JTech Communications
Website speeds

Are You Losing Customers from Your Website's Slow Page Load Time?

by Mike Kostrey - January 27, 2021
Best Practices
As a business owner, do you know how fast or slow your website pages load and how you stand relative to your competitors? It is critical to understand because slow speeds can cause users to abandon your site, negatively affect your search rankings, and impact your company’s success online.

A one-second delay in page loading carries a high cost - causing 11% fewer page views, 16% decrease in customer satisfaction, and a 7% loss in conversions. Since 47% of consumers expect sites to load in 2 seconds or less, your site must be ready to perform swiftly for each visitor. If the page load is over 3 seconds, you will lose almost half of visitors before they even arrive at your site content.

As businesses learn how critical site load speed is, measurement becomes essential to know your speeds and identify any issues that are slowing your page delivery. Web page load speed is critically important to both users and search engines. Web professionals can help optimize your website design and improve your page speed, customer experience, and competitive position.
WHY PAGE LOAD SPEED IS SO IMPORTANT

The majority of web users expect a site to load within 2-3 seconds. 53% of mobile users will abandon the page if the load time is over 3 seconds. Many sites across various industries average load speeds of 5-7 seconds. These generally slow load speeds fail to attain industry best practice goals or come close to customers' expectations. A 25% decrease in conversion rates occurs with just one extra second of page load time.

Website load speeds need to be a foremost priority for an online business to achieve top site performance. If you can accelerate the load speed of your website, you can gain a competitive advantage in search visibility and ultimately customer conversions over those pages with slower load times.

HOW TO TEST THE SPEED OF A WEBSITE

To learn how to accelerate your website load speed, proper measurement is essential to know your web page delivery speeds and identify any issues that are slowing down your page delivery.

Page speed measures how quickly a unique page of your website loads content. One tool, Google PageSpeed Insights shows a site speed score on both mobile and desktop. It provides a quick snapshot of your website’s speed, usability, and technical optimization.

Many different tools are available to measure page loading that provides seconds to load metrics, with relative performance scores and grades. These grades are a starting point for your web design team efforts and SEO provider’s optimization steps to improve performance. Top-performing websites regularly monitor their page loading efficacy to consistently optimize performance.

Most websites fail the 3-second load best practice benchmark. In a recent MachMetrics study, the average page speed index is 4.7 seconds on loading on desktop and 11.4 seconds on mobile.

Now with mobile-first indexing, the fast user experience is a primary search ranking factor. Google wants to direct users to sites that load and function well on mobile devices. To rank well it has become essential to reduce the loading time of the website on all form factors, most specifically on mobile to feature an easy and quick user experience. Desktop search rankings are now fundamentally based on mobile performance.

A key standardized measure of page speed is known as TTFB. TTFB (Time to First Byte) is the browser wait time to get the initial piece of web page data from the requested web server. It measures web server responsiveness.

TTFB measures the time between a user request for a site page and when the browser receives the first bit of information from the server. The web hosting provider plays an enormous role in whether or not your TTFB is competitive. A target benchmark for TTFB is to be under 1.3 seconds. Optimizing web delivery reduces server response time and improves TTFB. The goal of web delivery is to be better than the industry standard to satisfy high customer expectations.

A good page load time and lower TTFB gives you the best bang for your buck on your website investment. There is a high correlation between low load speed and higher average value derived from your pages. Faster page speed is very important to users and forms a basis of interaction for the user's perceived value of that page experience.
PAGE USER EXPERIENCE

Google Page Experience is a composite measurement of multiple metrics which together form a set of search ranking factors. Google Page Experience is a signal for search visibility that applies primarily to mobile search. A major update of these metrics and measurement systems will roll out in mid-2021 that will greatly impact Google search ranking in the future.

Search Signals Chart
Search Signals Chart
Measuring a user’s experience on a web page involves a large set of measurement criteria used by Google with specific metrics designed to understand how a user will observe their personal experience of using a particular web page. These metrics primarily include page load speed, mobile-friendly format, HTTPS secure or not, intrusive advertising, and safe browsing.

Using these metrics combined with the new set of Core Web Vitals the Google search algorithms attempt to assess web pages based on the user’s perceived quality of experience when interacting with that page. Engaging page content is still very important, but a positive page experience can enhance search visibility when it is relatively stronger than similar relevant content pages.

The new ranking factors using Google Page Experience integrates the new Core Web Values user-centered metrics to evaluate website performance. It will reward pages that offer a better user experience. Optimization of these metrics is important to deliver a good overall user page experience.

GOOGLE CORE WEB VITALS

A significant new component of Google Page Experience is Core Web Vitals. First presented by Google in 2020, it will become an important search ranking factor in 2021. These metrics focus on user completion of events on a page. The score values are dynamic as users interact with the page. Scores are better when events execute faster. There are three outcome grades - Good (passes), Needs Improvement, and Fail.

Core Web Vitals are an additional layer of Google page experience criteria for a user’s perceived experience with that page. This is built upon the foundational factors of mobile-friendliness, HTTPS, no interstitial ads, safe browsing, page speed, and reliability. The Google Page Experience update including Core Web Vitals is expected to go live in May 2021 to begin impacting search ranking based on these factors.

Here is a more detailed description of the three Current Metrics in Google Core Web Vitals: LCP, CLS, and FID

(LCP) Largest Contentful Paint (Loading) - A measurement of how long it takes for your site to display key page elements to the user. It is not only page loading speed but the presentation of desired content above the fold with the first content stage important to the user. A faster overall LCP above the fold and all other stages with important content gives a higher LCP and higher search ranking. LCP should transpire in under 2.5 seconds after the page begins to load.

(FID) First Input Delay (Interactivity) - A reflection of the overall responsiveness of your web page. This metric measures the time of a user’s clicks, scrolls, and keyboard input interactions with the page and the browser speed to respond. It indicates the frustration of a user between their taking an action and the website responding to that action. This is a major input of the site UX and user satisfaction is highly correlated to targeted conversions. FID should be less than 100 milliseconds to generate a good user experience.

(CLS) Cumulative Layout Shift (Visual Stability) - Measures the frequency of changing page layouts and visual design continuity. Continually changing navigation, ads, button impacts, and content position displacement are disruptive for users. Page dimensions that support user interaction intent to avoid intrusion and poor on-page experiences produce higher search ranking. The CLS should maintain a score under 0.1 for a good experience.

With knowledge of the Core Web Vitals here are steps that a website manager can take to improve site performance benchmarking for these new metrics.

  • Use an excellent web hosting service
  • Deploy Lite web pages for fast loading
  • Make sure your site is optimized for mobile loading and browsing
  • Always assure solid website security
  • Don’t use any intrusive or nuisance ad interstitials that interfere with page content
HOW TO IMPROVE PAGE LOAD SPEED

Knowing that site speed is vital to attain desired performance from your site, how can you speed up the site load speed. Two critical areas for speed optimization are image compression and the minimization of HTTP requests.

Image compression may be the foremost speed optimization task and a core of the overall job. The smaller the image files, the faster your site will load. Faster loads equal reduced time to interact to improve user experience and conversion rate.

  • Use Gzip if it is enabled
  • Avoid large unoptimized images that can be the biggest cause of slow pages
  • Utilize appropriate image compression utilities (JTech offers a proprietary My JTech content management system for image compression and optimization https://jtech.digital/my-jtech.)
  • Every image, content container, and design element needs to be optimized to achieve the best load speeds possible
  • Run a compression audit to make files as small as possible, smaller files load faster, compress files, use JPG and PNG graphic images with optimal compression to reduce load size and maintain optimal image clarity on the website
  • Remember that images are necessary for e-commerce conversion, but compression is critical for page speed to boost conversion rates, particularly image-heavy pages

There are a number of effective methods to Minimize HTTP requests which result in fewer file requests of the web server and a faster loading website.

  • Reduce image size
  • Utilize lazy loading techniques for images on heavy web pages
  • Delete unnecessary images - Especially vital on commerce sites with heavy images
  • Minify files to remove unnecessary characters from your files and streamline code to process functions faster
  • Combine HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and font files into smaller groups for fewer files to load to reduce HTTP requests
  • Utilize asynchronous loading with minified HTML and CSS files that can load simultaneously so files don’t have to get in line and wait for other slower files to complete loading
  • Large JavaScript files can be deferred from loading to enhance overall speed as other elements can load first without delay
  • Browser caching can reduce significant time for returning visitors and create a better experience because their browser has already cached many of the components of your site from previous visits and only a few elements need to be loaded on subsequent site visits
  • Use a CDN or other external hosting option for video that delivers better performance from specialized hosting platforms
  • CSS optimization for faster loading
  • Uninstall unused plugin’s
WHAT EFFECT DOES SITE SPEED HAVE ON SEO

Since page speed does matter to both search engines and your visitors is does affect your website SEO. Optimizing page load speed can have a positive material impact on your website rankings in search engine results. You need to be speed competitive with the other top 10 organic results to earn placement on the first search page. Top ranking pages typically all have fast page load speeds in common, which is a significant ranking factor.

It is crucial to be under 3 seconds on average and ideally under 2 seconds to greatly improve page engagement and conversions. Average site page loads are commonly over 7 seconds. Fast page load speeds reduce bounce rates which indicate greater user interaction that can positively impact search ranking.

If a site is slow to load, users will frequently bounce, visitors will spend less time on the site, and Google will crawl fewer pages which can all negatively affect search engine indexation.

An SEO professional can optimize your page speed to address the new ranking metrics by running an SEO audit to determine the reasons why your site may be lagging. Site speed scores can be measured, monitored, and continually optimized so the site owner knows how they stand competitively and understand their rate of progress in reaching their goals for improvement in page speed and search visibility.

A WEB PARTNER FOR HIGH-SPEED SITES

Your business went to great effort to build your website and to get the most from that investment it must be optimized for speed to improve visibility, conversions, and user experience as your basis for online success.

Speed always plays a major role in delivering conversions. 79% of customers said they would not return to a site with slow performance. Walmart online found that every 1 second of load time improvement equals a 2% conversion rate increase.

Throughout the website development and optimization process, it’s vital to use exacting website design techniques to construct high-speed performance sites and pages. JTech specializes in sites built for speed with an in-house digital marketing team able to monitor the site over time to continually optimize performance. SEO services are integrated with all new JTech websites. The web development and SEO teams ensure that all of the most effective technical and SEO page speed optimizations are included in each new website.

JTech partners with your business over the long-term to monitor your current site performance and address any page speed issues. For older sites, we diagnose the issues, whether images, page elements, or bloated code, and our team uses proven SEO tools to address these issues and positively impact page speed performance.

Page speed optimization can be an overwhelming process for those without specialized SEO experience. When you need to improve your current site speed, turn to JTech for specialized measurement, optimization planning, and technical implementation to remedy the site ills and have a realistic plan to improve your performance.

Learn about the value that fast web page speeds bring to your business and how a holistic partner can continually optimize and support your website's success. Reach out today for your Web Vitals evaluation.

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