Website speed is the first impression you make with visitors to your site.
That in itself is an important enough reason to have a fast loading website – but it's still not the biggest reason to improve your site speed.
Before we get too deep on this – what is site speed, and how do you measure it?
Well, first of all, site speed is really nothing more than how long it takes your website to ‘load' and be usable for a visitor. There are many other factors here, but this is the simplest break down. It really all comes down to user experience – and if you're a business owner, you definitely want to provide a good user experience.
Your prospects and customers will immediately make a judgement about the quality of your business, your products and your services based on how quickly your website loads – it's true. Think about if yourself – I have no doubt you've passed judgement on a business based on your experience with their website – right?
A slow website leads us to believe the business doesn't care about their visitors, and isn't paying attention to the important things that lead to a good customer experience. I mean, if your website isn't user friendly, I suspect the rest of your customer experience won't be either. It's purely psychological, but it's a logical assumption. Businesses who are on the cutting edge and care about their customers are providing a fast, and easy to use, secure website – plain and simple. These are the businesses people want to work with.
Here's a fun fact from the folks at KissMetrics:
40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
All of the clients we work with invest a fair amount of time, energy and money driving traffic and visitors to their websites. Loosing 40% or more of those visitors due to slow loading is really troubling, I'm sure you can agree. What's worse, is that the majority of users said they would never return to a website that didn't load properly for them the first time. You have to get this right – and the good news is that it isn't really all that hard or expensive in most cases.
And as if the user's penalizing you wasn't bad enough…
Google has been taking page speed into account when ranking websites since 2010.
And that means your likely to rank poorly for pages that load slowly – because this is providing a bad user experience. Google has stated that it will reduce the number of crawlers it sends to your site if your loading speed is greater than two seconds. So for anyone who is investing in Search Engine Optimization services, or is serious about having their websites rank organically, page speed is a critical factor – there's no way around it.
We have many clients who have come to us to take over SEO efforts they were having run by another agency, or were doing in-house, and the first thing we do – even before talking about SEO strategy, keywords, search volume, or anything of the likes is to first – make sure the website is secure (this is a must as well), and then we check the site speed. I'm regularly shocked with how many companies were trying to get ranked organically, and had put in a bunch of effort with new content, articles and all the works – but hadn't ever fixed the foundational issues first – site speed. It's like building a house on beach sand for a foundation – it's throwing good money after bad, and there's no reason for it.
Before you start any SEO campaign, and before you invest in any form of paid traffic – even before you send referral traffic to your website, it's absolutely urgent that you make sure your site is user friendly and loads in a reasonable amount of time. Under 2 seconds is ideal, but there are many other considerations to take into account. Longer loading times can be acceptable if your ‘on screen' user experience is immediate and there is no perception of a slow site.
So with all of this, how do you know where your website stands?
There are a number of free tools you can use to test your website speed.
The two most widely recommended tools online are from Pingdom and GTMetrix. We have found that the GTMetrix reports are the most reliable for our use, and they provide very detailed insights about what needs to be done to improve speed. At the time of writing this, our site scored a B (88%) for site speed and a B (84%). We're always working to improve these numbers, but our goal for client sites is to get at least an average rating (71%), on both PageSpeed and YSlow scores and better are B or better ratings.
The thing to look at with these numbers is the trade off between actual speed improvement and investment of time and money in making the changes. If we can get a site loading in under 3 seconds with just 10 or so hours of modifications, but it would take another 20-30 hours to get it to load in 2.5 seconds – we usually advise our clients that B or better ratings and an under 3 second loading time is acceptable. Of course we can always do better, but you have to weigh the pros and cons.
Here's what to do now…
Run a speed test on your own website, and see how you stack up.
Go to GTMetrix.com and run a test using their free tool. If your website needs some help, invest the time required to get up to speed. You'll see recommendations and support articles on how to fix many of these things, and remember – if you find at any point you're in over your head – just give us a shout and we'll be happy to assist. We have dedicated website speed specialists on staff and can offer fast and effective turnaround on issues like this. Most website speed improvements can be made within just a few days depending on the severity.
If you're investing in getting traffic to your website, there's no doubt that improving your website speed will result in a much higher ROI from every traffic channel you're currently using. It will also allow others to comfortably share your website with their friends, and it's great for referral traffic.
It only takes a few minutes to see where you stand, and it will make a huge difference for your long term results.
We hope you found this information helpful – and if you find that you need some help – please be sure to contact us.
Helping small businesses grow through smart online marketing is our passion – you'll know it as soon as you talk to us for 5-minutes. I hope to talk with you about growing your business very soon.