12th June 2020

How to increase your site speed and why it’s never been so important?

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So you’ve come to the conclusion you need to increase your site speed. Good call—especially if you’re also looking to increase conversions, sales and ultimately, profit. Website speed is something that’s definitely worth making the investment in, both in terms of time and the quick wins you can gain.

And it’s not just us that know this.

Our friends at Google will tell you this, too. The search giant states that website speed and by default, page speed is one of the signals used by its algorithm to rank pages. And after Google rolled out its Mobile First index, speed is even more imperative to being found if many of your audience prefer to browse the net on their phones.

Which means … yep … the faster your site, the more chance you have of being further up the rankings ladder than your competitors.

Or, let’s put that another way. You might, as a business owner, brand owner or CMO, invest a lot of time, energy and of course budget, in a beautifully designed, responsive website. But that could be a big waste if prospects and potential customers can’t find you. And one of the reasons they might not find you is because your site is too slow to warrant being bumped up the search rungs by Google’s algo.

And then there’s good old user experience. The longer pages take to load the more tendency they have to result in higher bounce rates and lower average time on page. But of course, you knew that, didn’t you.

But what about now? Weeks into a virus-induced lockdown, isn’t now the time to recognise consumers aren’t spending as much, take your foot off the gas and wait and see where your budget, sweat and hopefully, not too many tears are best placed?

Well, no. In fact, putting things in place to increase your site speed has never been so important as now.

Why increasing your site speed is so vital, right now

One of the biggest impacts on ecommerce trends in 2020 will be COVID-19. In the current climate where online sales growth and penetration is relentless, site-speed is more important than ever. Site speed, also known as web-performance or page speed is in essence, how fast users perceive your website to be. The faster a user’s experience, the more engaged they’ll be and less likely to abandon a basket or leave your site. With time-poor users and a hyper-competitive digital environment, site speed could be the key difference to gaining or losing an order.

But that’s not all.

The consequences are far greater than a lost order in isolation. It could mean a poor experience for some of your best customers or new customers lost. And as mentioned, a waste of your broader marketing endeavours, especially if those users are ready to convert online… your investment wasted because site-speed isn’t up to scratch just doesn’t make commercial sense.

Even more so, when you consider where those lost customers are going. Yep … to the next browser window along to your competitors, because guess what …

Online sales growth is increasing at a relentless pace:

You only need to look at the success of Ali Baba and Amazon to know online shopping is one of the most popular online activities. And sales are projected to increase from 1.3 trillion in 2014 to 4.5 trillion in 2021…a threefold growth over a 7-year span.

Given that size of market to get your teeth into, there are many, not just compelling, but pressing reasons to focus on improving site-speed in conjunction with other digital priorities. The primary reason is that users prefer a fast experience and will become loyal to brands that provide this. Studies show appreciation also results in users spending more, being more engaged and thus more likely to remain or become a loyal customer and brand advocate.

Beyond the customer, a faster website is more likely to be cheaper to run as a key way to improve UX and site-speed is to reduce the size of web pages, which can reduce hosting bills. Win, win.

Site speed, the new competitive advantage

Faster ecommerce websites yield higher returns in relation to Conversion Rate (CR%), Average Order Value (AOV) and overall sales. Users have access to your site and your competitors at their fingertips and speed is the new competitive advantage.

Conversion rates drop as page speed gets slower.

In fact, according to research from Walmart there is a sharp decline in conversion rate as average site load time incraese from 1 to 4 seconds. And as you can see from this graph from Walmart’s study, overall average site load time is lower for the converted population (3.22 seconds) than the non-converted population (6.03 seconds).

Site speed and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

With so many brands endeavouring to get the right balance of paid and organic traffic to their site, SEO is quite rightly a key focus for many brands right now and a trend that will grow for the remainder of 2020 and beyond.

Site speed plays a significant role in relation to SEO. Google’s 2020 announcement detailed their intent, to index the web mobile-first and therefore sites need to perform well on mobile devices. A great way to ensure you index with Google, is to build faster mobile experiences which is an area many brands have not yet capitalised on.

Building a fast website and maintaining its speed can be a rollercoaster

As more features and capabilities are added to a site, pages can begin to grow heavier. And as this happens, they get slower. Without a continued strategy to monitor and improve site speed, poor performance will go unnoticed and performance across other channels will simply deteriorate and nobody will know why. Or, be accountable. This is where cultural transformation aligned to transparent targets for site speed is critical. For example, the whole business must know what impact a one second slowdown has to sales. And designers at your agency need to know what a bloated image will do to your average order value (AOV).

Where to start?

The good news is, it’s never too late to start and make your existing site fast. Here’s Creode’s top 10 ways to increase site speed:

  1. Run some tests and analytics either yourself or with a trusted partner.
  2. Engage your engineering team. Understand their priorities and recommendations.
  3. Curate a plan with clear KPIs and measures of success.
  4. Create a performance-driven culture with clear roles and goals for each department and trusted partner.
  5. Ensure progress is monitored so you know what works well and which areas need more focus.
  6. Minimise the fluff; including, landing page redirects, plug-ins, link shorteners, any render-blocking javascript and redundant data which doesn’t impact how the browser processes the pages.
  7. Employ asynchronous scripts to economise the render time of pages
  8. Improve server response time by employing multi-region hosting
  9. Compress files to decrease rendering times
  10. Dynamically adjust content for slower connections and older devices

No need to scream if you wanna go faster

If that all sounds horribly daunting, don’t be put off. The investment is definitely worth it, notwithstanding the fact a good agency or developer should have most of this covered off as standard practice.

And whether you have a new website design and build in mind, or you want to improve your site speed, this is absolutely something that we, here at Creode can help with. Talk to us about how you can increase conversions, sales and customer loyalty through a faster site.

 

The author, Philip Crampton is Strategy Director at Creode.