Richard Conway explains why website speed is more important than ever in business and what you can do to improve yours.
What does this sentence you are reading here, and optimal website speed, have in common?
The average person would take just over three seconds to read that sentence and absorb the meaning and question completely. If someone told you it took them 30 seconds to read that same sentence, what would your assumption be?
You’d assume – as everyone would – that the person was a slow reader and, when surrounded by a world of people who can read at ten times the speed, they wouldn’t be your first choice for your personal orator.
Unfortunately, the same rule of assumption applies to website speed, and in 2019 it will undoubtedly make or break a business in the digital space.
What is a second worth?
The value of a second is nothing to be scoffed at. When we’re talking about website speed, the difference of a few seconds can mean increased traffic and leads or a crippling bounce rate that your business or website may not recover from.
US-based digital marketing agency Portent recently conducted research around site speed and the associated increase in conversions and leads. According to their research – referenced by web influencer Neil Patel – the difference between a one-second site load speed and a two-second site load speed is a value increase of 100 percent.
Is doubling the value of your website pages worth speeding up your load time? Of course. However, the background value for your customers is equally important.
In business, it’s easy to get lost in your own sense of focus. I’m fortunate that working in SEO and the digital marketing world requires me to always maintain a balance of customer and client benefit.
In that sense, while a faster-loading website can reduce the strain on your servers and improve your site’s position in search results, the benefits to the customer or user are what help drive those greater value figures above through increased conversions.
Why website speed is important
It’s easy to look at the downsides of website speed and feel overwhelmed by a sense of impending and unavoidable failure.
Will someone really leave your website if it takes longer than four seconds to load? You’ll be comforted to know that the average site doesn’t even sit close to that, rather it clocks in at around eight seconds. The question you really want to ask yourself is: do you want to be like everyone else, or stand out from the crowd?
Fortunately, the digital space isn’t designed to punish; it’s designed to reward those who put the time and energy into perfecting their digital presence. Google algorithms have steadily been refined to encourage the best of the Internet; information and education.
However, just as algorithms change, so does the way we browse the Internet and seek out information. The number of users browsing the Internet on their smartphone has vastly increased in recent years, making the idea of a mobile-optimised website no longer a novelty but a necessity.
If you aren’t actively staying on top of digital marketing trends and demands from customers in the digital space, it’s not uncommon for a change to pass you by. This is why, at Pure SEO, we spend our free time researching and staying up to date with any, and all, changes to the world of digital marketing.
Quick-and-easy fixes for your sluggish website
There are many factors that can determine a slower load speed for your website. A comprehensive solution would include a full site audit to measure all aspects of on-page and off-page SEO (search engine optimisation), but there are some quick checks you can make yourself if your business page is stuck in ‘loading limbo’:
1. Minify code and combine files
This is an important factor for many to consider – unless you’ve built your own website, there’s a high chance that even some of your code could easily be overcomplicated. Of course, as these files are vital to your website’s performance and appearance, you should engage with a trusted professional to assess and minify your web code.
If you’re running a business that used a drag-and-drop website builder to create your business website, it’s almost guaranteed that your pages will be clogged with messy and unneeded code.
2. Reduce the number of HTTP requests
A website isn’t a static, singular printout that stays permanently embedded onto the Internet. We all know this, but contemplating the process around how a website is ‘always there but not’ helps understand the importance of reducing HTTP requests.
When you load a website, all the images, scripts, styles and other page elements are downloaded. Often this is cached by users to provide a faster returning load speed, but if you’re simply browsing for the first time everything is downloaded. The more elements you have, the more time and requests required to download components and allow your website to render.
Reduce the number of elements on the page, combine files and code through minifying, and you’ll see an increase in speed right away.
3. Monitor mobile page speed
It’s in your best interest to provide a fast, user-friendly site for customers and users on their mobile phone. While this point is often lost in a sea of advice, in 2019 it will prove to be crucial for businesses online.
Smartphone-based browsing requires a website optimised for mobile, but also one that accounts for a range of Internet speeds – although most of the country are on 4G mobile networks or Wi-Fi, isolating your customer base to only that demographic can mean missing out on a wealth of potential clients or customers.
Final thoughts on website speed
To check your website speed and get actionable ways to improve the speed, head to Google’s free online tool: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
As with everything else in digital marketing, there is no ultimate conclusion. Algorithms will continue to change, and we will follow suit in learning how best to understand and use these to our advantage.
Social trends, on the other hand, are easier to follow – and in 2019 the trend is for fast, quality information; no longer asked for by potential customers, but demanded.