Website Performance: The Need for Speed

If you are driving your car in a construction zone then you’d better make sure you are going slow, but when you’re surfing the web you want to make sure you are going as fast as possible. Nowadays we are used to high-speed Internet and lightning fast load times. Unfortunately, some of the websites we encounter on the Internet are super slow.

One of the biggest problems encountered by Internet users, in terms of usability, is website load times. A slow loading website can frustrate users, and lead to lost traffic and revenue for website owners. From a search engine optimization (SEO) perspective, Google uses site speed in its search ranking algorithms; so this can affect web search rankings. From a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising perspective, sending traffic to a slow website through paid ads is just wasting money. Once a user clicks the ad and has to wait for the page to load, that user most likely will hit the back button and click on another ad or listing. This leads to lost traffic, a high bounce rate, and your PPC funds going down the drain. From an e-commerce perspective, slow load time between pages also affects the conversion funnel process; it may take four or five steps (or pages) to make a purchase. The longer it takes for the pages to load leads to more frustration, website abandonment, and probably means that potential customer never returns.

So what can you do if you have a slow performing website? The first thing to do is try to find out what is slowing down the site. There are lots of free tools and resources available to find the problems and remedy them. Google’s Webmaster Tools shows ‘Site Performance‘. This has a simple graph which shows “performance statistics”. This is really just the average load time for pages in your site and the trend over the last few months. Google says “you can use this information to improve the speed of your site and create a faster experience for your users”. The chart below, taken from a Webmaster Tools account, shows a site’s average page load time over a few months. This is based on a 20th percentile value across all sites, separating slow and fast load times. The chart represents an “aggregate of thousands of data points, collected from all around the world, over various network connections, browsers and computer configurations”.

Google Webmaster Tools performance report
Previously Google provided links to third-party software for measuring site speed and performance. Now Google’s own Page Speed tool has hit the digital streets…Page Speed Online analyzes the content of a web page, then generates suggestions to make that page faster. These suggestions are listed as high, medium, or low priority, so you can work on the most important factors first. The tool is really easy to use–just enter a URL and hit the Analyze button.

Google's new Page Speed tool.

The Page Speed tool comes from Google Code, Google’s official developer site, which has devoted a whole section on making the web faster. With the tagline “Let’s make the web faster”, you can find links to third-party tools, studies and other resources that can make websites and web apps faster and “can improve the experience for your users around the world by several seconds”.

Resources listed include an interesting infographic on technologyreview.com that says that 49% of users will abandon a site or switch to a competitor after experiencing performance issues. Another infographic from Gomez.com says nearly one-third (32%) of consumers will start abandoning slow sites between 1 and 5 seconds. It also says that “Slow websites leave users feeling frustrated and makes them less likely to return to the site”.

At 6S Marketing we check website loading times and performance as part of an SEO audit, and make recommendations on improving speed and performance. Contact us if you are interested in this or any of our other services and make sure your website is up to speed.

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