How Site Speed Can Make or Break Your Business

Posted on December 10, 2020

How do you feel when a website is taking foreeeeeverrrrrr to load? Pretty annoyed, right? Do you stick around and wait for it to load? Exactly.

Your would-be customers feel the same.

In fact, nearly 70% of consumers say that page speed affects whether they’ll actually purchase from an online retailer, according to Unbounce’s 2019 Page Speed Report.

Despite knowing that load time really does matter, most marketers don’t see it as a priority to speed up their site, the report went on to mention.

From marketer to marketer and business owner to business owner, we’re here to tell you that site speed deserves your attention and focus. It doesn’t matter how well your company can solve your customer’s problems, nor how wonderful you might be. If snails move faster than your website, you’re losing customers.

fast car to illustrate site speed

Why Site Speed Matters

If you remember nothing else from this piece, remember this: Website speed is a critical piece of your overall user experience. When someone visits your website, you want them to not only find what they were looking for, but also inspire them to make a purchase — not leave in frustration.

Focusing on the user above all will, of course, provide all the benefits of a sterling reputation. You’ll also be rewarded indirectly from Google.

Search engines also want your users to have a good time on your site because the results also reflect the quality of the search engine. If your website is so terrible that people leave en masse before it even loads, Google will take notice.

Just like you don’t want to hang around with serial killers and other shady characters, Google doesn’t want users to associate its results with your painfully slow website. So it will begin demoting, and possibly even removing, your website in the search rankings. And if you’ve been penalized, repairing the damage is often way worse than preventing it in the first place.

Not only does Google care about its own user experience for search relevance, it cares about yours enough to make it official rankings criteria. Starting in May 2021, Core Web Vitals will be a key factor in determining where your website appears.

Core Web Vitals are quantitative measures of user experience. The metrics consider the time it takes for the largest element on your site to load, how many seconds tick away before a user can interact with your site, whether elements bounce around as they load, and similar metrics.

If your website speed is lightning fast (and the content on your website is top-notch), you’ll be rewarded in the form of higher rankings. If your website moves like the line at the DMV, you’ll find your site slipping in the rankings — and losing the visibility (and traffic) you once took for granted.

Which brings us to our last major point about why site speed matters: Traffic equals revenue. While nobody wants to annoy their audience or drop in Google rankings, these factors might not actually feel like a deal-breaker if you’re still bringing in enough revenue.

Studies have been able to quantify the effect site speed has on your business’s bottom line. For example, for every extra second it took to load the BBC’s website, they lost an additional 10% of users. Imagine if 10% of your customers just disappeared into thin air. It’s a high price to pay for something that’s preventable and fixable.

The reverse is true as well. Furniture Village, a British retailer, made changes on their site to reduce page load time by 20%. As a result, they found a 10% increase in conversion rate. Now imagine if you had 10% more customers. Pretty great, right?

speedometer to illustrate speed

How to Tell if Your Website Has a Site Speed Problem

Websites can become bogged down over time as your tech debt grows or your WordPress site develops an overreliance on plug-ins. In both of these cases, changes to your website add little bits of code to your website.

Over time, these bits of code stack on top of each other to create a giant pile. And for your website to load properly, every single line of frontend code has to be downloaded to run from your mobile device. The more lines of code, the longer it takes — and the slower your website will be.

Just like you don’t know how many lines of code have to load on your website, you also might not even know your website has a speed problem.

It won’t always be evident in analytics like the bounce rate. That happens because sometimes elements of your site (like WordPress plug-ins) are struggling to load. And this plug-in loads before your tracking script fires.

When this happens, users will leave before Google even knew they were there. If Google doesn’t know they were there and left, you’ll certainly never know.

So, how do you find out whether your website has a problem with site speed? You test early and test often. There are several free tools that will test your site speed and deliver insights into what you might fix to boost your score.

Here are a few to check out:

Of course, knowing you have a problem is the first step. The next thing to figure out is how to shave a few seconds off your time.

clock to illustrate time

How To Speed up Your Website

While those tools above will highlight specific areas to improve on your website, here are three tips that will help anyone.

  1. Compress and minify everything. The smaller you can make your website and the elements that comprise it, the faster it loads. Think of it like throwing a ball. A small baseball is pretty easy to throw pretty far pretty fast, which is why MLB players can throw a 95 mph fastball. A heavy bowling ball is tough to throw far away, and not even The Dude can throw a 15-pound bowling ball at 95 mph. Compress the images on your website, compress any other files you’re hosting, and compress your code by minifying your CSS and JavaScript.

Using a CDN and server-side compression with a smart “caching policy” is another key part of keeping the code to a minimum. Think of caching like only throwing the baseball once, then never having to throw it again. Users will always retain a copy of assets on your site, so when they come back, they won’t need to redownload those assets from the server. Not having to redownload assets shaves valuable seconds from your website’s load time.

  1. Reduce the number of redirects and server requests. This is just like driving a car. If you go straight to your destination, you’ll get there faster than if you have to keep making stops. Every additional stop you have to make adds time on the clock — even if it’s on the way. And every time someone looking for a particular page needs to actually go somewhere else, the longer it will take to get to where they’re headed.

  2. Use good code. When making changes to your website, work with a developer instead of installing another WordPress plug-in. Because they designed the website, a fast load time will be a given — and all of your features will play well together. WordPress plug-ins are mostly built in a vacuum, without much regard to how anything else on your website might work. If a plug-in doesn’t play well with some other element of your website, not only will it slow down your website, it could cause a damaging crash.

Because plug-ins are built to accommodate a large variety of people, they include a LOT of code. Even if you’re using just 5% of that plugin’s code/features, it is possible that the other 95% is still having to run on the user’s device even if they aren’t using it. Of course, this means your site speed suffers.

The Takeaway

Site speed continues to be a big deal, and it will only become more important. Just because we tolerated the painstaking crawl of dial-up in the ‘90s doesn’t mean we want it today. If there’s anything you take away from this piece, it should be the following:

  • A fast site speed means pleasing your users and the Google Gods, which means you’re more likely to be rewarded for your efforts in the form of higher rankings. Higher rankings mean more traffic, and more traffic leads to more revenue.
  • You might not even know your site has a loading issue, so you should test regularly.
  • Once you have the results, there are a few steps you can take to speed up your website.

If you think your website could use some love, let us know. We’d be happy to give you some advice — or a free SEO audit (which includes more than just keyword rankings). Get in touch and we’ll talk.