Why Speed Matters
Site speed is the term given the length of time it takes for a web page to fully load. At this point, it is probably one of the most vital metrics. Google has a dedicated website dealing solely with speed measurements.
A website is the first impression of your brand or business. A slow site sends out all the wrong signals of a business that is tardy or that isn’t prepared to invest in its site.
Slow websites have poorer conversion rates. Google estimates that for every one-second delay in page load times leads to a 20% decrease in conversions.
If slow page loading means that a potential customer closes a page before it fully loads, it will harm, your bounce rate and user experience.
A slow website is a poor user experience in the first place. But also slow websites are not ranked highly like Google which in turn would affect the number of visitors you have to your site. The first place to start your page speed is by analysis is analysing your website via the Page Speed Insights website.
The analysis that this site will provide it’s a great starting point to begin tracking down what exactly is he hindering your site load times. It has to be said there’s rarely a ‘quick fix’, but the information provided by the analysis is a great starting point.
The site will analyse your website on performance, accessibility, SEO score and on best practices. Google then provides pointers to where it takes issues with your site based on all of those measurements. You can then go through each of the areas that Google have highlighted and try and find solutions to try and improve that score.
While your scores are each marked out of 100, this top mark can sometimes be somewhat of a ‘Holy Grail’. In many cases, to fix an issue, you might have to recode part of a plugin or theme to overcome that issue which Google has flagged on your site. However, a good rule of thumb would be to try and achieve a score of 90 plus on each of the individual measurements.
So, leaving aside the ranking penalties and the poor user experience, it is also important that your site performs well, especially, on mobile for you to improve your conversion rates.
You can head over to thinkwithgoogle.com to find some compelling arguments to constantly monitor your site speeds, especially if you are an ecommerce platform. The link between slower pages and declining conversion rates on a site is compelling. To begin this journey of exploration, analyise your site using any of the websites in the section below – all based on speed, but each site coming from different angles.
There should be a note of caution before you start checking your web speed. If you have a WordPress site that’s straight out of the box, and you have added some form of page builder and a few plugins – brace yourself! If you have not looked at or tried to address page speed, even a simple catching plugin, your score is going to be poor to terrible.
Below are the scores of a site that has been worked on for three of the matrix – but not speed, so much. They are measured with the Page Speed Insights and another site called gtmetrix.com. The poorer scores are before any effort was made to increase page speed. So you can see that all is not lost if your site initially scores in the red
Speed Test Sites:
The Gold Standard is Google’s Page Speed Insights. It’s what your site is measured against and, at the end of the day, it’s the only area to focus on as it’s the metric that will determine how Google sees your site in terms of speed. Any performance issues found here, will have to be addressed. Initially (i.e. without having looked at speed before) the plethora of issues across the four measurement categories can be somewhat overwhelming.
Another good site is GTmetrix. It’s not as detailed as Page Insights, but it gives some pointers on aspects of the site that are hindering higher page scores. The site’s advice is, normally, easily implemented and are ‘easy win’ at times. You should register, which is free, and each time you conduct and site scan, GTmetrix keeps a record of the scan which can then be compared with previous scans to see how implementing changes in the site is improving the speed score.
What affects Speed
Once you look ‘under the hood’, you might see areas of the website that are under your control and could be negatively affecting your page speed.
All the elements on your page contribute to page weight, and many of the elements are under a site owner’s influence. While an image or a background may be aesthetically pleasing if it is put up on the site, and it’s weighing in at 4 MB, perhaps it is time to look at that! Try and slim down the images and videos as much as possible without any quality compromise. GTmetrix above will display a nice ‘waterfall’ showing all the items that load on a page, their load times and their size. Excessive plugins and bloated themes are also offenders.
Some hosting is terrible! Spend money if you can. Make sure your PHP versions are up-to-date. If your target market is the local market, get your hosting locally as well.
Site speed or page speed is a complex area and one that can be both daunting and frustrating. You must look at the big picture and not get overwhelmed by the task involved. It’s best to go through each item or issue, tackle it, and reassess how that has altered the page score, and then move on to the next issue. It is a time-consuming task, but one that will reap rewards.
Page Speed - What we can do
We can run a benchmark to see where your site ranks in terms of speed.
Analyise the results and draw up a programme to address some of the problem areas (that can be dealt with)
Get the Accessibility, Best Practice and SEO scores are as high as they can be.
Monitor the Page Speed on a weekly basis and make adjustments to the site where necessary