By Jonathan Schwartz, Co-Founder & CEO at Bullseye Strategy
Page Load Speed: What It Is
They used to say speed kills. But, in the current digital marketing landscape, a lack of speed is what kills.
I am specifically referring to page load speed.
Page load speed can refer to two distinct metrics which are both crucial. The first is how long it takes for a browser to load the first byte of data from a web page’s server. The second is how long it takes for a browser to display all the content on a web page.
So, we have a definition. Awesome! Let’s dive into why Page Load Speed is important, shall we?
Page Load Speed: Why It’s Important
The User Experience
There’s an article you’re dying to read. You dive into your seat and type the URL into your search engine.
And then – you wait.
The seconds feel like hours. The hands of time slow to a crawl. The grains of sand in your hourglass barely trickle.
The seconds feel like hours. The hands of time slow to a crawl. The grains of sand in your hourglass barely trickle. And you think to yourself, “Well, this stinks.” Soon enough, you bounce from the page. So long, article.
This scenario is realistic. Users hate to wait. They want their content and they want it NOW! So, page load speeds are essential for a great user experience. How dramatic can the improvements be? I’ve seen bounce rates go from 60% down to 30% with the right optimizations.
But do the math for your own site – what’s your bounce rate? Now reduce your speed load time by 2 or 3 seconds (see below for more on that) and check your bounce rate in 30 days, 60 days. I’ll wager you my last silver dollar that your bounce rate goes down and your sales/conversion rates go up!
The choice is clear. Be a roadrunner. Be a cheetah. Be the woman who just won the New York City Marathon.
The SEO Factor
But it isn’t all about the user experience. Oh, no. This phenomenon called Page Load Speed is necessary to make Google a very happy little boy. And we all want our websites to make Google a happy little boy so that they rank us higher. Ergo, more users. Ergo, more conversions. Ergo, a happy business. I love the word “ergo” apparently.
Site speed has been important for a long time with the fine folks at Google and the algorithms they create. It’s been a noted factor in Google rankings since at least 2010.
But in 2018, it becomes more essential than ever. Page load speed is being weighted even heavier, and now, it’s going to be a significant piece of their new Mobile-First Index.
And, as you certainly know, we do more on mobile than ever. I, for one, read the morning news, go shopping, and try to find out the 10 new ways to manage the single-parenting challenges of a pre-teen daughter. And that’s just in the first five minutes of my day before I’ve had my first cup of tea. Imagine what else I do on my phone before the night time is nigh.
America may run on Dunkin, but Google is running on mobile these days. But guess what? This isn’t just about Google. Enter my other good friend: Facebook. She look familiar? You probably know her well.
Facebook is increasingly emphasizing the page speed of linked content and websites. They want signals of quality when they are going to show people content, and page speed is absolutely a signal of quality. Disregard at your own peril unless you want nobody to consume your content through Facebook. And if that’s you, you may want to find another line of work? Just a thought.
OK, so a fast page load speed is now essential. You get it. So how can you optimize yours? Here’s some ways, using WordPress sites as an example:
Tips & Tricks to Improve Your Site Speed in WordPress
- The host with the most: Use a high-quality web host that will deliver your content reliably – and quickly.
- With Homepage posts, not the most: Keep posts on your homepage to a minimum and use excerpts, not full posts or articles.
- What is a Widget: I don’t know – just kidding, I do – but keep them to a minimum. Plugins, too. Use only what you really need.
- Disable hotlinking and leeching: Because nobody likes a content thief.
- Image-ine That: Use automatic image optimizers to shrink those puppies down. If great page load speeds are like the Roadrunner, then giant oversized non-optimized images are the ACME products used by Wile E. Coyote to try and stop you in your tracks. And eat you. Don’t be eaten. Shrink your images.
- Theme of the Day: Make sure you are using a WordPress theme that looks more like Abbott than Costello. If you don’t get the reference to 1940’s slapstick comedy, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Just Google image then. (Hint: Abbott is the tall slender lightweight one).
- Cache the Fever: Use a good Caching Plugin to dramatically increase your Page Load Speeds. Yes, this is one of those good essential Plugins you SHOULD be using.
- Special Delivery: Use a CDN – Content Delivery Network – to utilize content servers closer to your end users, which greases the wheels on page speed for you significantly.
In Sum, a Conclusion about Page Load Speed
So, speed does not in fact, kill. Speed is a digital marketing superpower. It’s like being The Flash without the red tights and annoying sidekick.
Sometimes slow is good. If it’s a walk on the beach. Or meditative breathing. Or when roasting a turkey.
Just keep it out of your web pages. Please and thank you.