Have you given much thought to your website speed?
For many people, you probably don’t really consider it until there is an issue. If you’re browsing online, it can be frustrating when a website doesn’t load as it should, or when it is too slow to load.
Website speed really matters, especially if you’re running a business where you rely on people completing transactions via the site. A slow website can lead to people giving up, meaning your website doesn’t do the job it was supposed to.
Let’s take a closer look at why website speed is important and what factors affect it:
Why website speed is important
First of all, let’s throw in a couple of quick definitions for page and site speed, as the two are often confused:
- Page speed = the measurement of how fast the content loads on an individual page
- Site speed = the average page load time for a sampling of page views on your website.
Both the speed of individual pages and the average site speed are important considerations for your website. One primary reason is bounce rate. This is defined as the percentage of website visitors who navigate away from a website after viewing just one page. Obviously, your preference would be to have people continue to browse and to stay on your website as long as possible!
Pingdom conducted some tests to see how page load time impacts bounce rates. As you might expect, the longer the load time the higher the bounce rate. Importantly, look at the bounce rates for load speeds of up to five seconds (most websites can manage this), you can see that the more you’re able to keep load time below five seconds, the better.
If you sell products or services via your website, higher load speeds amount to bad news for your sales. They’re a quick deterrent to visitors exploring any further. Conventional wisdom has suggested for the last few years that page speeds should be less than two or three seconds; however interestingly over that time, Pingdom notes that average website size has steadily increased. This is one factor that can slow down your load speed.
Site speed and SEO
A second key factor for why website speed matters is because it is an SEO ranking factor for your website, and has been since at least 2010. What does this mean? Google says that site speed forms one of the signals used by its algorithm to determine how pages are ranked in search results.
Your website can be doubly penalized in search results if you have slow load speeds. There’s the use of speed itself as a ranking factor, but then there are other ranking factors that may be affected by speed, such as your site bounce rate. Google’s aim is to show the best-quality results to searchers – if they quickly leave a page, it is indicating to Google that the result wasn’t great.
Another potentially negative impact of slow speed on your site search results is the time allotted by search engines to crawl your website. This is the process by which the search engine inspects the pages of your site and creates an index of them. Obviously, you’d like all important pages to be crawled and indexed, but slow speed means that fewer pages can be crawled.
The bottom line? You need your average site speed as well as individual page speeds to be as quick as possible.
What impacts website speed?
Multiple factors impact your website speed. The good news is that most of the time, there is something you can do about it if one or more of these factors are slowing your site speed.
Scripts and plugins
Plugins and scripts help you to add functionality or design factors to your website. They give you features such as advertising, pop-ups or needed background functions. Some of these features will be absolute must-haves for you, but scripts and plugins can also be behind slow website speeds.
For example, if you have a lot of plugins or scripts operating on your website at once, these will slow it down. Sometimes the overall quality of those plugins or scripts might not be up to par either. A poorly coded plugin can be a major weight on website speed.
We always recommend that you take a minimalist approach to scripts and plugins. This means only installing those that are absolutely necessary to operate your website as needed. It’s a good idea to make a list of what those functions and associated plugins are. If you suspect that plugins or scripts are slowing down your website, there are a couple of things you can do to fix it.
Firstly, if you have the skills you can test this for yourself. The process would be to test your website speed using a tool, such as Pingdom, then retest after uninstalling each plugin that isn’t absolutely necessary. If you find that there is a necessary plugin causing issues, you might need to look for a better alternative.
Secondly, you can hire an expert to sort out your website speed, especially if issues with coding or how to install or remove plugins aren’t your fort?. Someone who deals with these things every day will have a good idea of where to look first.
Besides plugins or scripts, it’s possible that the coding of your website is not up to a good standard. Sometimes you may find that the coding behind your website is overly bulky or cumbersome, slowing the whole thing down.
This can occur when an inexperienced developer works on your site, or when features, such as your theme, use bloated coding. What can you do about it? You may again want to get an expert to look over your website and tidy up any poor coding. Otherwise, potentially you may need to choose a new theme or eliminate some features.
Images or multimedia
The size of images or any multimedia you use can impede the load speed of your website. The bigger the file size, the slower your page load speeds.
It is best practice to compress images before uploading them to a website. Use JPG for most photos, or PNG for low-detail images, such as logos. As for any multimedia, if you can have that uploaded somewhere else, then embedded into your website, that will help to speed it up. For example, by uploading to YouTube then using the embed code on your site.
Use of browser caching
In this case, if you are not using browser caching it can slow your website speed down. Caching is the process of storing files locally so that they are retrieved faster in the future. This is used for content that is the least modified, such as images and external scripts.
Caching can be implemented with a plugin – there are a few good options if you’re running a WordPress website, for example.
Your choice of web hosting
The web hosting you choose for your website plays a big role in how well it performs. Do you know what you’re getting from your web host? Sometimes the cheap hosting deal isn’t a great value after all, especially if it means performance issues.
Some hosting options put you on servers with too many other websites, causing slow speeds when the load on those servers becomes too much. Sometimes you might find that the server technology itself is poor. Older servers might lead to site speed issues, too.
Another thing to look out for is any bandwidth limits that your host imposes. Your site could end up throttled if it meets limits, impacting user experience.
Content delivery network
This is another one where not using it can result in slower website speeds. A content delivery network (CDN) has data centers worldwide in order to store your website data locally.
What does this mean? Let’s say your site is hosted on a server here in St. Louis – if a customer in Europe were to browse your site, they’d ordinarily find it slower than someone browsing in the US. A CDN will store information closer to their location, so that it loads more quickly.
Your website speed matters. A slow speed can turn visitors away, meaning you don’t achieve the goals that you’d like from the site. It can also impact your SEO. Site speed is a known ranking factor in search results.
Fortunately, if your website is slow, it doesn’t have to be fatal. There are some common issues that can contribute to slow load speeds which can be fixed.
Get your free website report from us here to learn how your site could be more profitable