Site speed has evolved into its own debate as far as being a part of SEO. I have tended to agree with this angle, though with the number of variables that contribute to the rankings of keywords, site speed can easily get lost in the shuffle. We made one quick attempt to find a correlation with 5 keywords and the websites that ranked for them along with their load time in seconds. What you’ll see is about as much correlation between that and (insert joke).

site speed load times

The Y-Axis in the above graph represents the number of seconds the site took to load. From the X-Axis left to right is how close to the top of the first page the keyword is. As you can see in this simple, unscientific sample, we have nothing to go off of from an SEO ranking standpoint as some of the fastest load times occurred from the lowest-ranking websites.

Before you even remotely consider stopping at the SEO implications, let’s just talk about user experience – this is the entire key to optimal site speed. People are extremely impatient website visitors and are less patient on mobile, so it is vital to do optimization techniques for site speed with website visitors almost entirely in mind. We conducted a study of what site speeds will deter someone from a website using one of our own purposefully slower landing pages as an example. The results we found were of high interest.

We started by asking 400 people what is the absolute longest they would wait for a website to load. The average respondent said 14.8 seconds, which I thought to be a bit high since my personal frustrations begin to surface around the 6-7 second mark, so I removed anyone saying that they would wait longer than 45 seconds (which let’s be honest, is not realistic for most people). When considering that the average website isn’t one that people HAVE TO visit, the time is secured at a more reasonable 10 seconds. As a rule of thumb, if you’re website is already taking 10 seconds to load, you’re off to a bad start.

But what about if we are much closer to more reasonable times? In the same survey, we adjusted our landing page so that the load time was on average 4.5 seconds for 200 people and 5.5 seconds for 200 others. The results were as follows:

15% of respondents would have dropped off at 4.5 seconds and 20% at 5.5 seconds.

That’s a 25% increase in drop-offs because of ONE SECOND of load time. I would strongly start considering those implications alone.

What’s even more important to consider is mobile devices, being that the vast majority of websites now have most of their traffic coming from mobile now. With the 4.5 second load, there wasn’t anyone that claimed to have dropped off. At 5.5, that number was 22%.

The sensitivity to load time on mobile may be exponentially greater than mobile and, being that web developers often work on both using different approaches to maximize responsiveness (especially with the “mobile first” mentality most developers have,) there should also be a “speed first” consideration when building out websites. And you, as the potential webmaster of a website after a DIY project or taking over from another company, the person with the most consideration.

What Are the Main Aspects That Contribute to Site Speed?

Typically, I find the following to contribute to a site’s load time, starting with the top for the biggest impact in site speed and lesser in descending order:

  • Hosting
  • Number of plugins active/level of functionality
  • Image size
  • Page size or amount of code necessary to load the page
  • Leveraging caching techniques as they pertain to Objects, Browsers, and Pages (technical yes, but can be easily evaluated using plugins and a little research)
  • Compression of aspects of code such as JS/CSS (again technical but can be addressed relatively easily)

Now, this blog is mostly about identifying why site speed is different, so we’ll glance at how to improve it later. In the spirit of TL;DR, here are the considerations for all of them:

  • Hosting

Short Answer – Don’t host with GoDaddy.  Be extremely wary of BlueHost, HostGator, and anything economical. We are moving into an era where legitimate, competent hosts are worth going through for reliability and paying an extra few bucks, like WPEngine and Media Temple. By going with a reputable hosting platform, you could be saving yourself from potential site speed issues later down the road.

Longer Answer – Skimping on hosting isn’t cutting it anymore. Between downtime, susceptibility to malware, and site speed shared hosting from huge hosting companies is not worth the trouble. Sure, promo codes getting you hosting for 10 bucks a month seems sensible, but all it takes is a bogged down website and some downtime to easily turn around the savings into a huge loss. We have a great partnership with WPEngine for our WordPress websites – if hosting has been a huge issue, or is becoming perceivably more of something worth addresses, stop what you’re doing and contact us. We’ll get you set up right for your website and you can worry about the next points after.

  • Number of Plugins Active/Level of Functionality

There was once a “marketing guru” who once told me at a mastermind group that “his websites used a proprietary blend of 40 plugins” as if it was some bold and robust coffee grind that he couldn’t give away at any ordinary book club meeting. Plugins are literally the injection of code into your website to enable additional functionality, and with each one, you can guarantee more load time for your website.  That is of course if the plugin’s sole purpose is to cut down on load time. Make sure you are always conscientious of each plugin’s specific, implicit role on your website.

  • Image Size

When people visit your website, they are literally downloading every image that must be displayed on the website for it to render. Be mindful of how big images are.  Anything > 1 MB is fairly large today.  Anything > 5 MB is horrendous. This is frequently something that most people overlook when developing their website. Being mindful of appropriate image size is a must for any website.

  • Size of the Page Itself/Amount of Code Necessary to Load the Page

You don’t have to put absolutely everything on one page if you want to take forever for people to see everything rendered. Often times, a major component of why pages or sites load so slow is that there is a ton of unused CSS/JavaScript slowing it down.

  • Leveraging Caching Techniques as they pertain to Objects, Browsers, and Pages

Plugins such as Autoptimize and Smush can make these otherwise extremely difficult tasks much more simple.

  • Compression of aspects of code such as JS/CSS (again technical but can be addressed relatively easily)

Same as Above.

Want a Fast Website?

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