The importance of improving your website speed has been known for quite some time.
Way back in 2010, Google announced that the speed of a website would become a ranking factor in the Google algorithm though SEOs have been constantly debating the significance of speed on search engine rankings ever since.
Even if the impact on search engine rankings is overstated, the effect website speed has on customer conversion rate is not. You will lose potential customers for every second it takes for your site to load.
With increasingly impatient customers used to having everything to hand in seconds, your business can’t afford to make them wait.
Below, we look at how much slow websites have cost companies, identify aspects of your website that slow down the show and fix them while also showing you how to speed up your site and make your customers happy.
The Cost of a Slow Loading Website
A study conducted by QuBit in 2012 showed that online retailers were losing close to $3 billion in global sales per annum thanks to slow website loading speeds and with an increase in spending during 2013 along with higher expectations, you can bet that this figure has grown.
While online shoppers hate delays, boosting website speed does not seem to be a priority for a surprising number of Internet businesses.
Expectations and customer patience has changed as technology has become more advanced. In 2006, the average user had no problem waiting 4 seconds for a page to load but this level of patience had dwindled to 2 seconds by 2009.
Feast your eyes on these interesting statistics relating to website loading speed and lost revenue.
5 Facts About Website Loading Speed In E-Commerce
- In the United Kingdom, almost 40% of online shoppers will abandon an app or a website if it takes more than 10 seconds to load.
- Google considers web pages to be ‘slow’ if they take more than 1.5 seconds to load. The result is that the website will be relegated in the search engine rankings. Since less than 30% of Google users bother to go beyond the first page of search results, this has a huge impact on a website’s visibility.
- When it comes to mobile conversions, a lack of speed is a serious impediment; almost three-quarters of users will abandon a mobile site if it takes more than 5 seconds to load.
- A one second delay in Amazon’s website would cost the global giant an estimated $1.6 billion annually!
- Almost 60% of users will abandon a website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load in the United States.
Now that you know the impact a slow website can have on sales, what can you do to combat it?
Things That Slow Your Site Down & How To Fix Them
When it comes to attracting customers online and keeping them interested, taking things slow and steady is about the worst thing you can do!
You simply must optimise your website for optimum performance at all times but you could be unwittingly causing your website to perform poorly by making one of the many basic mistakes that are known to slow down website speed.
There are a surprising number of websites with unoptimised images and these are terrible for slowing things down.
Full-sized images consume a lot of bandwidth when loading so it is imperative that you re-size them to avoid this situation. Your first step should be to look at the HTML image tag as it allows you to set the height and width of pictures.
It is essential that you scale the images proportionally to ensure that they don’t get skewed or stretched.
Another consideration is to change the image format as this could greatly reduce the file size.
The final step is to reduce image quality; don’t worry; this won’t make your images look rubbish! This is actually relatively easy to do as it merely involves adjusting some settings.
You can reduce the quality of JPG images to as low as 80% without making a major impact on the quality of the picture. It is possible to reduce the quality still further depending on the colours, detail and type of image. If the image is in GIF or PNG format, choose a smaller colour palette in order to reduce quality.
A great tool you can use to optimize images is GT Metrix Image Optimization.
There are plenty of websites that use inefficient and unnecessary coding and this only serves to slow it down.
While an experienced CSS coder is capable of adding white space as a means of making pages more readable, this is not often necessary as it is possible to get rid of these white spaces and still have ample readability.
Remove excess spacing and line breaks wherever necessary as this will help to condense the code. This in turn reduces the size of the files leading to better website speed.
External Embedded Media
External media is another great way to slow down website speed. By external media we mean videos, slideshows and the like.
While video marketing is extremely important and slideshows are informative and fun, use them in moderation and don’t rush to embed someone else’s media on your website.
The problem with using embedded external media on your website is that it will only run as fast as the host site. If the other website has a bad day, your site also suffers! Try to host content on your own server whenever possible.
Find a Faster Web Host
This is where everything begins and if your web server is slow, your website will follow suit and you won’t be able to change anything until the web server issue has been sorted. When your website receives a lot of traffic, it needs more server bandwidth and this is especially the case with sites that have a sale or if it is a seasonal business.
With a slow web server, a rush of traffic could actually take your site offline which is a complete disaster.
Websites that don’t have enough bandwidth for rushes will find that visitors endure slowdowns and may also be unable to access the site.
Check to make sure that the allowable bandwidth increases with traffic rates and allows enough room for any sudden surges in visitors. You need to chat to your web host about either having a dedicated server or a faster one.
If your existing host can’t do this, switch companies and while a faster server obviously costs more, it is definitely worth it.
Install a WordPress Caching Plugin
We are assuming that you are running WordPress as it is the most popular CMS around but you may notice that additional traffic causes slow loading times.
WordPress pulls content from a database and script files by default and when it combines all of this information, the result is a slow WordPress site. Luckily, there are various Plugins that can reduce the load borne by your database and speed up loading times.
WP Super Cache is the most commonly used and it works by generating static HTML versions of a site’s pages and replaces dynamic content with these pages in what is a good solution for smaller WP sites.
W3 Total Cache is another option and could speed up your loading time tenfold; at least that’s the claim. It does take a bit of time and effort to set up however. Quick Cache is a really quick and easy option for less technologically gifted site owners.
Content Delivery Network
This is a solution that can be used no matter what applications or platform you use. A Content Delivery Network (CDN) basically replicates your site’s content on servers all over the world and each visitor receives content from the server closest to them which enhances loading speed.
CloudFlare is one of the most commonly used CDN’s and most websites that use it experience a significant improvement. (It’s free)
If you are after a WordPress host that provides a built-in CDN and provides caching, I recommend Pressable.com
Switch Data Centre Location
It is easy to make the mistake of choosing a data centre location that is relatively nearby but in reality, you should be choosing somewhere that is close to your customers. Your chief concern should be the speed at which your website content reaches visitors.
Website owners that have used the services of a company such as Servint which specialises in date centre locations have discovered that website loading time increases for customers.
Your website will obviously grow over time so old scripts will be rendered obsolete.
This means there will be plenty of dead weight lying around to slow things down and this is especially the case with a Content Management System such as WordPress, Magento or Drupal that uses a module, extension or plugin system. If your site is slow, begin the process of eliminating plugins and themes that aren’t needed any more.
Deleting the associated theme/plugin folder does get rid of the files but not the theme/plugin. There will be occasions when you have to dig into the database to get rid of left over metadata.
Additionally, look at your comments table; you may find that there are a surprising number of spam comments that are working to slow down your website so get rid of them permanently with the admin panel. It may also be a good idea to remove the option to comment on old posts and also disable revision tracking on newer posts so the size of your database will remain manageable.
You should look to use the PageSpeed Insights tool that is offered by Google as this also gives you some ideas when it comes to increasing your website speed.
While there will be suggestions that touch on what we have covered above, there should also be a number of ideas that have not been mentioned in this article.
There are actually dozens of ways to speed up your website; the actual amount will probably shock you and you will also probably be disappointed that you haven’t thought of these ideas sooner.
Tweaking your website to get the very best level of performance will certainly take time but it is well worth the effort as you will have more visitors and of course there are plenty of SEO benefits from having a site that runs smoothly and efficiently.
It does seem as if using a CDN or getting rid of the unnecessary dead weight in the database are the most effective ways to increase website speed as the result can be a doubling in the speed of your site.