Many hardworking webmasters overlook page speed, also known as page performance. If you’re among them, this article is for you!
The time it takes your site to load is doggone important if you want your site to generate leads, increase sales, or just maximize the number of visitors who stick around to read what you’re sharing.
The #1 Reason Why Page Speed Is Important
Page speed matters because user experience matters. User experience (UX) encompasses many things. For the sake of this article, we’ll use the term in its most basic meaning.
According to Nielsen Norman Group, User Experience:
“…encompasses all aspects of the end user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”
When we contemplate a website visitor’s experience, the basic questions are:
- Is the site pleasant or frustrating?
- Must the visitor wait long for pages to load?
- Is information easy to find?
- Do all the links work?
- Are special features easy to use and do they work?
Fast page loads are your first opportunity to make a positive impression.
If you’re tempted to dismiss page speed as a trivial issue, don’t.
Let’s look at three major benefits.
Three Benefits of a Website Optimized For Page Speed
1. Minimize Drop-Offs
Ever visited a website, waited impatiently for it to load, and eventually hit the back button, choosing another search result instead?
Ever gotten frustrated when you clicked a link because the target page never loaded?
Page speed does not guarantee traffic but it eliminates the drop-off barrier.
If your site is packed with great content, great products or services, and informative material, optimizing your page speed will increase audience engagement. If your site loads slowly, fewer people will see it.
2. Maximize Conversions
Happy visitors stay longer. Keeping visitors happy affords you more opportunities to convert them to customers.
Let’s say you are trying to sell a digital marketing book. You write a blog post about the importance of digital marketing with a call to action to learn more. Visitors see a link to your post on Facebook and click the link but that page-loading wheel never stops spinning. Eventually, the page loads but its a bit “jumpy” as images and ads load. A patient visitor lingers in spite of the frustrations and decides to buy your book. She clicks the Buy button. The wheel spins again. Too many seconds later, as the wheel continues spinning, she concludes she doesn’t really need your book. She abandons your site without completing her purchase.
This is a simple example but the underlying point is important. Your slow page speed stopped you from converting an interested visitor to a customer. That’s revenue forfeited — a conversion you didn’t need to miss.
Fast loading pages deter visitors from abandoning your site before you can convert them from visitors to customers!
3. Boost Search Engine Rankings
A website that loads fast improves your search engine rankings in two ways:
First, and I will repeat myself, it removes “mood-altering” barriers. A faster site = happier visitors = better engagement.
Second, Google has acknowledged that page loading speed can impact search rankings. And they announced a few days ago that beginning in July 2018 “page speed will be a ranking factor in mobile searches.”
Thus, optimizing your site to load quickly can improve your search rankings.
Checking Your Website’s Page Speed
So how is your website doing? How can you check?
Well, you can run a page speed test below with WebPageTest.
What exactly does WebPagetest check? Well, a lot! Let’s look together at some of the primary categories:
First Byte Time: Time to first byte (or TTFB as it is often called) is the number of milliseconds it takes a browser to receive the first byte of response from your website server — measuring the time that elapses between the moment the browser sends a request to the moment the server responds.
Keep-alive enabled: When a browser is downloading data from the web server, it will attempt to retrieve the data in one single connection. Minimizing dropped connections requires a reasonable amount of time for traffic that may delay the transmission. Setting a reasonable time is done via a keep-alive header. If the header is not set or not configured appropriately, your page load speed will suffer.
Compress images: This checks to see that you have compressed your images. The test optimizes your images and compares the file sizes with the images it retrieves from the server. If the testing tool has been able to shrink your images, it will alert you that the images retrieved from the server are too large to travel swiftly.
Cache static content: Serving cached (stored) static content is more efficient than generating each page as it is requested. If you aren’t caching your static content, do so.
Effective use of CDN: A CDN or content delivery network is a network of computers that each store a copy of your website. A browser can retrieve your site faster when a copy is nearby. By minimizing the distance and travel time between your visitor and the computer serving your site, content delivery networks accelerate your page loads.
These are the main categories that make up your score. In the top right corner of the test results, you will see them graded from A to F.
Now let’s look at the tabs:
Summary: The summary tab displays your site’s overall performance.
Details: The Details tab displays a more in-depth review of what files your site is loading as well as the time and order they are loaded.
Performance Review: The Performance Summary tab shows the full optimization checklist, a more detailed explanation of your summary results, and explains how the summary results are determined.
Run The Test
Now with those explanations out of the way, let’s run the page speed test. Enter the URL of your website here:
About Your Results
At this point, you should have a comprehensive understanding of how your site is loading, what your site is loading, the speed, the problem areas, and what areas you may need to work on. The next five tabs are advanced and beyond the scope of this article.
“I’ve Optimized All I Can And My Page Speed Is Still Not Perfect!!”
Now a few things have to be said here about page speed.
First, there are a number of factors that are just out of your hands. For example, third-party scripts such as Google Analytics, Google Fonts, Google ads, etc. ( Google’s own page speed test will flag your site for use of Google scripts! We know. Google flags our site too.) There are workarounds for some flags, but if you use third-party scripts, you won’t achieve a perfect score.
Second, and more importantly, do all you can to help your page speed but don’t obsess about it not being perfect. You are not doomed to have a sub-par site because you have a few points off or score less than 100%. Do what you can. And develop a habit of retesting your site periodically, especially when you make changes.
It’s important to test your site for speed.
Page speed matters. It keeps visitors on your site, leads to more conversions, and more importantly helps provide a positive experience for site visitors.
Take the page speed test above, familiarize yourself with the metrics, learn to fix problems within your control; then watch your engagement and conversions increase. Happy optimizing!
To see test your site speed from 24 locations around the globe with a single click, try this free page speed test.