Owners invest a lot of time and resources into their websites. A good website is the perfect way to share your ideas, market your business, or sell your product. It’s only natural that after all the effort, you want your investment to pay off.
Unfortunately, this is where speed can hinder your efforts. Many websites fall prey to long load times. Imagine if your website took 22 seconds to load. That’s too long for anyone to wait, right? Believe it or not, that’s the average loading time for mobile web pages.
It’s not too encouraging, but speed is an issue you must address. Speeding up your website is a process because sites tend to slow down as time goes by.
Nobody is to blame. As sites grow, they accumulate more data and servers need more computing power to accommodate growing traffic. You just have to identify and fix the problem before it gets out of hand.
Now, you might think this doesn’t affect your site. Your site takes way less than 22 seconds to load and you would never let it get that slow, right? It’s a fair point.
But with site speed, every single second makes a difference. Don’t take our word for it. Instead, check out the numbers the leading experts at the Hosting Tribunal collected while testing web hosting providers for their detailed reviews. The stats leave no room for doubt – it is painfully obvious that speed is one of the most important factors in web development.
Influence on SEO
Let’s start with search engine optimization. This is the area many website owners are concerned with. That’s why terms like “SEO-friendly” carry so much weight. And SEO is important, of course. However, long load times can crush your website’s search ranking regardless of content and other optimizations techniques.
Research shows slower websites consistently appear lower in search rankings. This means that if you and your competitor have similar content, the faster website gets the edge. In other words, if your website is too slow potential visitors see your competitor’s website first. And if they find what they’re looking for on their site, they won’t ever visit yours.
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Speed also affects crawlers. Crawlers are the applications Google uses to scour the Web and index sites. Google’s search algorithm uses the indexed information to generate search results.
The issue with speed is crawler behavior. Crawlers spend a set amount of time on each website. So, if your pages take too long to load, the crawler bots might not index all of them. It won’t matter if one of your pages has what a user is looking for. If your pages are too slow, potential visitors will never find them because they won’t appear in search results.
Influence on User Behavior
Search engines aren’t the only ones that dislike slow pages. Actually, the main reason why speed affects search rankings are visitors. And visitors hate waiting.
40% of visitors leave a website with load times over 3 seconds. 75% avoid a website that takes over 4 seconds to load. 44% even spread the word so their friends know to avoid it.
As your load times increase, more visitors leave. The ones who stay visit fewer pages in total. If you want the exact formula, you can expect each added second of delay to reduce your page views by 11%. As we said, each second can matter.
But all of this is not meant to scare you. It aims merely to show that you can achieve incredible results by improving your speed. Take the cue from the top websites. Even during peak Christmas shopping hours, Amazon’s load times are barely above the 2-second mark. And Google proudly boasts about their load times—usually around 0.4 seconds.
Now, don’t expect every site to be quite as fast as Google. But if you make yours as nimble as possible, visitors will notice. Search engines will favor it, and you will get the visitors the slower websites to drive away.
How to Test Website Speed
So, how fast should your site be? If you keep your load times under 3 seconds, you should be safe from any extreme drawbacks. If your pages load in 1.7 seconds, it will be among the 25% fastest websites. That means you get the edge over 75% of the competitors.
Unfortunately, owners are usually bad at gauging the speed of their own websites. It’s just a natural perception bias we all share. If you spend entire days working on your site and playing with new plugins, you probably don’t mind waiting 3 or even 5 seconds.
The visitors, however, experience the opposite effect. When you want to perform a quick search, you feel that all the websites take longer to load than they actually do.
A tool for checking website speed can help you here. GTMetrix is the most comprehensive free tool out there. With it, you can check your load times from various locations and browsers along with many other factors.
What to Do
So what do you do if you determine that your website needs a speed boost? There are general techniques anyone can use. WordPress users are especially lucky, though. Many tools make this process easy for them. Here are a few of the most popular ones:
- W3 Total Cache is an extremely useful plugin. It offers numerous options including enabling GZIP compression, caching, and minifying files. Its developers boast 10 times better site performance, improved search rankings, and 80% reduced bandwidth usage for its users.
Achieving such results is more complicated with custom-coded sites, but with WP Rocket you can have them all simply by ticking the right checkbox.
To sum up, speed can definitely make or break any (WordPress) site. Long load times damage search rankings and make for poor customer experience. Fast loading, on the other hand, brings in more visitors and makes your site stand out.
Having read this guide, you have the basic tools to make your WordPress website faster and better.
And if this article piqued your curiosity, don’t miss out on this helpful infographic. It contains everything you need to know about website speed. We wish you the best of luck in improving your website.