Site speed is a key aspect of the user experience (UX) that Google’s recent algorithm changes have targeted, too. It’s one that’s intuitively easy to understand—no one’s got much patience these days when it comes to waiting for a page to load—but that can be complicated to remedy. Let’s slow down for a second to look at why your website’s loading time matters, then pick up the pace and learn how you can speed it up.
Slow Site, Lost Sales
The days of the 14.4kbps dial-up modem are long gone. Though the U.S. doesn’t have the kind of broadband network that some countries in Europe and Asia do, even households with basic cable or DSL connections can surf the web at lightning speed compared to back when Netscape Navigator was still the go-to web browser. Whether wired in at home, accessing a Wi-Fi network on the go, or using cellular providers’ data networks via smartphone, web users expect your page to load more or less instantly.
Modern attention spans are short. A slow-loading webpage frustrates users; they’re more likely to hit the back button and/or leave your site entirely. That means that your user engagement is dropping and your bounce rate—the number of visitors who navigate away from a site after viewing only one page—is going up. For a business, a slow website can be a fast way to lose money. Even a one second delay in page loading can cause conversions to drop by 7%, and 40% of web users abandon webpages that take more than 3 seconds to load. When that page is a crucial one—like a shopping cart—it’s even worse. According to Kissmetrics, a 1 second delay decreases customer satisfaction about 16%, and 44% of these visitors will tell their friends if they’ve had a bad experience shopping online.
Though many mobile users actually expect that pages will load a bit slower on their phones and tablets, they aren’t going to wait around forever. Around 30% of mobile web users will wait 6 to 10 seconds on a page loading, but nearly 20% hit the back arrow before then. Plus, as mobile technologies continue to improve, users’ expectations for site speed will only go up. It’s yet another reason to make sure your site is mobile-friendly; these streamlined sites load more quickly and give mobile users a better UX.
Faster Site, Higher Rankings
Having a fast-loading site makes your website “stickier”—visitors are more likely to stick around, view more than one page, and become customers. Longer site visits and more engagement are factors that search engines look favorably upon, as is site speed itself. Google has acknowledged using site speed in its ranking algorithm at least as far back as 2010, noting that faster sites “create happy users.”
Another reason site speed can help your search rankings: A faster site can actually help ensure that search engines index your site. According to the search gurus at Moz, Google actually allocates a “crawl budget” to every website. That means that when Googlebots (Google’s software applications that run automated tasks over the Internet) are scouring the web, they’re doing so within a limited timeframe. If your site loads too slowly, the bots may not have time to crawl and index every page before they’re forced to move on. On the other hand, if your site loads quickly, more pages can be indexed—and thus be found in search.
Quick Ways to Speed Up Your Site
Though page-loading speed is a straightforward concept, most of the fixes for it are pretty technical. Here are three ways that your website can be made faster:
1. Compress Your Images: Optimizing images for the web no longer means crunching them down into low-res, pixelated gifs (remember back when .gif meant just a crummy image format, not an animated meme?). Today’s Internet is faster, people are more visually oriented, and it just makes sense to take advantage of the outstanding display quality of both desktop and mobile devices. That said, using an image that’s completely uncompressed—files straight off even an iPhone camera are usually over one 1 MB—taxes server loading times. Using an image editor like Adobe Photoshop to resize images without sacrificing your image quality is a little more work for you, but it can make a big difference to your site’s UX.
3. Pay Attention to Caching: You know how the very first time you go to a webpage, it takes a little longer to load? That’s because your browser is seeing—and downloading—all of the different page elements for the first time. When you come back, the page loads faster because your browser cache has stored various page elements (like images and CSS files). This is also why sometimes you have to clear your browser’s cache to see an update that’s been made to a webpage—it’s “remembering” the older version of the page.
Leverage browser caching lets you manage how the different elements on your website are dealt with, allowing you to set how often a browser will look for new content. If you have a fairly static webpage (where content does not change daily or weekly), browser caching can be set up to be more infrequent.
Are you concerned that your site speed isn’t all it could be? Do you still need to make your website mobile-friendly? Put our tech knowledge to work for you. Call Higher Power SEO today at 760-881-4736 to find out more about how we can optimize your site.