In the early days of the internet, patience was a must. Websites could take up to a minute to load and content such as streaming video was little more than a faraway dream. But as technology has improved, customers have come to expect fast page load times. In fact, if your business site loads slowly, your visitors may get frustrated and leave. As a result, you won’t connect with the audiences you intend to reach.
But a sluggish site will hurt more than your customer relationships. Google counts page load time as one of the most important ranking factors. This means that if your page doesn’t load as quickly as your competitors’, your customers may see their site first. Eventually, you may find you’ve moved so far down in search engine rankings, customers can’t even find your page.
The Right Page Load Speed
How fast does your site have to be to compete? Generally speaking, if customers notice the page load time, it likely is too long. One study found that 57 percent of customers will abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. Keeping in mind that customers access sites from a variety of devices and access speeds, you may need to remove elements that slow your page down. If a customer is more likely to find your site using a mobile device while in the car, a variety of factors could affect load times, including poor reception.
As far as Google is concerned, every second counts. Since research has found that every second added to your page load time increases your abandonment rates, Google will prize even slightly faster times. You may be able to remove one page element and increase your search rankings, which will, in turn, bring more customers to your site. For that reason, the auto-play video or fancy animation you’ve displayed on your landing page may suddenly be expendable.
Speeding Up Your Site
For those who aren’t website designers, the prospect of speeding up your website can seem daunting. You may assume developers know tricks that you don’t, but in actuality you really only need to remove the elements that are slowing things down. Here are a few ways to boost your page’s load time.
- Google Tools — One of the first steps you can take is to simply ask Google what elements might be affecting your site’s load speed. The search engine provides a suite of tools that can give you insight into how your page is performing. Instead of guessing what might be slowing your site down, you’ll know exactly what you need to adjust.
- Simplify Your Design — According to Yahoo, 80 percent of a page’s load time is spent on the front end. All of the fancy elements you have built into your design contribute to that. If you’re using a template, chances are the template has built-in components that slow things down. Image maps, stylesheets, and other elements may be slowing your site down and choosing a simpler interface will solve the problem.
- Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) — Popular websites often use CDNs to speed up page load times. With a CDN, your pages rely on a network of servers located across a large geographic distance. Customers are directed to the closest server, and if traffic is high in one location, they’re redirected to another site.
- Resize Your Images — Images can slow down a page. It may require a little extra work, but you can dramatically increase your speed by using a photo editing tool to crop and resize your photo to a workable resolution.
Once you’ve repaired the elements slowing your page load times down, be patient. Search engines won’t necessarily index the new version of your page the instant you’ve made the changes. Understanding how web spiders work will help as you make changes and wait for results.
Page load speed is an important part of creating a great online presence for your business. When your pages load quickly, customers will review the information and consider purchasing from you, which will increase your sales and help you reach new customers. It’s important to realize that slow page load times don’t just create a bad user experience for customers, but they also keep you from ranking well in search engines.