Ask anyone and they will tell you that slow speed kills conversions — and it’s not just their imagination.
Matt Schmitz, Web Performance Engineer at Dotcom-Monitor, points out:
“Speed is incredibly important with respect to conversions, as most people are beginning to realize. We’re living in such different times from the 1990s/early 2000s when waiting for a website to load was the norm. With so many people having LTE smartphones in their pockets and broadband internet at home, 75% of users will typically bounce as page load times pass the three second mark.”
Why Page Speed Matters
That’s probably why Google has been encouraging website owners to speed up their sites for the past 5 years. In 2010, page speed was outed as Google ranking factor, showing that it had an impact on search engine optimization (SEO), and Google has continued to emphasize the need for speed because of the rising use of mobile devices.
That’s because when it comes to mobile user experience, speed rules, and that carries over to expectations for browsing on other devices.
Matt adds, “It’s crazy to think that people don’t have an “online attention span” greater than a few seconds, but it is the truth; expectations are simply higher now.”
But web page speed is not just about SEO and a good user experience; slow sites also affect other conversion metrics, like trust, as Matt points out:
“There’s also a relatively big connection to a slow-loading website and user trust; users inherently see a poor performing website as “untrustworthy” and this can have a major impact on conversions, branding, and all sorts of things that are important to businesses.”
He adds: “This doesn’t just affect businesses; it affects everyone. If you’re a blogger looking to build an audience, then your ‘conversion’ metric is new readers. If your content loads slowly or load times lack consistency, your audience may see you as untrustworthy or simply not authoritative.”
That’s why website owners and marketers have to pay attention to page speed if they’re going to experience the best conversion rates.
Do You Have a Page Speed Problem?
There’s one quick way to find out if you might have a page speed problem. Login to your Google Analytics account and navigate to Behavior > Site speed > Overview.
You will get a report on the average page load page download time, the domain lookup time and the average server response time for your site.
Then check out the Page Timings section to see how individual pages compare to the overall page load rate. Look out for any red boxes that indicate that you have a particularly slow page.
Finally, check out the Speed Suggestions section where Google suggests options for making your pages load even faster. You also get a page speed score for each of your pages. This should be in the 80s — any less and you have a problem.
How to Test Your Page Speed
If page speed is an issue for your site, then you can also use other tools to get more detail on the causes. A good starting point is Google Webmaster Tools.
When you’re logged into Google Webmaster Tools, click on the site you wish to check. Go to Search Traffic and click on the Mobile Usability link. This will identify any mobile site speed errors.
Next, visit the Other Resources section and go to the Page Speed Insights tool (you can also use this tool on its own external site).
Plug in the URL (it may load automatically if you are logged into Webmaster Tools), and you will get a website score between 0 and 100, with a list of site speed issues. These are color coded, with red issues being critical and yellow being useful to fix. You also get different scores for desktop and mobile usability so you can make sure your pages work for both groups of users.
5 Tools for Checking Page Speed
Google aside, there are many other tools you can use for checking page speed for free. Here are a few to consider. For all of these, just type in your URL, hit the appropriate button and wait for the results:
- GTMetrix is one of my favorite page speed checkers because it aggregates information from Page Speed Insights and Yslow to give your site an aggregate speed grade from A to F. You also get a detailed list of issues to fix, ranked with the most critical first.
- Pingdom also gives you a site performance grade, as well as page analysis and a waterfall analysis helping you to see which aspects of your site are causing the problem.
- Dotcom-Monitor also provides a waterfall analysis, and one of its strengths is showing page load time from a variety of locations so you can see where external issues might be a factor in a slow site.
- Load Impact uses real browsing scenarios to see how your pages stack up. It also provides handy charts showing the distribution of your content.
- Webpage Test works similarly to the other tools, but also allows you to test page speed for different browsers and locations.
All the reports will give you a list of issues you can address to improve page speed and boost conversions. Matt Schmitz highlights some common problems: “Some of the most common causes of slow page load speeds are poor quality web hosting, poorly-optimized websites (too many large images, overly-complex page elements, cluttered code, etc), and DNS issues.”
What About Web Applications?
Of course, it’s not just the main page elements you have to consider when assessing speed, as Matt points out: “Web application performance is often independent of page load time. A good example of a web application is a shopping cart on an e-commerce website.
Sure, the basic page elements might load quickly, but when the user tries to add products to the cart, recalculate totals, or checkout, they might experience a slowdown.”
Once you have identified the causes of slowdown, fix them and test again. When your page speed tester gives an A grade, then maybe your target market will too!
What steps have you taken to address slow page speed?
Read other Crazy Egg articles by Sharon Hurley Hall.