It’s the last thing many businesses and site designers think about when making a website, but it is one of the most important factors when it comes to increasing sales.
We’ve all seen studies that made us scratch our head… “You needed to spend research money to find out if cocaine makes mice hyper? Or whether head-banging (made popular with Heavy Metal in the 80’s) is bad for you? Or if injury is more likely while drunk?” (All real studies). Some studies seem pointless, at least on the surface, but science might not be the only group over-analyzing correlations that seem obvious.
Let’s give an example: “Back in 2006, Amazon presented one of the first studies linking a clear causation between page load time and online customer revenue.” You can see some of the results of this groundbreaking study by clicking on these pretty blue words…
Seems pretty obvious, fast is better right? Who needs to be told this? What businesses are wandering around the internet under the impression that their customers love waiting for their site to load? But maybe there are some mitigating circumstances.
Because slow sites kept popping up after that study. Then there were more studies which were even able to pin approximate numbers to the time it takes a website to load.
Average Increase in revenue per second that websites improve load time:
+3% in revenue per second from 15-7 seconds
+2% in revenue per second from 7-5 seconds
+1% in revenue per second from 4-2 seconds
Yet despite this, more and more slow websites pop up every day. And even some formerly fast websites are being bogged down and made slower unnecessarily. What gives?
Maybe those two studies were more necessary than it would seem. Why else would slow sites continue to exist?
So let’s get to why slow websites still happen. Maybe it’s happening to you and you don’t even know it.
“My business is #1 Extra Special Super Duper Best EVER and our customers better be HAPPY to wait 15 seconds for our site to load! Sure your bum-johnny-come-lately-raggedy version of a wannabe business needs to be all fast and junk, but not us. We’re special!”
Even if it so happens your business is the greatest thing since penicillin, your customers don’t quite hold you on that high a pedestal. Avoid like plague the office environment which ignores the elephant of brand indifference in the room. Cultishly pretending your customers care about your business inevitably leads to horrible mistakes like allowing your site to take 15 seconds to load, and many other harmful habits.
“Flash and other stuff looks/sounds really cool!”
Sure, maybe your video or intro or extra special design features, whatever they may be, are incredibly impressive when compared to other stuff going on within your industry, but that is not who you are competing with when it comes to time in front of the computer. No. Your completion is that potential customer’s friends, family, their television show, lunch, or videos of kittens on YouTube. No amount of flash or other bells and whistles will ever make your site more attractive than those things, so don’t bother. Instead make it fast. It doesn’t mean you can’t have anything cool, just make sure it is also fast. We talk a lot about how to use cool bells and whistle and other marketing stuff the right way in another blog here: http://411locals.us. Check it out some time. This one’s about SEO so we won’t get too into it here. Just measure carefully the payback for cool stuff on your site compared to speed.
“Huh? What do you mean my site takes 10-15 seconds to load? Watch I’ll bring it up on my office computer right now… See! Took like a second!”
The most innocent reason, and the most unfortunate, is that the business simply does not know. Most businesses have their local provider’s top-tier business internet service. It’s pretty fast. Most homes have their local provider’s second or third tier internet home service, and it’s a fraction of the speed. Make sure you are checking your site’s speed on regular home connections, not on business connections.
This is an SEO blog, so let’s talk speed and how it relates to search engine optimization…
As far as how crawlers find your website, a long time ago Google said that speed would make a difference. Google said that fast sites would get a bump and slower sites would be penalized because their customers (all people who use the internet) want speed, but the extent that this would be the case was not specified.
Later in the official Google blog it was stated that speed, while it is relevant, it is not as important as the relevance of the page—basically the factors you’ve always been told are important are still the most important things. Google stated that “…fewer than 1% of search queries are affected by the site speed signal.” – Right here.
But don’t let that distract you from a more important issue, user experience. User experience to the extent possible (since we’re talking about an algorithm and not actual humans) is an important factor in optimization. The length of time users stay on your page matters and users tend to click away from pages that take too long. So while the direct affect speed may have on optimization is limited, the indirect affect via how much users like your site does play a significant role.
How to make your site faster for your customers.
Speed on the user end is mostly about how it is written and your servers (or if you use a hosted DIY site, something like what Go Daddy offers, their servers and the quality of your template). For the laymen however, there are still plenty of things you can do. Some of this might get technical, but see if there are a couple you can use. You might be surprised the difference it makes.
- Get rid of flash. Flash is slow. Search engines hate flash. Customers never find flash as impressive as businesses imagine they find flash. “Wow! Look how cool that little moving image is on our website!” Meanwhile they just got done watching a 30ft by 70ft 3D movie on IMAX. They don’t care about that moving thing on your site… unless it is very, very, very creative and fun… but again, there is almost always a disconnect in between what a business thinks their customers think is cool, and what their customers think is cool. So probably just don’t bother.
- If you have embedded video or audio DO NOT MAKE IT START AUTOMATICALLY. Opening a page that immediately starts yelling at you or playing music is annoying and sometimes frightening if you weren’t expecting it. Next, it makes the site slower. People are far more likely to close a window immediately if it seems possessed by the spirit of a salesperson, than to listen to two words that specter has to say. From a customer perspective, it’s hard to find a situation where audio alone is any good at all but video can sometimes be a good thing, just make sure they have the option of watching it or not.
- Reduce image quality of jpeg to 65% or lower instead of 100% (unless you are a photographer or do something where that image quality is truly relevant of course). That quality difference is hard to notice for the average browser (especially if it is a small image) and saves a whole lot of load time.
- If you use frames within pages see if there is some way to get rid of them, or at least decrease their use if possible.
- Keep external images and other items minimized.
- Try to get rid of the white space in between HTML lines of code. This is tricky if you don’t have a programmer, and those lines do serve the purpose of making fixes easier to find later, but maybe consider pasting that code into notepad with the convenient spaces intact, while eliminating it on your actual site. Then if something needs to change you can find it easily by referring to your notepad version and do a Ctrl+F search to get to it easy on your site. Plus if you mess everything up and just want to start from scratch, you have the original in notepad ready to go. It’s good to have a copy somewhere in any case.
- Compress your HTML. There are a number of tools that can do this for you. Find one you trust and give it a try. Some have reported an increase in speed of up to 80%.
- Look for a CDN. Okay that sounds totally industry-insider. All it is though is a satellite server which has a copy of your content and which delivers it to users who are closer. It’s relatively cheap and can cut down on load times significantly if you have people searching for your business across the country or across the globe.
So that’s the what, why, and how of a faster website. Hopefully you’ve found something here incredibly useful and it helps you get a million new customers… well maybe a couple new customers, but hey it’s free right?
This is the part where we sell ourselves! I mean, we love you and wish you nothing but the best, but who are we fooling? We really write this to get more customers.
We are 411 Locals, the most trusted name in online advertising and SEO around—ask like 22,999 of our 23,000 customers and they’ll tell you the same thing! (Hey, give 50 people $100 and at least one will complain). We have an A-Rating from the Better Business Bureau and are a Certified Google Partner which means we use Google Best Practices to in everything we do. Please give us a call today and find out what we can do for you, (866-530-1325).