Although web page speed load time isn’t the most important signal that affects Google rankings (one of over 200 signals that Google uses in determining rank), it does factor in – and can definitely impact the conversion of your traffic, when a few seconds can make a substantial difference.  According to Matt Cutts (YouTube video), site speed is a ranking signal, but it doesn’t carry as much weight as the relevance of a page. And currently, fewer than 1% of search queries are affected by the site speed signal.  However …..

Load Speed and User Satisfaction

Ranking aside, site load time should be a priority as a slow site decreases user satisfaction.  And with increased competition online and a definite decreased attention span of site visitors who basically now “expect” websites they visit to load quickly, it will be more difficult to convert traffic into sales if your page load time lacks speed optimized performance (zoom zoom).

Slow load time can affect a visitor’s decision whether or not to bother clicking on another page or to abandon the site in search of a better user experience elsewhere.  Not to mention, a site with a load time of 6 or more seconds is less likely to be “revisited” compared to a site that loads in just 2 seconds.

According to a study by Akamai.com, site performance remains a major factor for keeping visitors coming back to a retail site.  “Consumers become impatient when pages take longer than two seconds to load.  47 percent of consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, representing a significant evolution in consumer expectation.”

Here are a few more load time facts and stats to ponder over (source: kissmetrics.com):

  • 73% of mobile internet users say that they’ve encountered a website that was too slow to load.
  • 51% of mobile internet users say that they’ve encountered a website that crashed, froze, or received an error.
  • 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
  • 64% of mobile users expect a page to load in less than four seconds
  • 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
  • A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.
  • If an e-commerce site is making $100,000 per day, a 1 second page delay could potentially cost you $2.5 million in lost sales every year.

Optimize Images

When it comes to slow page speed performance, images are a fairly common problem.  Larger images on the page should be optimized to reduce their filesize without negatively impacting their visual quality.

According to Google “Images often account for most of the downloaded bytes on a page. As a result, optimizing images can often yield some of the largest performance improvements: the fewer bytes the browser has to download, the less competition there is for the client’s bandwidth and the faster the browser can download and render content on the screen.”

Best-Practice Application of Images & Load Speed

Don’t rely on HTML to resize images.  Just because you load that smaller size, doesn’t mean it’s taking up any less room on the server. The browser still has to load the entire image and then resize it accordingly. It is always best to optimize images first, utilizing an image optimizing tool.

There are several free image optimizing tools available on the web. One that I particularly like and use is “Radical Image Optimization Tool” or RIOT – a free image optimizer that will let you to visually adjust compression parameters while keeping minimum file size.  It has an easy to use interface to compare the original with the optimized image in real time and instantly see the resulting file size.

Speed Performance “Best Practices”

The following 23 items are considered “best practices,” that can improve the speed performance of your site.

⦁ Minimize HTTP Requests
⦁ Use a Content Delivery Network
⦁ Avoid empty src or href
⦁ Add an Expires or a Cache-Control Header
⦁ Gzip Components
⦁ Put StyleSheets at the Top
⦁ Put Scripts at the Bottom
⦁ Avoid CSS Expressions
⦁ Make JavaScript and CSS External
⦁ Reduce DNS Lookups
⦁ Minify JavaScript and CSS
⦁ Avoid Redirects
⦁ Remove Duplicate Scripts
⦁ Configure ETags
⦁ Make AJAX Cacheable
⦁ Use GET for AJAX Requests
⦁ Reduce the Number of DOM Elements
⦁ No 404s
⦁ Reduce Cookie Size
⦁ Use Cookie-Free Domains for Components
⦁ Avoid Filters
⦁ Do Not Scale Images in HTML
⦁ Make favicon.ico Small and Cacheable

Page Speed Test

Google PageSpeed insights and Pingdom Website Speed Test are free speed test tools that provide insight on what you need to do to improve your site’s speed performance. Both tests will score your site from 0 -100 (over 90 is pretty good), tell you why your page is loading slowly, and offer suggestions as to how to improve your site’s load time performance.

Speed Performance Takeaway

If your site’s load time is slow and the conversion of your traffic is not exactly where you want it to be, run a speed test and find out what is necessary to optimize your site’s performance. Your traffic conversion and bottom line, as in revenue, will thank you for it!

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