Website speed optimization - Definitive guide
This website performance optimization tutorial basically it's a website performance checklist that covers the most important factors that affect the website performance.
I'll start this website performance optimization tutorial with a side-note.
When we are talking about website performance we are dealing with a broad and complex topic that includes different subjects: conversion metrics, customer acquisition costs, user retention rates, monetization statistics, technical parameters, etc. But, when we are approaching the problem from an SEO perspective, we are focusing mainly on technical parameters.
With that having said, let's see the first obvious question ...
What exactly is page speed?
Well, it's pretty self explanatory ... The term refers to the actual speed with which a web page is downloaded from the hosting server and displayed in the requesting web browser. In other words: the so-called loading time is the duration between clicking the URL and displaying the full content of the given page in the requesting browser.
And the loading time is a HUGE ranking factor. Why? Because we are talking about user experience! Back in the 90's when the overcrowded cyber-universe was often called the World Wide Wait, the loading time was completely irrelevant ... But, those days are gone!
In the last two decades the networking technologies have revolutionized the way digital information is transmitted across the internet. Today we have all the resources we need to deliver content instantaneously. According to Google:
A barely perceptible difference of 400 milliseconds of the page load time is long enough to cause users to search less.
That's literally the blink of an eye!
And if you think that these are exaggerated thoughts, check out the following stats:
- 1 in 4 visitors will abandon the website if it takes more than 4 seconds to load
- 74% of mobile users will leave a website if it takes longer than 5 seconds to load
- 47% of ecommerce customers expect page load times of less than 2 seconds before they consider leaving
- 40% of users would abandon the site at the third second of waiting, before a performance analytics tool even captures their presence on the site!
- 46% of users won’t revisit poorly performing websites
- website owners have less than 5 seconds to engage visitors before they consider leaving
- the average peak load time for conversions is around 2 seconds
- every 100 ms increase in load time of Amazon.com decreased sales by 1%!
- every one-second delay in page load time could lead to $1.6 billion in annual losses for online merchants as big as Amazon
- Walmart saw 2% increase in conversion rates for every 1 second improvement in page load times
- Google found that moving from a 10-result page loading in 0.4 seconds to a 30-result page loading in 0.9 seconds decreased traffic and ad revenues by 20%
- when the home page of Google Maps was reduced from 100KB to 80KB, traffic went up 10% in the first week, and an additional 25% in the following three weeks
And believe me, the numbers don't lie ...
So hear me out! Before moving forward, you need to understand that: the absolute critical principle in maximizing website performance is to focus on page speed optimization from the ground up! As I said, nowadays we have all the resources we need to deliver web content almost instantaneously, but to leverage and complement these resources, we'll have to create well-designed speed-optimized websites that deliver the best user experience.
And the key term is: user experience. In other words, Google won't rank you higher just because you have an optimal loading time! You'll achieve better rankings due to a higher user engagement, a higher percentage of returning visitors, a longer average session duration, etc.
Speaking of average session duration ... A longer session is a signal for a helpful and relevant content. And is a well-known fact that the content relevance is also a major ranking factor. But, here's the strange thing ... We are living in a crazy world, time is essential, and we tend to spend several extra minutes browsing fast-responding but irrelevant websites, instead of waiting a few more seconds for sluggish relevant websites to respond. In other words, we would rather spend excessive time browsing for the information elsewhere than waiting a few seconds for the right website to load ... And considering the existing unlimited resources, eventually we'll find the required information ... But, the fact remains: if your site isn't designed to deliver instantaneous response and high quality, seamless user experience, your visitors will leave your site ... in the blink of an eye. And they will never come back.
This is why the loading time is literally vital. Optimizing your website performance is very important to your SEO success, but also, will help you to maximize the potential of your online business and to enhance customer satisfaction, customer retention and customer loyalty.
So before we move forward with our website performance optimization tutorial to discuss the factors that affect the website performance, keep in mind that ...
1. Performance impacts user engagement
According to WPO Stats ...
BBC has seen that they lose an additional 10% of users for every additional second it takes for their site to load.
It's extremely simple ... A slow website gives the impression of ignorance or incompetence in delivering the desired response efficiently and accurately. On the other hand, a high-performing website can exploit user engagement characters such as focused attention, motivation and trust in converting visitors into customers. And don't forget: the actual value and relevance of your content can't - and won't! - be tested or measured if your visitors will abandon your site due to a high loading time!
2. Performance impacts conversion
It goes without saying: the conversion rate is one of your most important KPIs. In my opinion is the most important one ... And according to Hubspot:
1 second delay means a 7% reduction in conversions!
Sounds incredible? Here's a famous example ... Obama’s fundraising campaign during the 2011 Presidential Elections raised an additional $34 million when the Obama for America website lowered the page load time from 5 seconds to 2 seconds. That’s 14% increase in donation conversion with only 3 seconds of website performance improvement!
Long story short: user experience in terms of website performance has become the ultimate factor impacting conversion rates in online environments.
3. Performance impacts sales
Here's the fact: Google began factoring page speed into its proprietary search algorithms ever since it experienced the compelling repercussions of website performance lapses impacting sales.
In other words: your website performance will affect your sales. Dramatically! According to OSO Web studio:
A 2-second delay during a sales transaction results in abandonment rates of up to 87%!
More than that ...
- 88% of internet users choose online retailers delivering high-performance and user-friendly website experience, and almost 50% abandon websites that fail to load within 3 seconds
- 79% of dissatisfied customers no longer revisit underperforming websites
- 46% of dissatisfied customers develop a lasting negative impression and 44% share their shopping experiences with the rest of the world
No doubt, service and product quality has the biggest impact on business sales, converting website visitors into purchasing customers. Still, website performance parameters such as ultra-fast page speed and rapid check-out processes are vital if you want to create a positive psychological impression that will encourage sales and customer loyalty.
The relationship elements between website usability and customer loyalty are tied down to website KPIs, including page speed, load time and website responsiveness to user requests. Similarly, web crawlers and search engines measure website performance in terms of page speed, navigability, user experience and responsiveness.
You need to indulge your visitors with websites that are ...
- lightning fast
- easy to operate, navigate and understand
- accessible across all device form factors, machines, operating systems, browsers and geographic locations
- able to deliver relevant, legitimate and high-quality information with minimal clicks and browser requests
Increasing the speed of your website will improve your conversion rates, will reduce your shopping cart bailout rates, and will make your site more appealing to users. And of course, will boost your rankings ...
And keep in mind a golden rule: even small changes in response times can have significant effects!
OK. Now that you understand why your website performance is literally crucial to your success, we can move forward to outline an actual website performance checklist that contains the most important factors that affect the website performance.