but for keeping your bottom-line profits high. Your load times can not only influence how easily users can find you in the first place, but also whether they will stay and make a purchase.