The speed of a website may be one of the most overlooked factors which could drive additional leads, revenues and search engine rankings for your organization.
The exponential increase in the Internet as a lead and revenue source in the last few years means it’s more important than ever to ensure your pages load fast. But few marketing professionals have focused on driving page load times down to the one or two seconds that the best websites are able to achieve. Perhaps that’s because there were few tools to assess benchmark and monitor website performance? Maybe it was because making websites faster is technically challenging?
As technology and marketing teams become more closely aligned, there will be more budget, projects and vendors to assist in this important aspect of a successful website. To add some arguments in favor and kick off any business case/ROI studies for web performance optimization projects for you and your team, I wanted to list some of the benefits of a faster website here.
For many of your prospects the first exposure to your brand is your website. It is the first time a user is able to interact with your brand. If your website is slow, say for example it loads in three seconds or longer, your prospect begins building the impression that it may not be easy to buy from, or interact with, your company. With broadband connections being almost ubiquitous and website visitors conscious of the speed of sites like Google and Amazon, a slow loading site may result in the prospect becoming frustrated or to establish a lack of trust in your messaging – regardless of the market you are serving. In addition, a study published in January 2010, by Forrester Research suggests that users remember slow sites – and consciously remember not to return. Brand managers take note – slow websites are bad for the brand.
Website Metrics: Page Views, Bounce Rates, Time on Site
Most marketers watch over their website analytics in an almost obsessive way. How many of you track these key metrics on a daily basis for at least your home page and other key landing pages? We all analyze these metrics and test different tactics looking for some way to improve performance. We look at design, copy and call to action messaging, but few of us have been looking at page load times. Think about it for a moment, if your pages load very fast (say in two seconds compared to the average of about five seconds) will your visitors be more likely to digest more information? Will your bounce rate be lower? Because web site speed is a critical business success factor, with a faster website the answer to all these questions is “yes.”
Websites such as Google, Amazon, Hertz and Terminix all load very fast. But how quickly does your site or your client’s site load? You work hard to get good Search Engine Result Page (SERP) rankings and to get links on other websites. However, if your site is slow, you will certainly lose visitors and revenue to competitors with faster loading websites. The top thousand websites have the budget, team and process in place to consistently apply web performance optimization techniques. At the very least you need to assess your website speed and how it compares to the competition.
ROI from Form Website Leads and Ecommerce
Every website visitor has the potential to become a costumer, or a lost opportunity. If your website takes longer than two seconds to load you are decreasing your conversions and lowering your ROI.
An improvement in site speed directly correlates to the number of successful form fills, revenues and leads generated. If your website is slow, your visitors may never see the landing page or the form on your conversion page. Site speed, along with design and content all work together to drive your conversion ratios. It’s a bit like a chair: it only takes one sub-optimal factor to make it wobbly and unsustainable.
Google’s announcement in April 2010 that website speed is part of the ranking algorithm is well known. It makes sense for two reasons: first, user experience – Google wants to make sure the links in the SERPs are going to pages that open quickly so that users have a good experience. The second reason is that Google itself is obsessed with speed. Search results are now almost instant (imagine the engineering talent needed to make that happen!) and Google has released many tools to help us marketers with our own website speed. For example, Google has launched Site Speed reporting in Google Analytics, enabling marketers to track page load times and visualize the correlation with website business metrics. For developers and server administrators, Google has been evangelizing site speed by releasing tools like mod_pagespeed (which makes Apache webservers faster) and Google Page Speed which, like YSlow helps developers diagnose and identify performance optimization opportunities.
I hope this list has brought to your attention to the importance of site speed and has fueled your desire to start assessing, benchmarking, monitoring and optimizing your site speed.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!