How to make speed a core part of your traffic and conversion strategy

speed

Speed can make more of a difference to the success of your online business than anything else, yet very few people talk about it.

If you can increase the speed of your site, traffic can increase and conversion can double.

Here I won’t just be talking about your website speed, but the overall “speed experience” of your online business.

A 2015 Microsoft study that surveyed 2,000 people and monitored brain activity of 112 additional people with EEGs, revealed that the average human attention span has reduced to eight seconds, from 12 seconds in the year 2000.

Interestingly, declining attention spans is affecting online transactions as well. Here are some interesting statistics on what happens when you delay people’s access to your website:

  • A one second delay in page load time will result in a 7% loss in conversion.
  • 40% of people will abandon your website if it takes longer than three seconds to load.
  • A study that monitored real time data from 33 major retailers found that improving a site’s load time from eight seconds to two seconds boosted conversion rates by 74%.
  • Slow loading sites cost the U.S. economy over $500 billion every year.

The above statistics point clearly to the impact site speed has on conversion and traffic, but it doesn’t end there. It isn’t a secret that Google now uses site speed as one of its ranking factors.

If you run an online business, making speed a priority can single-handedly double your traffic and conversions. Here are some tips for you:

1) Optimize your site load time

The very first step towards ensuring a faster experience with people who interact with your brand online involves optimizing your site load time.

As established by some of the stats listed above, website speed plays a core role in whether people stay on your website or buy from you.

In fact, an Akamai study found that 47% of people expect a web page to load within two seconds. Here are some ideas to make your site load faster:

  • Get a better host: Really, the foundation of your website is important; if you’re on a poor host, everything else I suggest here is useless. First ensure you’re on a good host. I created this comparison page to make it easy to compare web hosts based on speed.
  • Use a CDN: One of the core benefits of the internet is that it is universal. Someone from the most remote village in Bulgaria can access content from India as soon as it is created. Due to the distance and some other factors, this advantage can also be a disadvantage. Your site won’t load the same for everybody: Your website that is hosted in the US will be faster for people trying to access it in the US, but it will be slower for people trying to access it in China. Speed will vary based on the location of your users. Thanks to CDNs, however, your website can be distributed to servers in different parts of the world. This lets you serve the fastest version of your website to visitors depending on where they are trying to gain access from. This in turn results in a much faster website. CloudFlare and MaxCDN are great CDN options.
  • Disable unnecessary add-ons and plugins: Usability trumps being fancy any day. If you want a faster website, you should be ready to remove anything that is unnecessary; this includes plugins and add-ons that do not serve a purpose. If your website will work fine without a particular plugin or add-on, you don’t need it.
  • Compress images: When you take a picture, or download an image online, it is usually very large. This is especially true if it is a high resolution image. The issue is that the size of images displayed on your website adds to your site’s overall loading speed. A 2.4MB image could easily be compressed to 100KB, resulting in a significant reduction in page load time.

site speed images

  • Use caching: Anytime someone visits your website, their browser has to download files from your server before serving them your site. If this is done every time, not only will your site take a bit longer to load for users but it can result in a slower website if a lot of people try to access your website at once. With caching, however, the files is downloaded and saved by their browser during their first visit. Instead of requesting a new file from your server each time, unless you update your website, their browser will serve the version downloaded earlier. This makes your site faster for both old and new visitors.

2) Create a mobile (or responsive) version of your site

Many website owners focus only on desktop visitors and ignore mobile visitors. The interesting fact, however, is that there are more mobile internet users today than desktop internet users. This is why it is very important for you to create a mobile version of your website.

mobile friendly

Mobile devices do not have the same capacity as desktop computers, so websites – in the original form they are designed for desktop visitors – will take much longer to load on a mobile phone than on a desktop computer even with the same internet speed.

By creating a much smaller mobile site, or by optimizing your site to be responsive for all devices, you can deliver a much faster website to mobile users.

3) Use a completeness meter on your website

Research shows that 75% of people would love to have a progress bar, or some sort of indication of their level of progress, when using a website.

Even when you’ve done your best, you can’t control everything – issues happen when it comes to technology. Sometimes there will be a delay from your payment processor, or your website might just be unusually slow.

Regardless, people are more likely to leave your website – if it is slow – when they are uncertain of how long it will take for their issue to be resolved. The solution to this is to use a “completeness meter.”

A completeness meter, such as a progress bar, will let users know how much longer they have to wait before their issue is resolved; due to the fact that they are now certain about how long they have to wait, they feel a lot less impatient and are likely to continue with their transaction on your site.

4) Reduce your signup forms and pages

Most people think about site load time as the only factor to consider when optimizing a website for speed, but that’s far from it. Even your sign up forms and checkout pages matter.

If you want people to respond more to your offer, reduce the number of hoops they have to jump through; this mean you should reduce the number of form fields users have to fill, the number of questions you ask users, and the number of pages they have to go through. This will result in a much faster experience for your users, and less is more in this case.

5) Optimize your customer support response time

Most importantly, you should optimize your customer support response time.

Research shows that 53% of people expect brands to respond within an hour of reaching out to them on Twitter. Research also shows that people expect you to respond to their emails within 24 hours.

Usually, customers can still request a refund if they are not satisfied. Most importantly, disgruntled customers can do a lot of damage to your brand by spreading the word about their bad experience to others.

Speed optimization doesn’t just end with your website; it is important to maintain a quality attitude to speed even after people become customers.

John Stevens is the CEO of Hosting Facts. He’s a regular contributor to Entrepreneur, Adweek, Internet Retailer and SEW.

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