Why website speed matters

Why would a search engine care about how fast a website is? Good question, I’m going to break that down for you. Website speed matters because a slow website can hurt sales. Further, search engines will penalize you for your website speed. However, one thing that you cannot do is speed up people’s internet connections or mobile service. All you can do is make your website as fast as possible. Maybe even fast enough to compensate for a poor internet connection.

Speed can hurt sales

There are tons of studies out there explaining consumer behavior, but I want to make sure it’s put into words, not numbers. When was the last time you completed a sale when the website loaded slowly? How long are you willing to wait for a website to load, before leaving the site? If you experience a poor load time, are you willing to go back to the site to make a purchase later? In most cases, the answers to these questions are the same. No, and not long. In personal experience, unless I’m buying something that only one site sells, I won’t stick around for a long load time.

What defines a long load time?

Consumers truly define a long load time, and as a best practice, it’s always best to cater to the highest expectation. In this case (seen in the chart below), we need a website to load in less than 1 second. This is a very tall order for most websites. So let’s move to the next one, 2 seconds. This is an obtainable goal for page load time. It’s safe for me to say, your website should load in 2 to 3 seconds.

47% of consumers have a 2-second expectation for load time

My goal is a 2-second load time on desktop and mobile. This means that a consumer will expect a page to load in 2 seconds, and each second after diminishes satisfaction. It also means it reduces conversions, and higher levels of website exits. The longer a page loads, the more likely it is a consumer will leave or even tell their friends about a bad experience.

40% of consumers will leave after 3 seconds

Avoid load times longer than 3-seconds. We’re in a mobile age, and instant gratification drives the exchange of information. We want what we want, and we want it fast, whether it’s from a microwave, or a website. A minute can seem like an eternity while waiting for your hot pocket or the speed contest you’re in with friends to bring up the answer in a debate.

You’ll lose money from a long website load time

When a potential customer or lead can’t get to the content they need to make a decision, they’ll go elsewhere. The bottom line is that if your website isn’t fast enough, you’ll lose sales. Somewhere on the internet there is another statistic, “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.” I think this is inflammatory, and assumes all things are equal, but that’s statistics for you. Nevertheless, it’s true to an extent, unless you’re the only business selling a product, your page needs to load fast. It needs to load fast on a desktop and mobile device.

Search engines will penalize you for your website speed

Oh yes they will. They penalize because search engines are matchmakers. You type in a search, you find what you want, and you click on it. If the search engine can’t give you the results you want, you’ll go to another search engine. The same goes for speed, if the page is slow, the results suck, the websites have 404 errors, or have viruses, it reduces searches on search engines. This affects their business, and we can’t have that.

So a few different things go into keyword, and PPC quality scores, and part of that is speed. If you have a low keyword or ad quality score or CTR, your cost for the bid increases. Ah, maybe it’s a miniscule increase of a dime per click. But if your average cost is 1.00 a click, and you get 1000 clicks, it cost you $1,000. If that goes up a dime, that’s a ten-percent hike on your cost to advertise, or $100 (in the scenario). Your website speed could cost you an extra $100 in your budget, and the slower it gets the more the quality drops. The number your bids have to go up, depends on way more calculations than speed alone, but speed is a very important part of online advertising and search results.

How do I make my website faster?

I will cover this in a future article, but for the time being (and not in order of importance):

  • Reduce HTTP requests
  • Lossless image compression
  • Utilize browser caching
  • Reduce server response time (this has much to do with hosting)
  • Minify CSS and JavaScript
  • Google’s Fave: Prioritize above-the-fold content (not easy)
  • Reduce Redirects
  • Don’t use so many plugins (if you’re using WordPress or Drupal)
  • Maybe use a CDN

Final words: Get your website speed between 2 and 3 seconds. If you don’t you can lose sales (loss of conversions) and search rankings. Finally, you can waste money on your PPC campaigns from website speed penalties.

Steven Childs

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