As a business owner, what’s your biggest goal for your website?
We’re going to guess you said something along the lines of more leads! And you wouldn’t be alone. Regardless of your industry, whether you operate an e-commerce site or a simple one-pager with some basic info about what you do, the main goal of almost every website is to attract new business.
These days, everyone has an opinion on what makes a great website, and at the same time, what you can do to that site to generate more leads. With a seemingly endless list of website optimization tips and tricks, it’s easy to get lost down the rabbit hole and hone in on one of the many factors that can affect your lead generation.
From SEO (search engine optimization) to SEM (search engine marketing), social media and even UX (user experience) there are many factors at play here.
Perhaps the biggest factor of all in whether or not your website visitors convert is also one of the most overlooked. We’re talking about page load time. The good news is, if you are using a CMS (content management system) like Drupal or WordPress, this is something you can fix.
Why is page load time important?
Web developers and others in the know have long been preaching the importance of a ‘mobile first’ mentality when it comes to website design, but it wasn’t until June 2018 when Google released a new update effectively penalizing badly performing sites that people began to listen.
As part of this update, when crawling your website Google will take note of things like page load time and site responsiveness and rate the site accordingly. Assuming your site was similar to your competitor’s in every other way if your site had a slower load time, Google is likely to penalize you by pushing you further down in organic search results.
We know what you’re thinking - why would Google do that to me? The fact of the matter is; Google is just doing what they’ve always done - provide the best experience for their users. And this is the same thing you should be doing for visitors to your site. While your ranking on search engines like Google is important, it’s nothing compared to how your customers and potential leads feel about your site.
These days, people live online and are used to fast, well-performing websites. If your site fails to perform, it can have huge implications for your conversation rate. Generally speaking, every 1-second delay means a 7% reduction in conversions for your site. At the same time, every extra 1 second of page load time results in a 16% drop in consumer satisfaction. And that’s what you need to watch out for. If a user isn’t satisfied with their experience on your website, studies show that they are more likely to tell friends and family about their experience.
Research has shown that over half of mobile users will leave a website if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds. At the same time, the average website load time on mobile is a whopping 15 seconds! While that may sound scary, it also means that with a speedy site you have the ability to outrank your competitors.
How can I test my site?
Now for the good news. There are a number of free online tools that will do a quick scan of your website and give you information on site speed as well as any major issues. One of the best options is Google’s own Page Speed Insights tool. While Google stashes this away for use by developers, it’s simple enough for anyone to use.
To begin, enter your URL and Google will analyze how well your site performs on both desktop and mobile. Google will then give your website a rating between 0 and 100.
0-49 - slow
50-89 - average
90-100 - fast
The best part of the Page Speed Insights tool is the amount of information it provides, breaking down the areas of concern on your website and providing actionable recommendations on areas where you can improve to boost your page load time.
Alternatively, there are a huge number of online resources like GTmetrix and Pingdom that will run a similar check on your site, assigning you a letter grade based on its performance.
What can I do to fix a slow site?
Based on the results of your scan you should have some areas of improvement for your website. Without getting too technical, let’s look at some relatively simple fixes that can have a big impact on your site load time.
Unsurprisingly, images are one of the major contributors to slow page load time. If you have an image heavy site, a few quick changes can dramatically improve your site speed. Here are some steps you can take to reduce the space used by your images.
Changing the file type from .png to .jpeg is quick and dramatically reduces the size of the file.
Crop the images themselves. 9 times out of 10, a full-size image won’t be needed to properly display on your site. Cropping your images down from their original size will help save valuable load time. Don’t worry if you don’t have the Adobe Suite, check out free online tool Pixlr.
Reduce the file size within your site. Depending on your CMS, there are a number of modules or plugins that, once installed, will work to reduce the file size of all the images on your website. If you are using Drupal, check out reSmush.it.
Opting to cache your site essentially saves return visitors from having to reload your entire site every time they return. Instead, a snapshot of your website is saved in the users’ browser history which dramatically improves the page load time and their experience on your website. Regardless of your CMS, there are lots of options available to begin caching on your site.
If you’ve made it this far, great job! Now for the fun part… speeding up your site and boosting your conversions. This is by no means a definitive list of fixes, rather a few quick tips that are worth trying. Your first step should still be doing a diagnostic test of your site and proceeding from there.