How To Improve Website Speed & Lift Your Conversion RateLast Updated: January 13, 2020
The speed of your website is crucial to succeeding online. In this post, we’re going to show you how your website speed can affect your conversion rate and the ways to improve it.
In the words of Micky from the Rocky films – “We need speed. Speed’s what we need. Greasy, fast speed!”
We’re living in a time where patience is at an all time low and peoples attention spans are shorter than ever.
So as you can imagine, the speed of your website is critical to its performance.
Faster websites mean higher user engagement, improved user experience, better SEO rankings and most importantly, a higher conversion rate.
Why Is Speed So Important To People?
Speed is important to people genetically, because we’re impatient. In our modern day society, there is a requirement for instant gratification in our hyperconnected lives.
What causes impatience? Psychology Today states that one of the main laws that triggers impatience is “when we have a goal, and realize it’s going to cost us more than we thought to reach it“.
So from this, we can apply it to the context of a website. When people arrive on your website with a goal (i.e. to buy something) , if it is taking longer than anticipated to load and requiring more time than we are willing to give, impatience will rise and increase the likelihood of the user leaving.
Another large contributing factor is that the user knows that as they are on the internet and there are probably at least a hundred other companies selling the same product or service that you are.
So if you’re not meeting their expectations, they shouldn’t have any problems finding a company that does.
Why Is It Important For Conversion Rate?
Essentially it boils down to the customer expectations. If your website is loading slowly, it is going to lower their user experience.
Your goal is to keep users as long as possible on your website to convert.
Having a slow loading site is going to increase the amount of friction between your website and the user. By increasing the friction, you will lower the user experience and increase the likelihood of users abandoning your website.
You may think that it would only be a small percentage of users, but you’d be wrong.
How Much Can Load Times Affect Your Conversion Rate?
In a study by the Aberdeen Group, they found that a 1 second delay in page load time can result in a 7% loss in conversions.
Similarly, Amazon found that for every 100 millisecond delay, it costs them 1% in sales.
So it definitely matters.
- Google found that slowing search results by just 4/10ths of a second, would reduce the number of searches by 8,000,000 searches per day.
- In a study by Akamai, they found that 30% of consumers expect load times of one second or less . Additionally, a two-second delay in web page load time, could increase bounce rates by 103 percent.
- 53% of mobile users will exit a website that takes longer than 3 seconds to load – Source.
- A one second delay on an e-commerce site that has annual revenue of $50 million, could result in a loss of $3 million per year. That’s a lot of money for a one second delay!
How To Improve Site Speed
Before we get right into it, a good way to think of improve your website speed is though you are optimizing your website. Improving your site speed is actually a fundamental part of Conversion Rate Optimization.
So in order to improve your site speed, you need to optimize it to make it as efficient as possible.
We’ve put together a list of 8 different ways of optimzing your website to improve website speed.
1.) Reduce Image File Sizes
This is actually one of the biggest problems when it comes to page load times. So this means it is also one of the best ways to improve it.
Images should really only be used if they are bringing something to the table :
The larger the files are, the longer they take to download. So you can use something like Adobe Photoshop to resize the image.
From there you’ll then be able to “Save For Web” and adjust the quality of the image to reduce the file size further.
If you’re using WordPress, there’s a pretty cool plugin called WP Smush that will resize, optimize and compress all of your websites images.
2.) Minimize HTTP Server Requests
As you can imagine, the more requests there are, the longer the page will take to load.
You can use a tool like Pingdom to see how many requests a page currently has.
According to Google, you should “Target 50 or fewer requests and 1,000 or fewer bytes to optimize load time”.
3.) Caching to Improve Website Speed
Caching is a process which temporarily stores frequently accessed web pages on the server so that they can be loaded faster. By doing so, it leads to a decrease in bandwidth used and an increase in performance.
By implementing caching, when a users arrives on the page, they are served with a “cached” or “stored” version.
There’s a great article here from Akamai which goes into more detail.
If you are using WordPress, there are many plugins which will do this automatically for you like W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache.
4.) Improve Your Server
Servers aren’t a one size fits all thing. There are hundreds of different types, that come in all shapes and sizes (specs and performance).
So depending on which one you have implemented, this could be affecting your site speed. And if you want to improve your website speed, this is a case where more is better.
Some of the most common ones are :
A shared server is exactly how it sounds. You are sharing the server with other websites. One dedicated server is broken down into individual units to cater for each customer, until it reaches a capacity.
This is one of the most common types of website hosting, as it’s usually the cheapest. Great to get going with, but once you start to scale, you could start to see performance issues.
One of the most well known problems for share servers is when all the websites on the server reach their peak traffic at the same time of day. Because of this, all of the websites on the server start seeing delays.
Virtual Private Server (VPS)
Similar to a dedicated server, but it doesn’t run on its own machine. Instead, one physical machine is broken up into several “virtual” machines.
Each VPS has its own operating system and software installed onto it for the host to use. The main difference between VPS and Shared hosting is that even though you are sharing the same hardware, you are allocated a certain amount of resources just for you to use.
This is the top performer when it comes to servers. This is a complete machine that is all yours to use (hardware & software)!
The benefits of this are that you have full control over it. You can install what you want, when you want. You can also configure it to the exact specification that you require!
The downside is that they’re usually more expensive than the other options. But needless to say, there are plenty of alternatives out there, all varying in price.
One thing that should be noted when it comes to shopping for servers is that you usually get what you pay for. Meaning that if a provider is offering a low price, then you’ll usually end up lacking in support or performance in general.
Before buying any hosting service, check with the provider what you get in terms of support, their response times and uptime guarantees.
5.) CSS Sprites
This awesome mechanism allows multiple images to be combined into one single image.
Each time you make a request to the server for an image, it takes time to go get it and display it. If you can minimise the amount of requests that you make, then this will lower the time it takes to load the page.
Sprites are used to combine all of the background images into one and serve them using CSS.
Check out this Youtube tutorial here by LearnWebCode.
6.) Start Using a CDN (Content Delivery Network)
If your website serves people if different locations (as opposed to just locally) then it is worth utilizing a CDN.
By decreasing the distance between the server and the user, the result is a much faster load time.
Incapsula believes that by using their CDN, websites are up to 50% faster that without.
There’s also online tools that will do it for you, check out JSCompress
8.) Use GZIP Compression
As i’m sure you’ll be able to gather gzip compression is a method of making your files smaller. By implementing this file format, your web servers is able to serve your files much faster which will lead to improving website speed. Here’s a great article on implementing GZIP Compression .
Tools To Improve Website Speed
There are some great free tools out there that will allow you to test your websites performance.
This is brilliant free tool that lets you test the performance of your web pages from various different locations. It will tell you things like : Load Time, Page Size, HTTP Requests to name just a few.
One of the best features is the breakdown of file sizes by request. You can sort the list by file size and find out which files are causing you the biggest delays.
You can amend the files, test again and measure the impact on performance instantly!
Another great feature is the ability to find the load time of each individual file. This is great when trying to locate problems quickly.
We had one client where the load time of the page was 30 seconds plus with no apparent reason. Using the tool, we were quickly able to locate the file in question that was causing the issue. We actually found that it had been referenced using the development server (which was password protected) deep in the css file. This was low-hanging fruit which helped deliver an instant increase in performance for them.
Another great free tool, created by Google. This again allows you to analyze specific pages on your website. It scores the page based on Mobile or Desktop criteria and offers you the list of suggested fixes.
The best way to approach this tool is to load your pages in one by one, find out what the issues are and start working your way through them.
Each time you make a change, retest and measure the impact that it has had!
This is especially useful when improving the performance of your mobile user experience. Knowing the criteria that Google is looking for in a mobile website can only move the needle in one direction.
3.) Google Analytics
A very popular analytics package from Google. This provides all sorts of valuable insights into what users are doing on your website. In particular, the site speed and the time (on average) it takes pages to load for users.
What this will allow you to do is find pages that are performing particularly poorly, so that you can rectify the issue.
One thing to bare in mind is that GA (Google Analytics) only records a sample of users when it comes to the page speeds.
Fortunately, there is a way to configure your GA code to allow you sample all of the users. This is done by placing the following code in your GA tag :
This needs to be included above the ‘trackpageview’ line in your GA Code. Unfortunately not all browsers support it, but it will usually be a much higher sample size than without the addition.
Mobile Site Speed
“53 percent of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load “ Source
I’m sure this isn’t music to your ears. One of the reasons the conversion rate on mobiles is so low compared to desktops, is because the user experience is usually extremely poor.
No-one wants to be downloading huge websites on their smartphones that take forever to load.
And don’t be led to thinking that your mobile users will be sitting around using WiFi connections to browse your website. Usually they’ll be on the move, sitting on the train using a data connection to try and download your 4MB landing page.
And now that mobile devices are on track to pass desktop for total sessions, it’s never been more important to provide a seamless mobile experience. Users expect mobile websites to download at the same speed as on a desktop.
Google have created a great resource which demonstrates why mobile site speed matters so much.
One of the most interest points from their research is that they have found :
“53% of mobile site visits are abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load”
How To Improve The Performance Of Mobile Websites
To begin with, you need to know what is causing the problems.
WebPageTest allows you to see 2 important things. Firstly, you can see how long your page takes before it is able to be used. Secondly, you can see how long it is until the page is fully loaded.
Work your way through the insights from both of these tools to optimize your mobile experience and improve your website speed.
What Impact Does Site Speed Have On SEO?
Google told us years ago that the speed of our sites is a ranking factor in their algorithm.
The reason for this being is that their “crawlers” are allocated a certain amount of resource to crawl each site. So by the site taking longer to respond, the less time the “crawlers” will have to index your website. You can read more about that here .
So website speed is not only a factor in improving your conversion rate and therefore making more money. But it is also going to assist you to bring in more traffic and hopefully more customers. Surely that’s a no brainer?!?
As you’ll be able to see from this article, we’ve demonstrated that website speed and performance have never been more important. Website users expected a high level of service and it’s up to you to deliver to them. If you want to succeed online.
Using the techniques mentioned above, you will be able to locate issues that your website is currently facing, rectify them, test them and hopefully improve website speed.