Many hardworking webmasters overlook one consistently important key to a successful website.
Page speed matters!
The #1 Reason Why Page Speed Matters
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 it pleasant or frustrating?
- Must the visitor wait long for pages to load?
- Is information easy to find?
- Do all the links work?
- And so on…
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 tried to follow a link in a blog or web page because the page never loaded?
Page speed does not guarantee traffic but it eliminates the drop-off barrier.
If you have great content, great products, and informative material, optimized page speed increases your chance to engage your audience. Some of your target audience may never see your site if it loads slowly.
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. Those with patience may linger long enough to decide they’ll buy your book. They click the Buy button. The wheel spins again. Too many seconds later, as the wheel continues spinning, they conclude they don’t really need your book and abandon your site.
This is a simple example but the underlying point is important. Your slow page speed stopped you from making a sale. That’s a conversion you don’t need to forfeit.
Fast loading pages deter visitors from abandoning your site prematurely.
3. Boost Search Engine Rankings
A website that loads fast improves your search engine rankings in two ways:
First, and I will have to repeat myself, it removes “mood-altering” barriers. A faster site = happier visitors = better engagement = better rankings.
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, if your website is optimized for speed, your search rankings may improve.
Checking Your Website’s Page Speed
So how is your website doing? How can you check?
Well, you can run a page speed test right here on our page with WebPagetest.
What exactly does WebPagetest check? Well, a lot! But 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 often retrieve the page faster when a copy is nearby. In this way, content delivery networks can 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: If you click on the Details tab you will see a more in-depth review of what files your site is loading as well as the time and order they are loaded.
Performance Review: Under the Performance Summary tab, you get the full optimization checklist, a more detailed explanation of your summary results and how exactly the summary results are determined.
Let’s Run The Test
Now with those explanations out of the way, let’s run the page speed test. Just 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 a score less than 100%. Do what you can. And develop a habit of retesting your site periodically, especially when you make changes.
So 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!