When you click on other people’s websites you’re bound to quickly notice any lag or delay with page loading times. As well as creating feelings of frustration, this delay will also influence your opinion of the site you are visiting as well as determine how long you stick around.
As obvious as it might be when visiting other sites, many business owners don’t make the same connection and think about how frustrating it is when it comes to loading their own website pages. There are a couple of reasons for this:
- You are loading from a well-stocked cache that will give you faster loading times than your users will receive
- You are going onto your website for different reasons to your users so your mindset when loading your own pages is different to when you are researching a product or company
- You already have established brand awareness and knowledge of your company that won’t be easily shaken by small things, like website loading times.
In this blog, we’ll cover how to get data and read it to put yourself in your user’s shoes and get better page loading times, click-throughs and conversions.
Why Does Page Loading Time Matter?
To really understand how important your business website loading times are you need to step outside of your business thinking and look at your website from the point of view of your users.
Why does it matter so much? Studies of online behaviour show a strong correlation between page load times and bounce rates. Every second counts towards retaining customers and winning loyalty. A two-second load time carries an average bounce rate of 9%, while pages while a five-second load time is as high as 38% – which keeps escalating dramatically for every second after this.
If your loading time isn’t instant (and I really do mean instant), you will lose customers. They will be quick to dismiss your offer and feel frustration that causes them to look at your competition’s website instead.
Let’s say you have a six-second page loading time – the best case scenario is your visitor will stay with you and wait it out, but keep in mind they are already annoyed and doubting your services before they’ve even started reading your offer or looking at your contacts and prices.
It’s not just a matter of impatience and instant gratification. Fast loading time gives a user a feeling of being in control and in touch with a brand that knows what they are doing.
So what do you need to put aside your personal experiences and emotions so you can get an exact idea of what’s going on? There is only one place to look: Data.
How does Google come into Website Loading Times?
Your user experience and Google ranking are pretty much one and the same. That’s because Google is geared toward promoting websites that give users a highly rewarding and satisfying experience. Because slow load times mean dissatisfied users (and fewer completed click-throughs) Google gives credit to websites that load fast. To get a really great Google ranking you’ll need to address more than just a fast loading speed, but it’s important to note that an amazing website with high-quality content won’t rank as well as it could if the loading times are slower than three seconds.
Google uses the following data to justify promoting fast websites (and penalising slower ones)
Slow loading times:
- Increase bounce rates by 32% at three seconds loading time
- Increase bounce rates by 90% at five seconds loading time
- Increase bounce rates by 123% at 10 seconds loading time
This is why Google has recently introduced Core Web Vitals that target loading times as a priority as well as how the page loads and how stable a page is as it loads and just after it loads.
What is a Website Loading Speed Test?
Numbers and site data can give you an exact and decisive read on what is really happening on your website as well as how quickly changes you make are having an impact. Data is the easiest and most informative way to understand your website as well as make plans to fix it. There are plenty of free or inexpensive tools available for you to do this. For website speed the go-to tool is a Page Loading Speed Test.
What is a speed test exactly?
There are two key elements to understand here:
The first is Website Speed. This is how fast webpage information is downloaded from the hosting server to be sent and displayed within your user’s browser.
The second is Page Load Time. This is how long it takes to load and display your webpage content on your user’s screen – time starts when your user clicks the link to your site.
Different online tools will give you different data to help read and manage your website speed. They can give you analysis on what is hurting your speed times, where lag is coming from as well as insights for how to go about fixing issues. You can use multiple tools to give you the best range of information or just keep it simple and work with the tool that is easiest for you to understand and manage.
At the very least you will get a measure of your loading times as a user, rather than getting false information from looking at your own browser loading times which will be inaccurate due to your server proximity, cache and biassed interactions.
If you are finding the number of tools or volume of data available overwhelming you can always get us to run the tests for you and manage your website speed as part of a website maintenance package.
Want us to audit, enhance and improve your site speed?
Speed kills, and if your site is slow, you’re dead. Our Site Speed Audit has been designed to take a slow, sluggish, underperforming site and give it the clean-up it needs to hit new heights.
How do I run a Speed Test on my computer?
There are a variety of speed testing tools available that can run from your computer and don’t need a lot of technical experience to interpret or take action.
It’s worth looking around at different options to see what is a good fit for your ability as well as your website specifics. Some will be better at targeting WordPress loading issues, giving you data on which plugins are causing lag as well as what alternative plugins you might like to try that will deliver the same result but without the loading issues.
We like GTMetrix as well as Pingdom as these both return a lot of data that get to the heart of what’s slowing your website down on the user’s end. You will need an account to get the best results, it’s free and worthwhile entering your email address to obtain.
Having a GTMetrix account allows you to change your test location to target where your main user groups are based and get information on server relay time by location. It may be that your website server is great at delivering your site information to some users very quickly and others too slowly.
Having the ability to test in different locations gives you the flexibility to provide fast loading speeds and have accurate data no matter where your users are located. Your account will also save your test data so you can review it and measure your progress against past tests to see if the changes you are making are showing in reduced loading times.
As well as your overall loading speed GTMetrix will show you:
- How many files were loaded
- How long each file took to load
- Which were your slowest-loading files
This makes it easy to target the areas that are not working and provide solutions that will either remove the issues or swap them for more efficient plug-ins or resources.
Another option is Google’s Pagespeed Insights tool. This free online tool won’t give you a number figure on how fast your page loading time is but you will get some handy data on where to improve your website loading time. For this to work all you need to do is type in your website URL – meaning you can also use it to see competitor’s page loading strengths and weaknesses.
How to Take Action After Running a Business Website Speed Test?
Once you have completed your speed test there are a number of areas you will need to address. If your website is a little out of date or you have gone a little overboard with plug-ins and fancy extras this list may be long. Just tackle each issue one by one. You’ll build confidence in your ability as you go. Start with your home page or the pages that are most visited via links that see the most traffic.
You can also contact us to ask for help and advice, see about a website rebuild or have us manage your website for you to take the load off your shoulders.
You are looking to achieve a website with a loading speed of one second or even less. This will be appealing not only to users clicking your links but also to Google’s Core Web Vitals to help promote your website on relevant Google search return lists.
How you achieve this fast website loading result will depend on your individual website structure as well as what issues were flagged in your data. How you take action will also depend on how complex the issues are and what your confidence level is when it comes to addressing website issues and building a great website.
What are the typical issues slowing down my website loading time?
There are some typical issues we see all the time with website design that slow down website loading times and cause high bounce rates. In most cases, these issues are easy to address and take a small amount of time and effort to maintain going forward. Even though these are all avoidable issues and simple fixes it’s surprising how many business website owners fail to make corrections and leave these high-impact issues to run riot behind the scenes.
Here are the biggest problems that typically are seen in slow-loading business websites:
#1. Budget web hosting
Before you even start to design and launch your website you need to put effort into finding the right host. While many start-up businesses go with the cheapest host available, you get what you pay for. As their business scales and grows in popularity it is easy to overlook the website host’s performance. While a cheaper, shared server might be fine starting out, remember to revisit our host choices and upgrade to meet your user demand and traffic volume as you grow.
There are plenty of different server levels to choose from that will come with different levels of support and costs. To simplify things:
- Choose a provider who can guarantee at least 99.90% uptime
- Use VPS and dedicated servers if your budget allows – or plan to move up to these servers as your business grows
- Large companies and eCommerce websites need to consider using multiple dedicated servers to maintain fast website loading times
#2. Images are not optimised
The maths is simple: The larger your file sizes (and the more files you have) the longer it will take for your pages to load. Optimised images compress your images to show the highest possible quality for the lowest possible file size. This is far more effective than leaving your images or scripts at their original size. If you resize your images without optimising you will end up with poor-quality, grainy images that look cheap and unprofessional.
It’s essential that you optimise all images, videos and scripts to give you maximum effect with minimum space used.
There are plenty of great tools that can help you optimise the existing images on your site quickly and easily as well as convert any images as you upload them. It’s also important to delete duplicate files you may have hidden in your website storage and library folders – again, optimisation tools are available that can do these tasks for you.
#3. Your website is too busy
Less really is more. An overly busy website includes behind-the-scenes plug-ins that may be excessive or unnecessary. Be selective about the plugins you use as each one will require loading time. When it comes to website design make sure you only have the content that is actually needed to get your message across. A website that is simple and clear is far more effective in winning users’ trust conversions than one that has all the bells and whistles.
#4. You haven’t considered mobile pages
Users are tapping into the internet on the go more than ever, and mobile web searches are outweighing those done from desktop machines as people are not tied to desks as much anymore and are looking for information and researching purchases and services while out and about. Knowing this means it becomes all important to create a dedicated website design suited to mobiles and handheld screens. That includes touchscreen-friendly options, hamburger menus and well-presented pathways to get users from A to B easily.
The best way to strip down your content for instant mobile loading is to ask an experienced developer to adapt your pages for you and maintain them going forward.
While testing changes takes time and a little extra effort it’s a step you just can’t miss. As well as testing to make sure the site runs well on a screen, also check the data to see if there are quantifiable improvements as well as to flag any errors or unwanted ramifications. You want to be the first to know if things have gone wrong, not to hear about it from your prospects or see it on your next bounce ratings.
After completing your changes be sure to test both on a screen and through your data tools.
It might take some time to work through the long list of issues before you’ll see any marked difference in your page loading times. Even so, I’d still say test and publish in small stages so you can monitor your progress and know where to backtrack if you make a wrong move.
If you have done all you can to make improvements on your end of the website and your site is still showing slow loading times, the most probable explanation is poor web hosting.
If you can’t manage your website speed yourself due to not having the knowledge or not having the time, get a professional website developer to assist you. In most cases, there isn’t a lot to do to fix and maintain website speed so the costs are low and the rewards are high.
Often even the smallest changes you make to your website can result in instantly knocking seconds off your page loading times. It is possible to see instant results, especially if your images haven’t been optimised or you have an excessive amount of plug-ins.
You can use the information in this blog to find and use online tools to increase your website speed.
Improving your page loading times has been proven to reduce bounce rates and improve conversions. As an added bonus, as well as proving a more trustworthy and reliable website for your users you also win favour with Google’s core web vitals and see an increase in your search engine rankings.