Slow Loading Pages May Be Affecting Your Search Rankings and User Experience

Patience may be a virtue but it is in short supply for many people when things take longer than expected.  Most businesses use the Queuing Theory to ensure that customers get prompt service and don’t have to wait too long. Ensuring speedy service is especially applicable when browsing or shopping online. We live in an instant gratification society, in part as a result of the Internet offering an immediate answer to almost every question, right at our fingertips.  Many users are increasingly impatient when surfing online and many report a decreased attention span.  If a site takes too long to load, users quickly click away. But did you know that If your site does not load in 2 seconds, users will turn to your competitor’s site? Even a second’s delay in each page load matters. As amazing as it may seem, studies have found that there is a whopping 20% drop out rate among visitors for every single second of delay. This, in the long run, can translate to loss of potential customers and significant negative revenue impact.

Google Factors Site Speed into Search Rankings

Page speed is the time taken for a webpage to load completely. Page speed depends on a number of factors, such as web host, design of the website, programming style including use of Javascript, etc, all of which can be optimized to improve page speed. How fast your website loads is critical for both the users and the search engines.  Google first started factoring web page speed into search results in 2010 with its Caffeine search infrastructure. Apart from 200 or so signals including page relevance, meta title, backlinks, social signals and meta descriptions, page load time is also one of the parameters in Google’s algorithm to determine ranking for both desktop and mobile sites. Search visibility is fundamental to website success; therefore, a fast loading site leads to a satisfying user experience (UX) and improved user-retention rates, which in turn accounts for higher conversions. As a result of Google including load time in their algorithm, faster load times lead to more organic traffic. Google has taken the initiative to make the online world more user-friendly rather than business-friendly, so it penalizes websites, especially mobile-sites, for being too slow.  Google rewards sites with clean codes and fast download speeds. This became particularly apparent when Google announced Pagespeed tools, Closure Compiler, and software modules to help webmasters speed up the Web.

Site Speed Improves User Experience

Site speed also improves the navigation experience for visitors and increases the likelihood of conversions. Studies have found that the majority of web users expect a website to load in under two seconds and during peak traffic times, 75% consumers are likely to jump ship to competitor sites instead of waiting for slow loading page. A case study by Radware found that 51% of online shoppers in the U.S will not complete a purchase if the site is too slow. It is no surprise then that even a one second delay costs a business 7% of sales. A fast page allows for quick navigation and enhances the chance of visitors easily finding the products or content they are looking for; thus improving many success metrics like conversion rates and earnings.

How Can You Improve Your Page Speed?

Fortunately you have control over the factors that affect site speed, and also PageRank, namely image size, use of JavaScript, site design, and web host. There are several tools to help you optimize your site load time. Here are few things you can do to improve your site speed-

1. Load background images through external CSS

You can use CSS sprites to convert multiple images into a big image to help your site load faster by reducing the need for synchronized connections. Browsers download background images at the end, so it is possible to represent images as part of the background through external CSS stylesheets. This helps the text in a site to load instantly allowing users to roam the page, while the image downloads.

2. Caching system

Your website will load much faster if you cache your pages and reduce the server load. The request will be served instantly from earlier saved page on your webhost.

3. Optimize your images

Images account for over half of your web pages’ total content, so they need to be optimized for faster load times. Decreasing the size of your images will definitely reduce the time taken for the site to fully load. Remember to use JPGs for photos and Gif’s for images with flat color and ‘save for web’ to compress the image size—both of which increase page loading time without any noticeable difference in quality.

4. Minimize unnecessary javascript and other client side scripting

Javascript and other functional elements on the page can often slow your page down. Remove them if they are not entirely needed.

5. Use fast and reliable web hosting servers

A good web host is a prerequisite for a fast site.  When your server is slow and your website takes minutes to load, it adds up to a bad user experience and your website will be doing more harm than good to your business image. When the technical set-up of your site is optimized as best as it can be but you still have a slower than average page loading speed, you should investigate your web host.

Hosting Server and Website Speed
Businesses should aim to deliver a satisfying user experience not just for high-speed network connections but also for the average user of the Internet. If you want a solid performance in terms of speed and uptime from your web host, then consider the following factors before choosing a hosting provider.

Infrastructure Look up the network infrastructure of your service provider for delivering good speed. The network must have low latency and direct connectivity to global data centers.

Server hardware Ask questions about server specs of your hosting provider, as the website performance can gain massively from a powerful server configured with a strong CPU.

Cloud Infrastructure The processing capacity of cloud infrastructure ensures that your web host can keep the web traffic from building up and slowing your site’s page speed down.

The Bottom Line

When you get right down to it, investing in a reliable hosting server will help ensure that your site loads fast and your downtime is minimal. It is advisable to choose a hosting package that is adequate for the size of your business and that your hosting is compatible with the web-technology you are using.

Ask your web hosting company to move your site to another server if you are on a slow shared server, as it is not uncommon for other sites to be using up more resources, especially when you are sharing server resources with hundreds of other sites. Additionally, your web host should have multiple connections to the Internet information highway, to be able to reroute you to a less crowded connection. If needed, you can consider moving your site to a less busy server, or even a dedicated server for faster page load speeds. If you have to keep up with memory requirements, projected traffic growth or cope with peak user load then you have to invest in increasing your web hosting server size.

In the end, you have a lot of control of your web page load speed, so do make sure that you give yourself every advantage to attain a high-conversion, high-traffic website that delivers the business results you are seeking.