Page load speed has always been an important consideration when creating websites.
But as more consumers are spending time researching products and services on mobile devices, they want to be able to complete tasks and make purchases quickly. A fast site is a key part of that.
But how fast does your website need to be? And what’s the impact on your bottom line?
In this article, we look at these questions and try to find some answers with our deep dive into website speed.
Page Speed Benchmarks
First, let’s cover the basics.
When we talk about website speed, we’re really talking about load time, which is how quickly you can get the information on your server rendered correctly on a user’s device.
Load times are measured in seconds and milliseconds.
According to Google, if pages have a loading time of more than one second it damages the user experience.
Google admits that a sub-one second page load time is a massive goal, and the variety of network types and speeds for accessing mobile content makes the issue more acute.
How Fast is Your Site?
Before you can improve your site's load time, you need to establish how fast it actually is. Fortunately, there are free tools available that help with this.
Google Developers offers a website tool that includes information about where your site speed is good or bad, broken out between mobile and desktop.
Just plug in your URL and you get a quick assessment of how your site loads both on mobile and desktop interfaces.
It uses a simple traffic light system so you can see how your site is doing and provides recommendations for areas you should fix or should consider fixing.
Along with this, you get a snapshot of how your site will look on a typical mobile device, which allows you to address areas like menus and logos that take up too much space.
Google's mobile help site also provides a number of tips on improving the mobile experience to help you reach the goal of a one second page load.
- reducing server response time
- cutting down on redirects
- minimizing the number of TCP calls
- avoiding external or non-asynchronous script, and
- keeping pages simple.
Using these tools, you can determine your site's load time. Which takes us to our next step — finding out how fast it should be.
How Fast Does Your Site Need to Be?
The speed you should aim to achieve depends in part on what sort of site you have and what page you’re loading.
Take, for instance, an ecommerce site.
Generally for ecommerce, the page users land on first need to load much faster than the final pages of the buying process. That’s because visitors willingness to stay on a site increases along with their investment in that site.
Simply, the longer someone is on your site (say, completing a purchase), the more willing they are to stay, and less likely to be affected by load speed.
The best way to determine how fast your page should be is to look generally at what other sites are doing. After all, it is a user’s experience across the internet as a whole that sets their expectations for what is fast and slow.
Moz pulled together some data on this and this is what they found:
For your highly trafficked pages, any landing pages, and any internal pages that attract an unusual amount of inbound traffic, we’d recommend aiming to be in the top 10% of pages on the internet, with a load time of about 1 second.
This correlates with a finding that half of all web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less. Of course, these guidelines should not be taken as law because a number of other factors play into the importance of load times.
If you have qualified traffic landing on your site, for example, an internal page is ranking well for a recurring long tail keyword search, load times are less important because users are pre-qualified – they’ve specifically sought out your page. They’ll likely wait an extra second or more for it to load.
On the other hand, site speed is absolutely critical for traffic where the user is poised to click away. This would include highly unqualified traffic, like traffic from PPC ads (especially if you’re bidding on keywords).
Which brings us to the question of: what’s it going to cost you?
How Much Will a Slow Load Time Cost You?
As we have seen, that depends on a number of factors. But there is a pretty clear relationship between load time and bounce.
Google recently published a report showing the likelihood of abandonment the longer someone has to wait:
This makes perfect sense – the more time users spend waiting, the more likely they are to leave. This is also visualized in the following graph from KISS Metrics:
This is especially true on mobile networks, where load times are longer due to lower quality network connection.
It’s hard to put a dollar value on this relationship, but Amazon tried back in 2007. With A/B testing, they found that every 100 millisecond delay resulted in losing 1% of sales.
Another study in 2013 found that splitting load times in half from 15 to 7 seconds, and then again from 7 to 4, and so on, improved conversions, but had diminishing returns.
And finally, yet another survey from Gomez.com and Akamai.com found that a 1 second delay in load time would lead to a 7% drop in productivity.
Obviously, the dollar value of these statistics is going to be different for everyone, but if you think about other techniques to optimize websites where a gain of even half a percent is a huge success, it starts to put the importance of speed into perspective.
Ultimately, there’s no absolute figure for how fast you should be.
Google says we should all be aiming for a one-second page load, which would put your site in the top 10% of sites on the web. B
ut speed can also be seen as relative. That is, it doesn’t matter how fast you are so long as you’re fast enough for your user.
For example, a blog about different types of duck feather duvets, or something else equally niche, might tolerate a slower load time due to more qualified users seeking them out.
Likewise, a site relying heavily on keyword-driven PPC instead of long tail SEO would likely need a faster load time for its less qualified users.
What we do know is that over half of all users require a site to load in two seconds or fewer or they'll leave, and both Walmart and Amazon have reported that faster load times have had a direct impact on their conversion rates.
Our suggestion is to focus on getting all your load times to fewer than two seconds. Then, fold site speed into your normal optimization timelines.