Google continuously updates their search algorithm in order to provide the most relevant information to users. We saw what a huge impact a change in Google’s search algorithm can have on website traffic with “Mobilegeddon” in April 2015, with mobile-friendly websites seeing an 11% boost in traffic in the months after. This year Google announced that search will soon be mobile first (Forbes is even posing the questions; “is this the next mobilegeddon?”). It’s important to remember that Google doesn’t make these search algorithm updates to drive everyone crazy; they do it so that they can give users the best results based on ever-evolving trends.
Local businesses not only need to have a mobile-friendly website, but also need a fast website speed. If your website is slow to load, Google will rank you lower pretty much everywhere – and that includes local and mobile search results.
- Why website speed matters
- Tools you can use to analyze website speed
- How fast is fast enough?
- 6 easy tips to improve website speed
Why website speed matters
Google reported that 67% of website visitors will switch to another site if it takes too long to load. Website speed is the amount of time it takes a website visitor to see your content.
When you improve website speed, you accomplish 3 goals:
- Visitors are more likely to stay and convert: Google’s search engine algorithm takes the amount of time a visitor spends on your websites into consideration when determining your ranking. The longer a visitor spends on your site the better your ranking. And the faster your website load speed, the more likely visitors are to stay.
- Website speed is a consistent factor no matter what device someone is using: By taking steps to improve website speed, your site will load quickly on both mobile phones and desktop computers. While desktop is still a big traffic driver, you need to have a fast mobile website; especially now that over half of local searches occur on a mobile device. I know that you don’t want to be turning down almost 50% of potential traffic to your website because of slow load speeds.
- A better user experience is more pleasant for all: Whether your traffic is coming from a mobile device or desktop computer, visitors don’t want to have to wait for your website to load — and will quickly move onto the next result on their search list.
Tools you can use to analyze website speed
To find what your average website speed is — as well as page speed — there are a few different tools available.
- Pingdom tests the load time of a webpage, runs an analysis and identifies bottlenecks.
- Google PageSpeed Insights will analyze the content of a web page and generate suggestions to make it load faster.
Pingdom is a very easy-to-use tool, but you’ll have to subscribe to it (there is a 30-day free trial). If you are looking to expand your website over time and are worried that website speed will become an issue, Pingdom might be your best bet. However, for most small businesses using Google PageSpeed Insights will provide you with more than enough information to improve website speeds.
How fast is fast enough?
Before you start looking for a baseline minimum, let’s take a look at what consumers expect — and try to meet (or exceed!) their expectations.
- 47% of people expect a webpage to load in < 2 seconds.
- 67% of visitors will abandon a page that takes 3+ seconds to load.
- According to this scientific study, tolerable waiting time for information retrieval is approximately 2 seconds — BUT if a site has a loading bar that measures progress, the waiting period jumps to 38 seconds.
- 40% of shoppers say they won’t wait more than 3 seconds for a website to load.
A 1-second load time would be nice, but can be a challenge to obtain (especially with some pages that have a lot of content on them). Aim to get a load time of 3 – 7 seconds. If you’re over 10 seconds, you’ll want to reassess your page and figure out what you can do to improve website speed.
6 easy tips to improve website speed
Install Google PageSpeed on your server
PageSpeed does a lot of the work for you, which makes it one of the easiest things you can do to improve website speed. Page Speed improves webpage lag and bandwidth usage by automatically incorporating best practices into the resources on the page.
Best of all, PageSpeed makes universal updates to all webpages and the assets on them (CSS, images, etc) without forcing you to modify the content or website design.
While impactful imagery on your website is necessary, the space it takes up is not minimal. If you want to have quality images on your website, you are often forced to use large image files (JPG, EPS, PNG) that drag down your website load speed.
A lot of stock photography websites assume that you will be printing an image and, therefore, give you a 300 dpi (dots per inch) or px (pixels) photo. While you do need a higher-resolution photo to print (150+ px or dpi), a computer screen can only display so many pixels.
Reduce the size of your files (images on your blog, throughout the website content and even your logo) down to about 96 px or dpi and you’ll increase page speed without compromising any image quality on the web.
If what I just wrote was Greek to you, check out Kraken. They offer image optimization services at a competitive price (free!).
Use a fast web host
Not all web pages are created equal and neither are all web hosts. It’s becoming more well-known that your web host can have a major influence on whether your website speed is fast or slow.
Switch off all unused plug-ins
If you collect plug-ins like some people collect shoes, you need to take an inventory of which you actually use. Just because you can have all those plug-ins, doesn’t mean you should because they jam up your site and slow it down.
Many of you will cry, “but they’re not doing anything!” My response to you: “doesn’t matter, they still slow down your site.”
Think about your website as the closet of an unorganized shoe fanatic. Every morning when getting ready for work, he/she has to sort through all those shoes to decide which to wear, which takes up time because he/she has to sort through a lot of shoes.
Moral of the story: clean out your closet.
Every time someone visits your website, code protocols scan through all of those plug-ins and call up information from each (even information that isn’t displayed). Sorting through all that data takes time, which slows down your website load time.
Perform a quick audit of your vital plug-ins and turn off the ones that aren’t necessary.
If we haven’t hit home on this point yet, you need a responsively-designed website (really, you could also call it a “responsibly-designed” website).
A responsive website is one that has a design that responds to the type of device a user is using, whether it is mobile, tablet or desktop. Responsive websites adapt to the available viewing space, so that every interaction with your site is perfect — any way that a user chooses to view it.
If you want to learn more about a responsive website check out our article on why your local business needs one.
While it will be necessary to redirect a URL periodically, keep them to a minimum because they make a page lag. You will always want to use redirects if there isn’t any other solution available, though.
To keep the negative impact of redirects to a minimum, Google recommends that you never reference a redirect URL if you have the new URL. In addition, you should never have more than one redirect to a given resource.
Improving website speed may seem like a lot of extra work, but the return on investment is well worth it. Customers expect your site to load quickly and to deliver the information they need promptly. And search engines reward websites that aim to provide the best experience possible to consumers.
Creative and beautiful responsively designed websites normally cost thousands of dollars, but Vivial creates them for 1/10 of the price, making it affordable for all local businesses. Not only will your new responsively-designed website be marketing-enabled, but it also house all your digital marketing efforts in one place so that you save time.