- 1.6 Reasons Your Website is Ineffective (Introduction)
- 2.6 Reasons Series: #1 Lack of Quality Content
- 3.6 Reasons Series: #2 Lack of Direction (Missing Calls-to-Action)
- 4.6 Reasons Series: #3 Lack of Focus
- 5.6 Reasons Series: #4 Lack of Usability
- 6.6 Reasons Series: #5 Lack of Performance
- 7.6 Reasons Series: #6 Lack of Momentum
Visitors will leave websites that load too slow. Google’s own research shows that over 50% of mobile users leave sites that don’t load within 3 seconds. In fact, page load speed is so critical today that Google has begun using it as a ranking factor. In a word, if your website is suffering from a lack of performance, it will be ineffective.
In part 5 of this series, I will go over how to test your website for performance issues. I will also go over some common factors that cause sluggish websites. Finally, I will provide some tips on how to improve performance without breaking the bank. Let’s begin by taking a closer look at why performance, specifically page load speed, matters.
Keep in mind, part of Google’s mission is to provide ” … the best user experience possible.” When it comes to performance, Google states that “… faster sites make happy users.” So, it only makes sense that Google would want to give priority to websites that perform well and penalize the slower one’s.
“Fast is better than slow!” Google, Ten Things we Know to Be True: #3
When Google takes time to write something down as part of a guiding principle, we should pay attention! How much does performance matter? Well, even if your website has the best content in the world, it will still not rank well if it is sluggish. If that were not bad enough, there is one other downside to websites that are too slow.
So, let’s say a visitor does find their way to your website without the help of Google search. That’s great! However, the bad part is, if your website is sluggish, you may have just wasted that opportunity. A recent survey showed that over 65% of web users will leave slow websites without taking any action! Ouch! (smartinsights.com)
If you have read the other articles in this series, you should have an understanding of what a conversion is. A conversion is when someone responds to a marketing message you put out there by clicking, buying, or subscribing. If visitors don’t stick around long enough to take in your message, you lose every time. This situation is like having a customer walk into a your brick-and-mortar store and walk back out without even looking around.
Now that you understand how important page load speed is, you may be wondering what to do next.
There are two ways to test if your website is sluggish or not. The first way is what I call the “gut check” method. The other way is more formal. It involves using one of the many performance-testing tools available online.
The “gut check” method involves manually testing your website one page at a time. It’s best to do this on various web-enabled devices (desktop, phone, tablet). As each page loads, check your gut. Do you find yourself becoming impatient waiting for the content to load? Remember, user experience (UX) has to do with how customers feel when they use your website. If you become impatient & frustrated while using your own website, visitors will too!
Gut check testing should also include using a smart phone that is using cellular data (not Wi-Fi) to check performance. This is important because almost half of all web page views happen when people are out and about. You don’t want to miss out on that much potential business, do you?
The other way of checking your website’s performance is more formal. It involves using one of the many online testing tools out there. I will recommend 3 tools that I have found to be most useful. The best part is that they won’t cost you a dime to use
ThinkWithGoogle is the first tool. This is the most user-friendly of the three online tools I will mention. It will let you know when you have problem and give some general guidance on what is going wrong. It will also point you in the right direction on how to resolve issues. > http://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com
Page Speed Insights from Google is the next tool. This one is more for developers but anyone can use it. This tool provides more detailed information on what is going wrong. It will even show you where to find any code or scripts that may be causing problems. > https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
Pingdom.com is name of the last tool. This one is not from Google, but anyone can use it for free. The website provides statistical data on how your website rates against others for performance. It will also provide even more detail than the page speed insight tool from Google does. > http://tools.pingdom.com
The following are some things that you can do if you find your web page load speed is sluggish:
- Upgrade your hosting. One of the easiest ways to get faster page load speeds is to upgrade your hosting. If you are on the least expensive hosting package you can find, than this is an obvious fix. Check out my article explaining hosting packages here. It will help you decide on which plan will work best for your business and budget.
- Use a caching plug-in. If you are using WordPress or some other CMS, you can install a caching plugin to help speed up page loads. For WordPress, I recommend trying Comet Cache, W3 Total Cache, or WP Super Cache. All three are located in the WordPress Plug-In Repository. Be sure to check with your host to make sure using a cashing plug-in is allowed.
- Optimize & compress your images. You should be sizing your images and graphics according to how you want them displayed. The next thing you can do is compress them using tools such as TinyPNG.com, ImageOptim or WP Smush (a plug-in for WordPress sites). These tools will make the image file size smaller by removing any unnecessary overhead from the images.
- Use a content delivery network (CDN) service. This option is a bit more technical, but can be effective in many situations. CDN’s have many servers located all over the world. They will store images and other static content from your web pages for you. Then, the server closest to the person requesting a web page from your site will deliver that content. Your host’s server will still provide the text and other lighter content. The result will be faster page load speeds. One of the top CDN’s is CloudFlare.
Let me take a second here to suggest one of the best solutions around for both hosting and caching. I became an affiliate for WP Engine because I believe they are the best solution for small business owners who want a website that performs well on a budget. If you decide to host with WP Engine, you can add on a CDN and they will even do the configuration work for you! As an affiliate, I can extend this special offer to you > Get 2 months free hosting with WP Engine on any shared annual plan! Personal plans start at just $29.95 a month (less if you pay annually).
There are many other things that you can do to speed up your website. These 4 are just low cost starting points for you to try. Knowing how much to invest beyond these items will be a balancing act of sorts.
There may be times you need to make a financial investment to resolve performance issues. But, how do you know if the investment is worth it or not? Before you decide, you should know the answer to a couple of important questions:
- How many visitors are abandoning your site due to slow page load speed?
- How much money are you losing due to visitors not engaging your site and taking action?
The best way to measure this is to install Google analytics on your website. Then you can measure your bounce rate. In other words, how many people land on our website and leave right away? There are other important metrics you can review as well to help decide if an investment is worth it or not.
The bottom line is this. If you are losing more money in potential sales than you need to invest, then it seems wise to just make it happen. But, without using analytics to give you some hard data, you may end up making a gut level decision that does not give you a favorable return on investment (ROI). The choice is yours.
There are other issues besides page load speeds that I consider “performance” related. Remember, performance is part of the total user experience (UX, usability). Some of these items include:
- Broken (or misdirected) links,
- Missing images (or other missing elements),
- Product checkout, forms, or user enrollment that don’t work as intended.
This list will differ depending on the functionality built into your business site. For example, if you are a Realtor, you may have an MLS search function needs to tested on a regular basis. You should repair malfunctioning elements or remove them as quickly as possible. Broken elements tend to break trust.
In this article, I went over several things that can go wrong with your website’s performance. I also covered ways to check performance and offered ways to fix common problems. But, solutions only mean something if you apply them. Don’t let slow loading web pages be the reason your website is ineffective.
As with the other articles in this series, I want to encourage you to take action to make your website more effective for both you and your customers. This time, my challenge to you is simple. Make a commitment to yourself to take the following 3 actions in the next week:
- Check to see if you have Google analytics installed and have access to your analytics account. If you don’t, work on getting it installed.
- Check your website’s performance using one or more of the tools I suggested.
- Use at least one of the solutions I listed to improve your website’s performance.
If you do these 3 things, you will be well on your way to a more effective website.
Next up, Reason #6: “Lack of Momentum”