5 Critical Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Website Optimization and Website Speed

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Speed is one of the most important features for website optimization. It can make or break the user experience and directly affect the amount of time visitors spend exploring your site. The loading speed can also influence your ranking on Google search pages — yet only 15% of sites operate at a satisfactory speed.

Site speed is quite impactful both on desktop and mobile sites. When increased by as little as one second, it can boost your overall conversions by 7%. If you get your site to load in less than five seconds, you’re increasing user sessions by up to 70%. Speed improvement can lower bounce rates by at least 35%. Most sites that load within two seconds have an average bounce rate of 9%, while those that take around five seconds have a bounce rate of 38%. 

With Google’s shift to mobile-first indexing, it’s more important than ever for you to make loading speeds a priority when optimizing your website. Keep in mind most desktop sites take a lot less time to load than their mobile counterparts. However, mobile users — which account for 68% of total website visits worldwide — often expect quicker loading speeds on their devices.

All You Need to Know About Site Speed and Performance for Website Optimization

In today’s digital world, nobody likes to wait for anything. Consumers are growing more and more impatient and they want quick solutions to whatever they’re searching for. Up to 47% of internet users expect most websites to load in three seconds or less, and 53% of them will leave the page if it doesn’t meet these standards.

Ask yourself: How many times have you tried to load a page you were interested in only to give up on it because it was incredibly slow to load?

As a fellow internaut, you already know how frustrating that is and how fast people move on from unsatisfactory experiences. That’s why when creating or fine-tuning your own website, you must ensure it loads quickly and efficiently. Doing so will help you retain your visitor’s attention for longer and therefore, increase your conversions. Speeding up loading times on your site is vital to optimizing its performance.

A one-second delay may lead to:

  • Lower customer satisfaction
  • An 11% loss of page views 
  • A 7% drop in conversions

Avoid making a negative impression on users that are being introduced to your site for the first time — and don’t leave a bad taste in recurring customers’ mouths with slow load times. Up to 70% of online customers claim site speed significantly impacts their final purchasing decisions. Of those who have trouble with website performance, 79% are reluctant to buy again. Having a fast site will help you keep them engaged and ultimately increase your profits by making lots of sales. 

1. Site Speed vs. Page Speed: Are They the Same?

Although often mistakenly interchanged, page speed and site speed are two separate concepts. While it’s true they both impact user experience, page views, and conversions, they have quite a few differences that are worth taking into account. 

Site speed is how fast your website renders — including pre-rendering times — and lets people navigate all the different paths and funnels within it. It’s the speed at which your page loads from the first contentful paint (which is the time it takes for users to see any content after landing on your site) all the way through the check-out process.

Some reasons your site speed could be a bit limited are:

  • A slow hosting service provider
  • Lack of a content delivery network
  • Excessive external resources
  • An outdated hypertext preprocessor
  • A cluttered database
  • Poorly optimized files and pages
  • Slow plugins
  • Heavy themes

‌Page speed, on the other hand, is web page-specific. For example, it refers to the loading time of a particular on-page attribute.

You can increase your page speed by:

  • Using lazy load images
  • Making images smaller
  • Removing unnecessary images
  • Deleting scripts that the site is not actually using

Site and page speed are fluid concepts because no webpage loads all at once. Instead, they do so piece by piece. That’s why your website speed can vary from one page to another.

When trying to increase both site and page speed, you must look at all pages within your website as a unit first and then one by one. You need to determine if you have overall slow rendering speeds, or if only one specific feature is lagging. For example, you won’t need to take the same measures to speed up your site if everything’s loading perfectly but just the shopping cart or social media widgets get stuck. 

Before you start removing features left and right, look at each page on your site from an SEO perspective. Which pages are bringing in the most traffic and sales? Once you’ve identified which pages are the most relevant in terms of conversions, work on their speeds individually. Figure out which content your users are engaging with the most and reconsider the features that aren’t getting enough attention.

2. How Does Site Speed Impact My Conversions?

If you’re thinking of building a new site or optimizing your existing one, chances are you’re trying to make money. It turns out speeding up your website can boost your earning potential. Some of the most prominent e-commerce sites on the internet nowadays have a load time of 10 seconds — way below the consumer’s speed expectations. Beating these speeds will give you the upper hand. 

As stated by Social Media Explorer, three of the top four SEO user experience signals are fully page speed dependent.

These signals include:

  • Time on site: This is the average duration a user spends exploring your site. A session ends when your customer leaves the site or after 30 seconds of inactivity. 
  • Pages per session: This is the number of pages within your site a user visits during their time on site. To calculate this metric you must divide the number of page views by the number of sessions in a cycle.
  • Bounce rate: This is the number of visitors who enter your site and end up leaving instead of continuing to explore other pages within it. 

Internet connections are breaking speed records today, and users know slow speeds are rarely to blame on their provider anymore. As mentioned above, if your site doesn’t meet your potential customer’s speed expectations, they’ll be quick to leave and find another alternative. Making your website fast pays off. It can grow your conversions exponentially and increase the amount of money you can make — and the numbers prove it.

If your site makes $100,000 a day, a one-second page speed improvement could bring you an additional $7,000 daily. According to Cloudfare, Walmart has found that even seemingly insignificant delays can drastically impact their revenue. A difference of mere milliseconds can represent a 1% loss — which could translate to millions of dollars for this retail giant. Amazon found similar figures when studying its own site speed and revenue. 

On the other side, frozen meal company COOK increased conversions by 7% when they increased page speed by 0.85 seconds. Mobify found a 1.11 increase in conversion for every 100-millisecond improvement in the load time of their homepage.

An experiment made by Intuit a few years back exemplifies the correlation between site speed and conversions. The financial software company found that each second removed from load times between 7 and 15 seconds results in a 3% increase in conversions.

This means that:

  • When their site load time went from 15 to 14 seconds, their conversion increased by 3%.
  • When load time dropped from 14 to 13 seconds, it yielded an additional 3% increase.
  • When load time went from 13 seconds to 12, if offered an extra 3%, and so on.  

Maintaining low loading speeds will only lead to higher bouncing rates, abandoned carts, and lost revenue. You must always strive to maintain an optimal user experience and optimize your website’s speed and performance. That said, there are a few other factors to take into account to optimize your site, including web vitals and core web vitals.

3. Core Web Vitals: What Are They and Why Do They Matter To Me?

If you want long-term success for your site, it’s vital to optimize your user experience on all fronts — not just load time rates. Your site’s web vitals are excellent website optimization tools to quantify your UX and identify potential improvement opportunities. Web vitals are Google’s way of standardizing the quality indicators that are key to delivering a terrific user experience on all types of sites.

These factors include:

  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS)
  • Safety while browsing
  • Lack of intrusive interstitials (no pop-up ads)

The core web vitals are those user-centric metrics that matter the most to the Google algorithm when it comes to enhancing user experience. They focus on:

  • Loading times
  • Page responsiveness or interactivity
  • Visual page stability

To ensure you’re reaching the recommended standards for most of your users, a good rule of thumb is to measure 75% of page loads between both desktop and mobile devices.‌

Most website admins or owners don’t really need to be performance experts to figure out what quality of experience their site is delivering. If it got lost in translation, essentially, your core web vitals are meant to simplify the user experience landscape for you. They will help you keep your focus on metrics that matter the most and offer a top-notch UX by measuring:

  • How long it takes your site to be visible
  • How long before your site is fully ready for users to start exploring

Google’s core web vitals have yet another function, though. They are a key component in Google’s page experience score, which will ultimately affect your SEO rankings in this popular search engine. Google, like most internet users, dislikes slow-loading websites. Aside from website speed, the core web vitals ensure your site is fully functional. This ensures your users can effortlessly access the information they’re looking for.

The majority of performance measuring tools don’t really care much about the overall user experience. They’re limited to their job, which is measuring site speed. Yet, a quick website can only do so much if the user experience quality is poor. It will still cost you conversions, views, and profitability. 

Of course, much like everything else in the digital world, core web vitals will evolve as time goes by. As of 2020, these metrics include:

‌Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)

This metric measures your site’s loading performance. In simple terms, it tests how quickly the main content takes to become visible to your users. Regardless of the content’s nature — whether it’s an image, description, or article — it should appear within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading to offer an optimal user experience.

Even if your website loads fairly fast, your largest content might need a little time to catch up. If it doesn’t appear on the screen as fast as the rest of the page, it will make it look like your page is slow regardless of what a speed test tool registers. Remember, your users have the last say since they’re the ones waiting on the other side of the screen. 

First Input Delay (FID)

This metric measures your site’s interactivity. This registers the time it takes your visitor’s browser to start processing event handlers every time the user interacts with them. Your website requires an FID of 100 milliseconds — the fewer, the better— to offer a good user experience. 

For example, if your user is reviewing their shopping cart on your site, they’d have to check they have the items they need, delete the ones they no longer want, and eventually click on the “Check Out” button. The FID metric analyzes how long it takes your site to process those specific interactions. The same goes for when a visitor clicks on a link, fills out a form, and so forth. 

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

This metric measures visual stability. Your site must keep a CLS of 0.1 or lower if you want your visitors to be happy while they explore it. In plain English, what CLS does is examine the time it takes for your site to become visually stable as it loads. Keep in mind that some elements of each of your pages take a few more seconds to load than the others. While they’re doing their thing, your site’s content may keep shifting places on the user’s screen. 

Have you ever been reading a block of text on a random site and an image or video loaded above it after a few seconds? This often makes the content you’re already focused on move downwards. That can be frustrating and make your users lose interest in whatever they were doing before the shift happened. That’s especially harmful to your site’s revenue if the user is already trying to add products to their cart when the interruption occurs.

4. How do I Check My Site's Speed and Performance?

To identify if your site needs website speed optimization, you’ll need to do a little bit of testing. Nowadays there are several free and paid tools available to help you measure your site’s overall performance. Google offers PageSpeed Insights for anyone interested in an extremely simple way to test how quick their site is. This tool will tell you everything you need to know about your core web vitals and even give you suggestions to improve them.

Another useful alternative is the GTmetrix tool. Apart from measuring your web vitals, speed, and performance, it breaks down your site and tells you what your biggest issues are. This online speed testing solution allows you to compare your site with others and even gives you valuable insights into what third-party requests are affecting your site’s performance.

The Pingdom tool is also very popular. It allows you to pick a testing location so that you can compare and contrast your own site’s performance in different places across the globe. This platform has a paid version too, which will monitor your uptime, transactions, site speed, and more. 

5. How Do I Improve My Core Web Vitals?

New research suggests that Google is using Time to First Byte (TTFB) to examine page speed. TTFB measures the length of time it takes from the moment the user makes an HTTP request to when the first byte of the webpage is received by their browser. This metric is incredibly important if you want to enhance your SEO strategy and rank higher on Google’s search pages. 

Slow load speeds mean that the search engine cannot crawl many pages within their designated crawl budget. This issue could have a negative impact on your indexation.

Here’s what you can do to improve your core web vitals, site speed, and performance:

Use a Content Distribution Network (CDN)

Also known as a content delivery network, a CDN is a system of servers whose main purpose is to distribute the delivering content loads. It copies your site and stores it at numerous data centers scattered across different locations. This way, users can have a faster and more reliable experience when accessing your website. 

Image Optimization

Your site’s design is important to attract and captivate new customers. However, you must always make sure that the images you pick don’t interfere with your site’s overall performance. After all, a gorgeous site will only do so much if your visitors find it nightmarish to navigate. To keep your website working at optimal speed, remember: Less is more. 

Ensure your images are only as large as they need to be and always use the right file format. If you’re using graphics with less than 16 colors, PNG is the way to go. If you’re incorporating photographs into your design, JPEG is better. Keep in mind all images must be appropriately compressed for the web.

A site often requires several buttons and actions for users to have a seamless experience. Use CSS sprites to create a template for them. This will combine them into a larger image and help them load all at once without moving so much as they show up. 

Enable Compression

Reduce the size of your CSS, JavaScript, and HTML files with a file compression app. Gzip is a useful app used that lets you compress and decompress files to suit your site’s specific needs. This might not be really useful for images, which may be easier to compress using editing software. 

Minify CSS, JavaScript, and HTML

You can exponentially increase your site speed by optimizing your code. To do so, you must remove all unnecessary commas, spaces, and characters, as well as code comments, unused code, and additional formatting.

Remove Plugins

Sites that use lots of plugins can take longer to load compared to those with simpler code. Remove and reduce the number of plugins if you have a lot of them running on your site — or just avoid using them altogether.

Configure Caching

The action of storing copies of your site’s files in a temporary storage location (or cache) so that your users can access them faster is called caching. Configuring cache file storage will allow for faster load speeds. Browsers normally cache images, stylesheets, and JavaScript files, among other resources. This means that when your users come back to your site they won’t have to load everything from scratch.

Seek a Fast Hosting Service Provider

When shopping for hosting services, ensure your provider supports the content you’re incorporating into your site. If you need more speed for your site and want to minimize downtime, a fast host is the right way to go. Remember, you only have about three seconds to keep your user’s business and prevent them from ending up on your competitor’s site. 

Reduce Redirects

Every time your site redirects your users to another website you’re making the process a lot slower. Your users then have to wait for the HTTP cycle to complete. In the meantime, they might lose interest and search for a better solution.

Improve Server Response Time

This tip goes hand in hand with your hosting services. You must always find a solution that allows you to receive more traffic and use the resources you need without sacrificing response time.

Improve your server response time by looking for performance bottlenecks like:

  • Slow routing
  • Slow database queries
  • Lack of memory 

It's Time to Boost Your Conversions

The internet has become a fast-paced environment all web admins and owners need to keep up with to succeed. Users are increasingly getting used to getting what they want when they want it, and they’re quick to judge if you fail to deliver. Don’t let your below-average load times impact your revenue negatively. Start working on boosting your site speed and performance today. Redstitch Digital has the team and the tools to implement a successful digital marketing strategy, including lightening fast website speed. Contact us today to discuss your marketing goals.

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