A slow-loading website can impact SEO, conversion rates and revenue – but it needn’t be that way
Having a fast website matters to your business more than you probably realise.
Quality SEO content, great messaging, clear branding all combine to create great web designs. But without a fast website to display it all on, run by a quality web host, all that good work can be critically compromised.
If that sounds a little dramatic, good. It should be. A slow-loading website can have a surprisingly significant impact on your online business, as the numbers below will show.
The good news is that your website can get faster and we can show you how. But first, let’s take a look at exactly how not having a fast website impacts on your online performance.
Your customers have a need for speed
Let’s deal with the most obvious benefit of a fast website right up front: visitor experience.
As consumers, there’s little more frustrating, or indeed challenging to our trust, than a slow loading webpage. Especially in the mobile-dominated online world we now live in, we demand pages that deliver us the information at the speed of a swipe.
If we don’t get what we want in a time we think is reasonable, we’re probably heading elsewhere to find it on another, faster website. We’ll see in a moment that what our online behaviours show as ‘reasonable’ can prove to be a very small measure indeed.
With pages that load at the speed of a turned page in a book (or faster!), you’ll keep your visitors engaged and, more importantly, retain their trust. A slow loading page does much to make us question the directness of the connection and the trustworthiness of the website.
This becomes even more important when we are entering personal details: credit card, address or a password. And while the issue of a slow-loading webpage can sit anywhere along the connection, the fragility of our trust as consumers often leads to consequences that are most damaging to you and your business.
“BrandPerfect reports that, after surveying 2500 online shoppers…two-thirds of respondents (67%) from the UK…stated that a slow website is the main reason for abandoning a purchase that they were going to make.”
Losing two-thirds of customers because your website isn’t fast enough to either keep them engaged or retain their trust is significant. It’s also a needless impact on your business – there is specialist support available from developers and web hosts to optimise your speed and help keep your customers on your site.
But before we get to making your website faster, let’s understand a bit more about how fast it needs to be.
How fast does my website need to be?
How long are you willing to wait for a webpage to load? Five seconds? Two seconds? In milliseconds?
Here’s the truth in numbers:
- 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less.
- 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load.
- 79% of shoppers who are dissatisfied with website performance are less likely to buy from the same site again (and 44% also tell their friends about bad online experiences)
- A one-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.
There are two often quoted studies that further point out—through clear empirical evidence from major websites—the stark impact a slow-loading website can have on a business’s online success.
The first comes from Google. After users agreed they would like 30 results per search page instead of the usual 10 results, Google ran a trial.
The impact of the larger pages on load time was about half a second. Not much, you might think. But those pages showed a clear drop in traffic by 20%. That’s right, a fifth of users weren’t willing to wait an extra half second.
The second study was carried out by Kohavi and Longbotham in 2007. It showed that the retail-giant Amazon saw a 1% drop in sales for every 0.1 second increase in page load time.
In the fourth quarter of 2016 Amazon earned nearly $44 billion (USD). As a crude sum, slow-loading webpages running a tenth of a second slower than normal would cost Amazon nearly half a billion dollars in three months.
Staggering. But not the end of the reasons to value a fast website.
Speed is a key factor in many metrics
In April 2010, Google introduced a new ranking signal called ‘Page Speed’. As an aside, it’s worth noting that in 2016, this metric was tweaked to focus on the loading time of mobile websites as part of the shift towards a more mobile-friendly algorithm.
Page Speed is thought to impact less than 1% of searches. And while 1% can be significant (I refer you back to Amazon’s earnings above), when it comes to analytics, Page Speed is not a major direct contributor to your SEO ranking.
However, indirectly a slow-loading website can have a huge SEO impact.
The speed of your website underpins almost every other metric. We’ve already seen how nearly half of consumers bounce off a slow-loading webpage within two seconds and how 79% are unlikely to return. Then your Page Views take a hit (who’s going to persist being frustrated with one slow-loading webpage after another?) and so on.
And with decreased Bounce Rate, Page Views and other user experience metrics, down goes your search ranking. With a lower position on SERPs, down goes the number of people clicking through to your website and, as we’ve seen above, a hit on your conversion rate. And…well, you get the picture.
The point is, you can get your messaging, branding and content just right, but if it takes too long to appear on your visitors’ screens, all that good work is unnecessarily compromised.
How to get your website up to speed
We think you’ll agree that speed really does matter for your website and, therefore, your business. So, let’s look at how to get you a website that loads in the blink of an eye.
First, you can test your website speed. There are a number of basic website speed tools available online to give you an idea of how your website’s operating. But to really get under the skin of how fast your website’s performing, we can run more comprehensive speed tests and talk you through what the data means in real terms.
Having established your current performance and goals for where you’d like to get it too, we can look at optimising your speed.
Some things are relatively simple to fix:
- Compressing and optimising images (see points 3 and 4 here) so they don’t take forever to load and are suited to mobile screens as well as desktops.
- Reducing the number of plug-ins and widgets that sap your page loading time and check that all those display ads aren’t taking forever to load up.
- Checking you’re only running necessaryanalytics code. If you’re tracking metrics that don’t matter to your business, cut them from your code.
But these are just the beginning of getting you up to speed. With a professional technical SEO audit—part of the speed optimisation service we offer at Code23—we can uncover issues in your code, check your theme is as fast as it could be and, crucially, that your web host is, well, being a good host.
We’ll end with another crucial piece of the website speed puzzle: your web host.
Without a quality web host using the latest technology, your website can only ever go so fast. Get all the on-site issues resolved yet fail to find a fast web host and all your good work will only have a minor impact on how fast your website performs.
Having a fast website is not a way to show off; it is the foundation to online success.