They used to say speed kills. But, in the current digital marketing landscape, a lack of speed is what kills—specifically page load speed.
The user experiencePage load speed can refer to two distinct metrics, which are both crucial. The first is how long it takes for a browser to load the first byte of data from a web page’s server. The second is how long it takes for a browser to display all of the content on a web page.
Let’s say there’s an article you’re dying to read. You dive into your seat and type the URL into your search engine. And then you wait.
The seconds feel like hours. The hands of time slow to a crawl. The grains of sand in your hourglass barely trickle. And you think to yourself, "Well, this stinks." Soon enough, you bounce from the page. So long, article.
This scenario is realistic. Users hate to wait. They want their content and they want it now! So, page load speeds are essential for a great user experience. I’ve seen bounce rates go from 60 percent down to 30 percent with the right optimizations.
But do the math for your own site—what’s your bounce rate? Now reduce your speed load time by 2 or 3 seconds and check your bounce rate in 30 days, 60 days. I’ll wager my last dollar that your bounce rate goes down and your sales/conversion rates go up.
The choice is clear. Be a roadrunner. Be a cheetah. Be the woman who just won the New York City Marathon.
The SEO factor
But it isn’t all about the user experience. Site speed has been a noted factor in Google rankings since at least 2010. In 2018, it becomes more essential than ever. Page load speed is being weighted even more heavily, and now, it’s going to be a significant piece of Google’s new Mobile-First Index.
But guess what? This isn’t just about Google. Enter my other good friend: Facebook. She look familiar? You probably know her well.
Facebook is increasingly emphasizing the page speed of linked content and websites. They want signals of quality when they are going to show people content, and page speed is absolutely a signal of quality. Disregard at your own peril unless you want nobody to consume your content through Facebook.
So a fast page load speed is now essential. You get it. So how can you optimize yours? Here are some ways, using Wordpress sites as an example.
The host with the most: Use a high-quality web host that will deliver your content reliably—and quickly.
With homepage posts, not the most: Keep posts on your homepage to a minimum and use excerpts, not full posts or articles.
- What is a widget?: Keep them to a minimum. Plugins, too. Use only what you really need.
- Disable hotlinking and leeching: Nobody likes a content thief.
- Image-ine that: Use automatic image optimizers to shrink those puppies down. If great page load speeds are like the Roadrunner, then giant oversized non-optimized images are the ACME products used by Wile E. Coyote to try and stop you in your tracks. And eat you. Don’t be eaten. Shrink your images.
- Theme of the day: Make sure you are using a Wordpress theme that looks more like Abbott than Costello. (Hint: Abbott is the tall, slender, lightweight one).
- Cache the fever: Use a good caching plugin to dramatically increase your page load speeds. Yes, this is one of those good essential plugins you definitely should be using.
- Special Delivery: Use a CDN—content delivery network—to utilize content servers closer to your end users, which greases the wheels on page speed for you significantly.
Speed is a digital marketing superpower. It’s like being The Flash without the red tights and annoying sidekick.
Sometimes slow is good. If it’s a walk on the beach. Or meditative breathing. Or when roasting a turkey. Just keep it out of your web pages.
Maria Harrison is President at Bullseye Strategy.