When you click on other people’s websites, you’re bound to notice any lag or delay with page loading times quickly. As well as creating feelings of frustration, this delay will influence your opinion of the site you are visiting and 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 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 pages is different to when you are researching a product or company.
- You already have established brand awareness and knowledge of your company that small things like website loading times won’t quickly shake.
In this blog, we’ll cover how to get and read data to put yourself in your user’s shoes and get better page loading times, click-throughs and conversions.
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Why Does Page Loading Time Matter?
To 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 a five-second load time is as high as 38% – which keeps escalating dramatically for every second after this.
You will lose customers if your loading time isn’t instant (and I do mean instant). They will quickly 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 to get an exact idea of what’s happening? 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 the same. That’s because Google is geared toward promoting websites that give users an enriching 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 great Google ranking, you’ll need to address more than just a fast loading speed, but it’s important to note that a fantastic 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 a three-second loading time.
- Increase bounce rates by 90% at a five-second loading time.
- Increase bounce rates by 123% at a ten-second loading time.
Google introduced Core Web Vitals that target loading times as a priority, 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 happening on your website and how quickly changes you make are impacting. Data is the easiest and most informative way to understand your website and make plans to fix it. Plenty of free or inexpensive tools are 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.
Online tools will give you different data to help you read and manage your website speed. They can analyse what is hurting your speed times, where lag is coming from, and insights into how to fix issues. You can use multiple tools to give you the best range of information, keep it simple, and work with the most accessible tool 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 browser loading times, which will be inaccurate due to your server proximity, cache and biassed interactions.
If you find 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.
We take care of the tech so you can focus on building your business.
Many of our clients have had a WordPress support package with us for 10 years or more, as they love the peace of mind they have with us, knowing their website is in safe hands.
How do I run a Speed Test on my computer?
Various speed testing tools are 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 at different options to see what is a good fit for your ability and your website specifics. Some will be better at targeting WordPress loading issues, giving you data on which plugins are causing lag and what alternative plugins you might like to try that will deliver the same result without the loading issues.
We like GTMetrix as well as Pingdom as these both return a lot of data that gets 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, and 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.
Testing in different locations allows you to provide fast loading speeds and accurate data no matter where your users are. Your account will also save your test data so you can review it and measure your progress against past tests to see if your changes show reduced loading times.
As well as your overall loading speed, GTMetrix will show you the following:
- 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 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 the 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, you must address several areas. This list may be long if your website is outdated or you have gone overboard with plug-ins and fancy extras. Just tackle each issue one by one. You’ll build confidence in your ability as you go. Start with your home page or the most visited pages via links with 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 to take the load off your shoulders.
You want a website with a loading speed of one second or even less. This will appeal to users clicking your links and 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 website structure and what issues were flagged in your data. How you take action will also depend on how complex the issues are and your confidence level when it comes to addressing issues and building a great website.
What are the typical issues slowing down my website loading time?
There are some typical issues we see 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 little time and effort to maintain going forward. Even though these are all avoidable issues and simple fixes, 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:
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 use 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, 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 must consider using multiple dedicated servers to maintain fast website loading times.
Images are not optimised
The maths is simple: The more extensive 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 have poor-quality, grainy images that look cheap and unprofessional.
You must optimise all images, videos and scripts to give you maximum effect with minimum space used.
Plenty of great tools 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 essential to delete duplicate files hidden in your website storage and library folders; optimisation tools are available to do these tasks for you.
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 will require loading time. When it comes to website design, ensure you only have the content needed to get your message across. A simple and clean website is far more effective in winning users’ trust conversions than one with all the bells and whistles.
You haven’t considered mobile pages
Users are tapping into the internet on the go more than ever, and mobile web searches outweigh those done from desktop machines as people are not tied to desks anymore and are looking for information and researching purchases and services while out and about. Knowing this means creating a dedicated website design suited to mobiles and handheld screens becomes all-important. That includes touchscreen-friendly options, hamburger menus and well-presented pathways to get users from A to B quickly.
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 in the future.
While testing changes takes time and a little extra effort, it’s a step you can’t miss. As well as testing to ensure the site runs well on a screen; also check the data to see if there are quantifiable improvements and 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 subsequent bounce ratings.
After completing your changes, test both on a screen and through your data tools.
Working through the long list of issues might take some time 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 improve your end of the website and your site still shows slow loading times, poor web hosting is the most probable explanation.
If you can’t manage your website speed yourself due to a lack of knowledge or time, get a professional website developer to assist you. In most cases, there isn’t much to do to fix and maintain website speed, so the costs and rewards are low.
Often, even the most minor changes to your website can instantly knock seconds off your page loading times. It is possible to see instant results, especially if your images haven’t been optimised or you have excessive plug-ins.
You can use the information in this blog to find and use online tools to increase your website speed.
Improving page loading times has been proven to reduce bounce rates and improve conversions. As a 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.