Slow service makes for unhappy customers as well as internet users. Website owners of all calibers must cater to the user experience to ensure they get the lifetime value from their audience that they’re looking for as well as a sufficient ROI.
One of the best ways to guarantee more value generation and a happy audience is to improve your website speed.
In this article, we’re going to cover site speed and why it’s important, as well as the easiest ways to improve upon it. Keep reading to learn more.
Site Speed vs Page Load Speed
The terms site speed and page load speed or page speed seem interchangeable at first glance. While they may seem similar, they aren’t — and the difference is incredibly important.
When we talk about site speed (as in, website speed), we’re talking about how quickly a browser is able to load individual web pages that are fully functional. In other words, it refers to a website’s overall performance. If you have a website that performs poorly, it’ll slowly render in a given browser which will drive users away.
On the other hand, a website that renders quickly — or loads quickly in its entirety — will typically see a lot more user traffic and have better conversion rates.
When we talk about page load speed, we’re referring to how quickly the content of a given webpage takes to load. It’s also an indication of how long a user is willing to wait for said content to load.
If it helps, picture an open browser with a website’s URL at the top but nothing else. No indication of loading, to text or images — just a blank or white page. When this happens, it means the website is still rendering so it can load, which isn’t the same as a web page with visible text and images coming up despite the fact that you can’t easily scroll through them because the page is slow to load.
Obviously, both cater to the user experience. However, it suffices to say that site speed directly affects page load speed. This is because a website must fully render in a user’s browser to make the individual pages more accessible — thus playing a key component in your overall marketing and optimization strategies.
Why Is Site Speed So Important?
Site speed doesn’t just affect page load speed. It also affects two very important value generation factors, including your conversion rate and your bounce rate. It’s also worth repeating that a fast-loading website makes users very, very happy.
Let’s break things down a bit further:
There are plenty of studies out there that have proven how site speed affects conversion rates — or, the rate at which a user carries out a brand’s desired action. When you’ve got a fast-loading site, users are likely to spend more time on it since they don’t have to waste any time waiting on a blank page.
They also convert at much higher rates compared to slower sites, and there are a number of companies out there that have found a decrease in page load time by just a few milliseconds can increase conversions dramatically.
Here are a few examples:
- Mobify saw a 1.11% increase in session-based conversions by decreasing the load time of their homepage by 100 milliseconds.
- AutoAnything saw a 12-13% increase in sales by cutting their site load time (and page load times) in half.
- Walmart improved its site speed and page load time by one second and it increased its overall conversion rates by 2%.
As you can see, improving site performance is a key component of conversion rate optimization.
Your bounce rate is the percentage of users who leave your website abruptly, typically only viewing one page for just a few seconds. If your website performance isn’t up to par and your pages are slow to load, visitors are going to either click away from the page to get to another one on your site or close the window on you for good.
A bounce rate between 20% and 40% is considered good. However, the average bounce rate for most website owners ranges from 26% to 70% — with more leaning towards the higher end. Improving your website’s performance, which will improve page load speeds, can keep your bounce rate at optimal levels to ensure that visitors aren’t leaving as quickly as they come.
The Easiest Ways to Improve Your Site Speed
Fortunately, improving your site speed isn’t all that difficult. It is, however, an ongoing process as are all website optimization practices.
Out of all the ways you can improve your site speed, below are among the easiest across the board:
Leveraging a Cache Page Speed Plugin/Tools
There’s an entire laundry list of things that affect your website’s page load speed, and it’s safe to say that most of them will technologically go over the heads of the average website owner and marketer. That’s where plugins and other tools come into play as they’re essentially designed for beginners. More importantly, they get the job done when it comes to improving website performance.
When it comes to cached pages, you get pages that come up as static HTML versions of specific web pages. This helps website owners avoid any time-consuming database queries, which slow down page load speed since a cached web page loads fast while decreasing server load time. What’s more, these plugins are widely available for WordPress (WP) users — and often for free.
Upgrade Your Hosting
If there’s one thing that website owners and marketers tend to overlook, it’s their website’s hosting package. Ad tech players tend to view all web hosts as the same, however, they’re not the same as they tend to offer different packages and features. In other words, you get what you pay for.
Remember, when it comes to choosing a web hosting service or upgrading from your existing one, always choose quality over quantity. Some will dangle a ‘whole suite’ of features in front of you and others will offer a shared hosting platform option that’s ‘more cost effective.’
However, what you really want to take a look at is their server. Always go for the web host with a high-performing server and fast technology stacks, as well as dedicated resources and feature options that aim to improve server performance.
Sometimes, all it takes is switching web hosts to see an improvement in your website’s overall performance — and that’s a worthwhile investment if you ask us.
Other Tips to Improve Site Speed
As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of different factors that can affect a website’s speed and performance —many of which are beyond your control. For those that are beyond your control, you may want to consider hiring a web development partner or using a specialty platform that puts website performance first.
In the meantime, here are a few other things to take into consideration when you’re working on improving your site speed:
- Try minimizing your HTTP requests. Of course, this is centered around the foundation of website development, but if you can manage it or hire someone to manage it, it’ll be worth it. Minimizing HTTP requests works by decreasing the total number of webpage “pieces,” such as images, scripts, bits of code, and so on that need to be loaded on a webpage. By reducing your HTTP requests, you’ll be able to reduce page load time on an individual basis — which will help with your most important pages.
- Enable Gzip compression. Gzip compresses both your webpages and style sheets before they get sent over to a user’s browser. By compressing your webpages and style sheets, your webpage sizes will be reduced by up to 70%, which drastically reduces transfer times making your page load speeds even faster.
- Use a content delivery network (CDN). Using a CDN improves site speed because it allows you to host your website files across a large network of servers from all around the world. This allows users’ web browsers to download files from the servers that are geographically closest to them, which essentially spreads your bandwidth and decreases page load time. Ultimately, websites that implement a CDN in their site speed improvement efforts see their pages load much quicker.
- Configure your server settings. The server software that most web owners use come as out-of-the-box solutions — another type of web product designed to be user-friendly. While these solutions are great for new web owners, don’t forget you can configure your settings to customize your website speed as they don’t necessarily come readily configured for optimal performance as much as they are to get your website up and running quickly. Be sure to talk to your web hosting provider as to how your server can be tweaked and customized for your website and content management system (CSM) for fast site speeds.
Never underestimate the power of super fast site speed and page load times — especially when you have users looking for quick solutions or content on the go.