Google utilizes over 200 signals to determine ranking and although webpage load time isn’t necessarily the most important signal, it does factor in. Load time can, however, impact the conversion of your traffic, when a few seconds can make a substantial difference. According to Matt Cutts, “site speed is a ranking signal, but it doesn’t carry as much weight as the relevance of a page. And currently, fewer than 1% of search queries are affected by the site speed signal.”
That being said, when it comes to ‘user satisfaction,’ load time should be a priority, as a slow loading page will decrease user satisfaction. Nowadays, with increased competition online and a decreased attention span of site visitors who now expect webpages to load quickly (2 seconds), it’s more difficult to convert your traffic if your page load time is slow.
In essence, a slow loading page can affect a site visitor’s decision whether to bother clicking on another page within your site or to abandon it altogether. It’s all about user expectation and satisfaction. And a site with a load time of 6 or more seconds is far less likely to be revisited compared to a site that loads in just 2 seconds.
Site performance remains a major factor for keeping visitors coming back to a retail site. And according to a study done by Akamai.com, “Consumers become impatient when pages take longer than two seconds to load. 47 percent of consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, representing a significant evolution in consumer expectation.”
Here are a few interesting facts about speed performance according to kissmetrics.com:
- 73% of mobile internet users say that they’ve encountered a website that was too slow to load.
- 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
- 51% of mobile internet users say they have encountered a website that crashed, froze, or received an error.
- 64% of mobile users expect a page to load in less than four seconds
- 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
- A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.
- If an e-commerce site is making $100,000 per day, a 1 second page delay could potentially cost you $2.5 million in lost sales every year.
Images are a common problem when it comes to slow page speed performance. Larger images on a page should be optimized to reduce their file size without negatively impacting their visual quality (pixelation). Google says that “images often account for most of the downloaded bytes on a page. As a result, optimizing images can often yield some of the largest performance improvements: the fewer bytes the browser has to download, the less competition there is for the client’s bandwidth and the faster the browser can download and render content on the screen.”
It is not a good idea to rely on HTML to resize images because if you load that smaller size, it doesn’t mean that it’s taking up less room on the server. The browser will still need to load the entire image and then resize it accordingly. It’s always best to optimize images first by utilizing an image optimization tool.
There are actually several free image optimization tools available online. One that’s pretty cool is “Radical Image Optimization Tool” or RIOT. It allows you to visually adjust compression parameters while keeping minimum file size. You can compare the original with the optimized image in real time and instantly see the resulting file size (super easy to use).
Now that Google has made mobile responsiveness a priority for ranking, you need to be even more cognizant of how your image load times are not only impacting your visitors’ user experience on desktops, but on mobile devices. Checkout this infographics on load time.
Speed Performance Best Practices
Improve the speed performance of your site by adhering to the following ‘best practices:’
- Minimize HTTP Requests
- Use a Content Delivery Network
- Add an Expires or a Cache-Control Header
- Do Not Scale Images in HTML
- Gzip Components
- No 404s
- Put StyleSheets at the Top
- Avoid empty src or href
- Put Scripts at the Bottom
- Avoid CSS Expressions
- Reduce Cookie Size
- Reduce DNS Lookups
- Avoid Redirects
- Remove Duplicate Scripts
- Configure ETags
- Make AJAX Cacheable
- Use GET for AJAX Requests
- Reduce the Number of DOM Elements
- Use Cookie-Free Domains for Components
- Do Not Scale Images in HTML
- Make favicon.ico Small and Cacheable
Page Speed Test
Pingdom Speed Test and Google PageSpeed insights are free tools that give you insight into what you can do to improve your site’s speed performance. Both tests will score your site from 0 -100 (over 90 is pretty good), tell you why a page is loading slowly, and offer suggestions on how to improve load time.
if your site’s load time is slower than it should be (over 2 – 3 seconds) there’s a very good chance that it’s negatively impacting your rankings, conversion rate and bottom line ($$$). All the more reason to take a few minutes and run a simple speed test to see what you can to do to increase your website’s performance.
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