While companies launch websites for a variety of reasons, website speed plays a vital role in overall business success on the internet. When we speak of website speed, we’re referring to the page download speed - the amount of time it takes for your web page to load for a user after they’ve clicked on the website link from the search engines or social media. Good website speed should be high up on the checklist for delivering a good website experience to your visitors. Let’s look at the ways download speed impacts your site’s performance and your overall business objectives.
Slow Website Speed Kills
If you’re like 47 percent of consumers, you expect a website to appear—in all its glory--in two seconds or less. The fact is, the faster we’ve been able to access the internet, the less patient we’ve become. What’s concerning for businesses is that not meeting this lightning-quick demand can have some alarming repercussions.
If the download speed for your site approaches three seconds, visitors start to bounce at an alarming rate. Customers expect your pages to load fast, and when you don’t meet their expectations, there’s less of a reason for them to stick around. When it comes to competition on the web, every fraction of a second count, so it’s important to understand why page load speed matters so much, and the role that web design services play in it all.
Google Feels the Need for Website Speed
Earlier this year, Google announced its Speed Update, which officially made page speed a ranking factor for mobile searches. While the search engine has confessed that page speed has been among their ranking factors for some time, it was confined primarily to desktop site indexing before this summer’s implementation for mobile, which accounts for much more traffic on many sites.
Due to the popularity of mobile searches versus desktop queries, Google has been working toward an eventual full rollout of mobile-first indexing, and it makes sense that mobile page speed has become a priority. The magic number that Google is looking at is 2 seconds, and if your site server can’t keep up then you can expect to have fewer crawlers sent your way.
They also claim that the Speed Update will affect only the slowest pages – meaning it shouldn’t affect most websites. But, who’s willing to take the chance? Not us.
Speed, on both desktop and mobile sites, is important. It affects search ranking which directly impacts traffic, lead generation, and conversions—thus influencing the results companies desire for their sites, no matter the website’s intended purpose for existence.
First Impressions Are Lasting Impressions
When a visitor lands on a page of your site, they immediately form an opinion of your brand. First impressions tend to be lasting impressions in the world of websites. Once visitors form a first impression, it typically stays with them, which means that what happens on their first encounter sets the standards for their relationship with your brand.
There’s certain psychology that’s associated with how fast your pages load. Not only are users expecting to see results quickly, and become disappointed when they don’t, but page speed also immediately affects their professional opinion of you.
If your page loads slowly, it places an obstacle in the path connecting your visitors to you. This dynamic—so noticeable in a world where most sites hum along in the two-seconds-or-less window—give potential clients a bad first impression. Slow-loading pages—like a poorly executed logo—send a signal that something isn’t right and make them question your authority and professionalism. This is a bad way to start a relationship.
On the other hand, when pages load quickly, your visitors might not even notice, and this is a good thing. There’s nothing to interfere with their ability to learn more about you, browse your site and base their first impression on something other than the fact that they were inconvenienced, however shortly, by a slow-loading page.
Website User Experience Principles
Returning to Google, the search engine is focused on elements that provide searchers with a great user experience (UX). UX is a term used to describe an end user’s complete experience. There’s more to it than initially meets the eye, but website design elements that increase usability and allow visitors to feel good about their experience while on the site are major measurements of UX.
Given our need for page speed and the comfort it provides, page load speed is crucial for providing a great UX, and thus, favorable points for SEO.
You see, Google doesn’t want to provide the person behind a search query with just any results. Google has achieved market leadership in search (remember when AOL and Yahoo were relevant?) by constantly tinkering with its algorithms to deliver the best results. Its’ not just about producing search results that answer the question or need, but also results that provide a quality experience for the user.
Signals that are common with slow loading pages, like a higher than average bounce rate, indicate that you haven’t invested in UX web development that minimizes points of frustration for your visitors. If the search engine keeps sending traffic your way it will eventually be a bad reflection on its search results, and you can trust that they’re not having any part of that.
You Care About Conversions
There’s some pretty solid evidence supporting the theory that page speed directly impacts conversions. For starters, we can look at the fact that for each one-second delay in page load, you potentially lose 7 percent of your conversions. If visitors are waiting five seconds – just a mere 3 seconds beyond their expectations – conversion rates flatline at less than 1 percent.
If revenue doesn’t matter to the success of your business, then you have nothing to worry about. However, for the rest of us, this type of drop off in conversion is the stuff that “Closed for Business” signs are made of! Sales reports matter and every sales tool must function at the maximum potential to keep the numbers on the right side of the line.
A few years back, before the need for speed was even such an issue, Amazon calculated that just a 1 second slowdown in page speed could cost them an astounding $1.6 billion a year. People love their Amazon, and if the e-commerce mega-giant isn’t immune to the damaging effects of slow loading pages, then none of us are. It’s important to have many of the same site design, implementation, and maintenance practices of giants like Amazon—they didn’t grow to market leadership overnight, and they are always on the leading edge of defining site optimization.
A (Somewhat) Contrarian View
We recently ran across an interesting take from the Content Marketing Institute on the subject of good download times for websites. In the article, the author takes a somewhat contrarian view on the importance of download time, placing it in the context of multiple factors that can influence your Google keyword rankings.
In the CMI piece, author Mike Murray points out that it’s possible to earn solid page rankings with slower download times. Fortune 500 companies do it all the time, and so do small businesses. How do they do it? The same old blocking and tackling on page SEO, like tags and URLs. In addition, as Murray illuminates, backlinks and content still rule the day, as they establish authority in search, much as Walmart brings with its ubiquitous brand.
Murray ultimately concludes that spending time on good download speed for a website is time well-spent, as fast-loading sites impress visitors and contribute to holding visitors’ attention and better conversions. As you think about your target market; will they have the patience to continue using your website if it’s slow or has poor UX?
You Have Plans for the Future, and We Can Help
While attracting new traffic to your website is important, the bottom line is that it costs more to acquire new customers than to keep the ones you already have. Nurturing your existing customers and providing them with an exceptional experience is the key to thriving in the digital business world. Before you embark on a page speed project, it makes sense to make the best use of your time by following a UX checklist that includes page speed.
Slow-loading pages hinder customer loyalty and prevent your business from growing and thriving. You don’t want this for the brand you’ve worked so hard to build and neither do we.
Maybe you notice when other sites are slow to load, but when was the last time you did a checkup on your own? If you don’t want to worry about page load speed being a deterrent to your success, then it’s time to connect with a website design company that can ensure your web pages are optimized for speed on any device.
Get good download speed for your website—it’s essential, no matter your site’s purpose or the type of business your running. With good download speed for your website, you will achieve a better brand experience for customers and prospects alike, a more optimized user experience for all, and you can expect solid conversion rates when you’re also paying good attention to page SEO tactics, creating vibrant content, and achieving reputable backlinks.
We’re the web design company that can make this happen with our team of expert web developers that can do amazing things for your site, with SEO services that include achieving good download speeds.
Diona is a managing partner at Knowmad. Her areas of expertise include digital marketing strategy, project management, brand management, search engine optimization (SEO), pay per click advertising, inbound marketing, content marketing, conversion rate optimization, social media marketing and website design.