Website Speed White Paper
According to Website Magazine, a slow loading website is the main cause for visitors leaving a site.
To help you as a business owner or marketing expert, we have created this white paper, so you understand the importance of developing a fast loading website with a high conversion rate. We will also provide you with the tools to analyse your current website or the questions to ask your website developer.
A fast loading website has a large impact on a couple of key performance indicators…
- Search Ranking.
- Conversion Rates.
With so many businesses being online, it’s important that your website is faster than your competitors. Therefore, we will go into substantial depth covering most of the areas that will have an impact on your site’s performance.
The benefits and statistics of a fast loading website
In April 2010, Google announced that they introduced a new ranking signal in their algorithm that looked at site speed. Google have always been obsessed with speed and almost everything they have done backs this up from creating an online speed test called PageSpeed Insights to developing the AMP Project which is a set of protocols that developers can use to vastly speed up a websites performance.
More recently, Google announced that it would have two indexes; one for mobile and the other for desktop. This is because mobile and voice technologies have significantly changed the way people search. Speed is again the priority for marketers and developers.
Google are not alone with their obsession for speed. In August 2017, Facebook announced that they would priorities links in their news feed with faster loading times.
The benefits are clear that a fast loading website will perform better on search engines and social platforms. In a study performed by Backlinko which analyses 1 million Google search results, they produced this graph showing a clear correlation between load speed and search positioning.
The report was concluded by saying ‘Fast-loading websites are significantly more likely to rank in Google’.
So what’s the reason for their obsession with speed?
Google indicate their reason by saying ‘We encourage you to start looking at your site's speed […] — not only to improve your ranking in search engines, but also to improve everyone's experience on the Internet.’
Google are aware that visitors use their platform because they provide reliable answers quickly. For people to keep using their service they must serve reliable and fast results which therefore means linking to websites that provide the answers quickly and reliably.
Not only is speed a ranking factor for search engines like Google, but it’s also believed by many experts that pogo-sticking is also taken into consideration when it comes to search positioning.
Have you ever clicked on a Google result only to click back and try another link? That is called ‘pogo-sticking’ and is information that can be used by Google and Bing as an indication to the quality of the results they serve. If everyone was to pogo-stick away from your website, it would be a clear indication to Google that you’re not providing the solution to the search.
There are a number of factors that contribute to people clicking off your website to try another result. However, you guessed it, a slow loading website is one of the main reasons for a visitor clicking off a website to try another search result according to MOZ.
User experience (UX) is very important for website performance. How people navigate your site and how quickly it is to find the solutions that answer their problems are essential to a high conversion rates.
MOZ, one of the main authorities on SEO, say ‘Page speed is also important to user experience. Pages with a longer load time tend to have higher bounce rates and lower average time on page. Longer load times have also been shown to negatively affect conversions.’
Here are some key stats from popular websites proving the case that slow loading websites have a direct impact on the bottom line…
The simple fact is that if your website takes longer than your competitors to load, your chances of ranking highly are diminished and you could be missing out on valuable enquiries.
Why speed is a critical componentof User Experience (UX) design
Working on the premise that speed is the time it takes to get from one place to another, and with the understanding that it’s best to achieve this in the shortest time practical; we can conclude that users experience is a key component of website speed optimisation.
The ultimate goal is ensuring the visitor finds the solution to their problem in the shortest time practical and that it is your website that provides that solution.
It’s not uncommon for new website projects to be sold on visual appearance of a design. However, it should be data-driven design principles that determine the decisions to ensure the searcher finds the answer to their problem efficiently.
When making speed a key component of website design, it encourages the developer to focus on essential design elements that draw the visitor to the content that is relevant to their journey. By reducing unnecessary design elements you both reduce the time it takes for a website to load and the time it takes for the visitor to view the answer they’re seeking.
We see UX design as a principle of removing elements that are not essential to the journey whereas traditional design is about adding elements that make something visually appealing. As a business owner, are you more interested in visual appearance or providing the right solution to your customers?
Let’s use Amazon as an example.
It’s not often that you will hear their website used as an example of good visual design. However, it’s undisputed that their website is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to conversion rates as net sales of $177.9 billion in 2017 will suggest.
You would be mistaken for looking at their product page thinking it’s rather bland but put yourself in the shoes of a Star Wars fan searching for the latest Lego Millennium Falcon and all becomes very clear.
You can see from this screenshot that their product page provides the answer to a simple search and is unlikely to encounter any pogo-sticking. This page ranks second on Google after the official Lego website and has a load time under 2 seconds.
A closer look at the design will show that the product that was searched is the primary focus of the content. Very little distracts from the subject including the Amazon brand which is tucked away at the top left of the screen. Once you have established that this is the right place, the next item to stand out is the call-to-action on the right which is asking to add the product to the basket.
This simple design is focused on speed and includes data driven design principles to increase conversion rates.
How to test the performance of your website
There are tools to both test a website and monitor its performance. Firstly, we will look at the tools you can use to test individual pages on your website. It’s important to test a range of different pages rather than just the homepage as they will vary in results depending on the content.
Please note that these speed testing tools do not show a true representation of your websites performance in the real world and should only be used as a guide. For example, the page load time may not take into consideration the use of popular CDN’s used for frameworks such as bootstrap or jQuery which may already be cached on a user’s device. For a true representation of your websites performance you should use analytical software which we will cover later.
There are three popular tools that we suggest for testing your websites performance…
Pingdom Website Speed Test
Pingdom has a great user interface for testing the performance of your website and finding areas that can be improved. To perform a test, you simply enter the URL for the page you would like to analyse followed by the server location which should be as close to your target demographic as practical.
You should expect to see the following results for your webpages.
|Result||Good Score||Brilliant Score|
|Performance Grade||Above 80||Above 95|
|Load Time||Under 2 seconds||Under 500ms|
|Page Size||Under 2 MB||Under 500 KB|
|Requests||Under 100||Under 25|
To help you reach these preferred scores you can use the performance insights and charts for suggested improvements.
Web Page Test
Web Page Test is similar to Pingdom. It has many more advanced options such as browser emulators and connection speed settings. This is particularly useful for testing mobile connections and mobile devices to provide a more real work result. The disadvantage for Web Page Test is that the user interface is not a user friendly making it difficult for someone non-technical to interpret the results.
Googles PageSpeed Insights
PageSpeed Insights does not report the loading speed for the webpage. Instead it provides a score based on best practices used to increase the performance of your website.
It’s advisable to aim for a score of 50+ but implementing all recommendations blindly could cause your website to slow down. You will notice that common Google tools such as Google Analytics will prevent you from getting a 100/100 score indicating that you should only use this as a guide for best practice.
Page speed tools are great for reporting and finding improvement but do not provide a true representation of your websites performance in the real world. There is a tool within Google analytics that enables you to record speed statistics from your visitors.
From your analytics dashboard you can navigate to Behavior > Site Speed > Overview to see results from your users. With the default setup of Google analytics you will only see a sample rate of 1%. This can be increased by asking your developer to set the ‘setSiteSpeedSampleRate()’ in your tracking code to your preferred sample rate.
Why your next website should be AMP
AMP is an open-source website publishing technology that encourages best practice to improve website performance on mobile devices. The name, which is an acronym of Accelerated Mobile Pages, should not be mistaken for mobile only websites. It’s practical and beneficial to create responsive websites with AMP to work on mobile and desktop.
To make it easier for developers to create responsive AMP pages, we have developed a lightweight responsive grid system called 1BX which is an example of an AMP website that works across all devices… https://1bx.uk/
A webpage built with AMP can be identified in a google search result by a little grey lightening symbol beside the address.
Although there is no confirmation that AMP is a ranking factor, it’s becoming evidently clear that websites adopting AMP are performing very well. This is most likely due to the high-performance of AMP pages.
An additional benefit to using AMP is that Google cache your pages on their servers to provide ultra fast download times for visitors using a chrome browser or Android device.
It’s important to note that AMP is built on to HTML and will work on all modern browsers. AMP is essentially a methodology using best practices in HTML coding to focus on creating super fast mobile-first website.
To learn more about AMP, we recommend reading this article… https://www.cio.com/article/3091071/search/8-things-you-need-to-know-about-google-amp.html
Now you’re aware of what AMP is, let’s look at some key statistics.
In a study by Chartbeat of over 360 website using AMP, they found that visitors engage with content for 12 seconds longer than a typical website. For a standard mobile page they found the average engagement time is 36 seconds whereas AMP pages have a 48 second average engagement time.
In the same study they found that AMP website load significantly faster than the average website. The average load time for an AMP website is 1.4 seconds compared to an standard mobile website taking 5.3 seconds on a mobile connection.
You can see from this graph created by W3Techs that less than 0.1% of websites use AMP but has been adopted by websites with high traffic volumes.
Website adopting AMP have seen impressive results outlined in this article by Search Engine Watch.
- Washington Post — 23% increase in mobile search users who return within 7 days
- Slate — 44% increase in monthly unique visitors and a 73% increase in visits per monthly unique visitor
- Gizmodo — 80% of Gizmodo’s traffic from AMP pages is new traffic, 50% increase in impressions
- Wired — 25% increase in click through rates from search results, with CTR on ads in AMP stories up by 63%.
AMP was initially created for publishing companies who were the first adopters of the project. This was mainly for the reason that only AMP pages feature in the news carrousel on results for news topics.
In our extensive research of AMP we have seen no negatives to using it other than the time required to develop a website in AMP compared to traditional means. However, at Unumbox Ltd we have fully adopted the AMP framework at no additional cost. With us, your website is primarily built in AMP rather than using a secondary plugin that requires addition management and development.
Our experience so far has actually seen an improvement in the development time as the AMP project is so well documented and uses best coding practices.
The best time to implement AMP is when you’re re-developing or creating new website for your business.
With AMP you can benefit from all the best optimisation practices to speed up your website and stay ahead of your competitors.
If you would like to learn more about website speed optimisation or how AMP can increase enquiries to your business, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org