Dec, 3rd, 2009
The time it takes to load a page has always had a big impact on how visitors navigate around your website, and more crucially, how long they stay on your website. 2010 will be a turning point for your website if it loads slowly.
Visitors won’t endure slow loading pages anymore
In 2006, Akamai commissioned Jupiter Research who interviewed over 1,000 internet users and produced a report entitled “Customer Reaction to a Poor Online Shopping Experience“. The main takeaway from the report was that the average time a visitor would be prepared to wait for a website to load was 4 seconds – any longer than that, would see potential customers abandoning the website and going elsewhere.
Akamai again commissioned a report which was published in September 2009 with the objectives of understanding how customer expectations to online shopping have evolved. The results were astounding – the average time a user would be prepared to wait in 2009, has halved to only 2 seconds!
Source: Every Second Counts: How Website Performance Impacts Shopper Behaviour – www.getelastic.com
Wow – 2 Seconds! Does your Homepage load in 2 seconds?
The respondents in the Akamai Report stated that website load time is second only to high prices on a customer’s list of pet hates.
Have you spent all that time and money making your E-Commerce website look as exciting as possible, featuring products with competitive pricing on a website that has been conversion optimised, only to find out that your customers are leaving without buying because you haven’t put the time into making your page load any quicker…?
Page Speed as a factor for Organic Search Engine Rankings?
This is where page speed will get interesting in 2010!
Yahoo recently filed a patent that explores the ways a search engine considers the time it takes pages to render, for example how quickly that page is loaded directly after clicking on a natural listing from a search engine. Basically they’re hinting towards the fact that those sites that are the quickest to load will get a boost in the organic rankings.
Since that patent was launched, Matt Cutts (Google’s head of Web Spam) has been interviewed and he said that Page Speed will be a part of the Google algorithm (if it’s not already). We have known for a while that Page Speed has been a part of Quality Score in Adwords, and we should start to see it making a difference when Caffeine starts to go live on the rest of Google’s data centres in early 2010.
Here’s what Matt had to say:
Historically, we haven’t had to use it in our search rankings, but a lot of people within Google think that the web should be fast. It should be a good experience, and so it’s sort of fair to say that if you’re a fast site, maybe you should get a little bit of a bonus. If you really have an awfully slow site, then maybe users don’t want that as much.
Just this morning, Google blogged about released an experimental tool in Google Webmaster Tools called Site Performance. It takes the aggregated data from Google Toolbar regarding actual page load times, example pages, and more interestingly how your site compares to other sites. Although it’s still in labs, it is an interesting development and indicates where SEO is moving towards.
Finally, Microsoft’s Patrick Harris mentions Page Speed as the most important on-page factor to focus on for SEO in the recent webcast “Search Engines: War Stories from the World Tour” (Dec 1 webcast, 6:50 in the video).
As we can see, in more ways that one, the speed at which your website loads should be a major concern to you in the next decade…
How can you improve your Page Speed?
Other than the Google’s new Site Performance feature in Webmaster Tools, there are plenty of tools available to help you monitor and improve your page load speed:
WebPageTest is an online tool to show you what parts of your site take the time to download. It provides a useful waterfall feature to give you a visual pinpoint as to exactly where the bottlenecks are.
Google Page Speed
Google have released their Page Speed Firefox plugin (also need to install Firebug, but both tools are extremely useful). This is similar to WebPageTest but you need Firefox and Firebug to be able to use it. It also provides a useful timeline of how your page renders.